And the Copyright Goes to…

After last week’s discussions on copyrighting laws and the rules with which copyrighting is defined, I took a look at an instance that to me seemed a little curious. This isn’t a super insightful instance, but if inspires a dialogue then great, I just thought that this was an interesting scenario.

A lot of college students nowadays are familiar, or at least have heard in passing, about a television cartoon known as Avatar: The Last Airbender. It was a fun cartoon, had a cool concept and had a cast of very relatable and engaging characters. As is common with such shows, it gathered quite a following and a huge fan base exists for the show. A few years later, the blockbuster James Cameron hit Avatar came out, which managed to cash in an absurd amount of money. Now the really unusual thing about this is that one of the reasons Cameron pulled in so much money was by purchasing the copyright on the name Avatar, which essentially barred the name from being used in other productions, including the aforementioned television series. The live action movie that was made from the cartoon series had to be called just The Last Airbender, and the sequel series that the cartoon made had to be called The Legend of Korra to avoid paying royalties to Cameron for an unrelated series.

This to me seems ridiculous.

Why should productions made BEFORE a series have to pay someone else for using their original name? Not to mention that the word “avatar” is a title that has existed long before CGI blue people borrowed it for their description. Robbing former projects of their identities by using bought rights goes against the very point of copyrighting, which is to ensure the artist doesn’t get robbed of their due respect.

I believe that to solve this sort of issue, a change to the function of copyrighting should be made. If a project is published, sent out and reaches a certain profit quota, then the work should have a copyright applied to it immediately. That way, works that have come before other works of the same name can get their due, rather than having the rights be mad bid for ownership. It might be a bit on the unorthodox side, but I know if i created something, I’d want to maintain ownership of its identity, especially if I produced it before a project of the same name. Just a topic for thought.

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