Somewhat confused about what the lawsuit about the Watchmen movie actually means? You're not the only one. Luckily, former comic editor and copyright law professor Andrew Steven Harris is perfectly placed to pick apart the case and put it into real world terms so that even Alan Moore could understand what's going on.Firstly, if you don't have a clue what's going on despite reading all about the case, Harris wants you to know that that's okay:
It doesn't help that this case involves both copyright–one of the most complicated areas of law, because it's about property that doesn't physically exist–and Hollywood contracts, which were invented by jacket-strapped lunatics clenching nubs of graphite between their teeth as they scrawled out Cthulhu-summoning rituals on the padded walls of their asylum cells. Think the Watchmen graphic novel was complex? That Rorschach was crazy? That Ozymandias's plan represents the labyrinthine scheme of a delusional megalomaniac? Ha ha ha. You've never read a Hollywood contract. Watchmen is a Johnny DC pop-up book compared to a Hollywood contract.
Where we should all be focusing our attentions now is the most recent ruling to deny Warners' motion to dismiss, apparently:
[W]hat does happen occasionally, however, is that the court will rule on something that actually affects the posture of the case down the line. For example: if the authenticity of a document is in dispute, the judge might rule that, pretending the document has been proven 100% authentic (as the rules of the motion require him to do), it would be overwhelming evidence that one side is right (or wrong). Then the lawyers know that the real target of the trial will be proving whether that document is authentic or not. There's something similar (different in specifics, but along the same theme) that happened here. The court ruled in a way that at least on the surface appears to give added staying power to the veracity of Fox's claims. Again, the details are boring, but the decision helps provide a trail map for the Blair Witch journey that the rights to the film have taken–and for Fox, that's a very good thing. Said another way: the ruling itself (rejecting the motion) isn't all that notable; but the content of the ruling looks like it gives Fox a helluva lot to work with.
A lot of work with towards what end, though...? Stopping release of the movie, or something else? Harris plumps for the latter:
[F]ans should be encouraged that nothing about this litigation will realistically keep the movie out of theaters next year. At the end of the day, Fox wants money; it doesn't want an unreleased and unreleasable film canister. And, yes–while it's true that Fox has also filed for an injunction to shut down the film's release, that too should give the fans no alarm. It is, like Fox's other maneuvers, just a negotiating tactic; a successful injunction simply represents the fastest way since God invented light of getting a settlement offer on the table.
Ultimately, then, there's nothing for anyone who isn't a Warners employee (or entertainment lawyer) to worry about - Come May next year, everyone can watch the Watchmen as planned... unless a giant alien appears in the middle of Manhattan in the meantime or something. The world will look up and say "sue us." And I'll look down and whisper, "okay." [Andrew Steven Harris]