What Does The Watchmen Ruling Mean?

Illustration for article titled What Does The Watchmen Ruling Mean?

So now that we know that the Watchmen movie case has been resolved in Fox's favor, we're left wondering what happens next. Who owns the movie? Will it be released? Will anyone watch the Watchmen?

What Did The Ruling Say?
Short version is that Judge Gary Feess' ruling said that Fox was right. The most important sentence from the ruling is:

Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the ‘Watchmen' motion picture.


It's what that "at the very least" means that is now the point of contention. In addition to the five-page ruling issued on Wednesday, a longer and more in-depth ruling is apparently to be released soon.

Does This Mean No Court Case?
Not necessarily; this was a pretrial ruling, requested by both Fox and Warners due to the closeness of Watchmen's release date. Although the ruling encourages both sides to find a non-trial resolution, officially the trial will still begin on January 20th unless further action is taken.

So Will There Be A Court Case?
I doubt it, unless Warners is somehow convinced that their lawyers are so good that they can not only overturn the pretrial ruling, but do it very, very quickly. Much more likely, conversations are already taking place amongst appropriate parties to sort this whole thing out as quickly and profitably for both parties involved.

Is This All Really A Convoluted Way For Fox To Get Warners To Release The DVD Rights To The Batman TV Show?
That's a rumor that's been going around for a few months, thanks to Comic Book Resources' Rich Johnston. Thing is, says website TV Shows On DVD, it's not true:

[E]verybody will have to remember that DC Comics is only ONE of the rights-related hurdles that Fox needs to leap over! In fact, the sheer scope, depth and breadth of all the right-holders who have to be brought into various agreements, to get this program released on DVD, can be absolutely frightening!


Amongst the frightening agreements: A lawsuit from the estate of one of the show's producers, claiming owed residuals from the show's TV broadcasts. Even if Watchmen freed up DC's share of the rights, it wouldn't mean that the show could be released on DVD immediately... and isn't worth as much as Watchmen itself is, right now.

How Is The Fanbase Taking The News?
Let's look at Ain't It Cool talkbackers, shall we?:

"I have never been one to jump on the whole "Boycott" bandwagon, but not a CHANCE will I see Wolverine in theatres now. This studio is the worst movie studio in the history of film. And as much as I am dying to see Watchmen, if the final outcome of this is greatly in Fox's favor, I'll pass on it just to say "fuck you.""

"The fact that Fox waited until the movie was in the can to bring up some shit like this speaks to their intentions. They couldn't get the job done, someone else did - let the shit go. And in the end the people who suffer the most are the fans, fans that will not soon forget shenanigans like this, that is for certain. You blew it Fox, let it go. Try harder next time. Pricks."

"For those of you who were not aware, this is a call to open war. Tom Rothman is like some nasty douche bag rich kid who broke all of his cool toys (X-Men, FF, Aliens, Predators, and pretty soon, Wolverine). So what does he do now that his meddling ways have flat-lined his company, leaving him an entire year without a single $100 million blockbuster? Well, he gets his cronies to go to Warner Brothers and steal the coolest toy they got running right now. Worst part is, Rothman is too stupid to appreciate this toy, and the chances he might break it are very likely. Now the question remains, what can we do about this? ...The answer is simple. Until Fox pulls their creatively flaccid member out from the rectums of WB and the greater fanboy community, we should ignore any good or potentially good property they've got on the line, and only talk about the bad. In other words, if you can't say anything bad about Fox, don't say anything at all. They are our Sauron, they are our Palpatine, and they are our Voldemort. Until their evil ways have been stopped, WE MUST FIGHT!"


Yes, that's right; a movie studio is the combination of a giant floating flaming evil vagina, a wrinkled old man who can shoot electricity out've his fingertips, and Ralph Fiennes without a nose. As you can see, they're taking it very well.

Will We See Watchmen In Theaters March 6th As Planned?
Most likely. With so much promotion already having been done for the movie's release, and with merchandising tie-ins both already in stores and on their way, there's no real alternative for Warners at this point. Yes, they could pull the movie altogether to spite Fox, but that would be both embarrassing and an insanely high loss of money for them.


Admit It; You Think The Surprise Last Minute Change Of Heart And Ruling From The Judge Was The Work Of Alan Moore's Magical Powers, Trying To Halt The Release Of The Movie Altogether, Don't You?

So What Next?
We wait for the more lengthy ruling or, perhaps, the sight of Fox and Warners issuing a press release letting us know that everyone is friends and that the movie will be released by the two studios jointly. Either way, expect something to happen within the next couple of weeks. No-one involved has that much time before the movie's due date in March, after all.


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This copyright system is shit, the copyright owner should always be the inventor/ creator/artist/...

All he can "give away" (sell) is the right to work with the idea/content (extend, modify, make a movie,...) and as soon the copyright owner sees a problem (whats being done is shit) or 2 parties are fighting (as in this case) it's the owners right to decide.

Of course, anything produced up to the point when the owner takes the "right to work with it" back is property of the company/artist/... that produced it - and they can (after consulting lawyers) still release it or not. (eg. if a movie is canned and about to be released, but the owner says no 3 months before release he won't be able to hold it back)