Chris Arndt and I were discussing the merits of Ray Bradbury’s contention that Michael Moore’s new film Fahrenheit 9/11 has “stolen” the title of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Bradbury has been trying to get hold of Moore and ask that it be changed for over six months, and Moore just returned his call when it’s pretty much too late to change the title. (I know Moore’s renowned for being a bit snobby, but when gol-danged world-famous author RAY BRADBURY calls you, you return it!)
The movie is due out in theaters soon. The title most likely can’t be changed without a massive and expensive recall of prints and posters. Thus, Bradbury’s hope that he can avoid litigation if Moore will shake his hand and “give (him) back his book and title” is quite unlikely to happen.
Which brings us to our discussion. Does Bradbury have any legal recourse, or will Moore be safe because he can say the title is satirical and satire is covered? Arndt believes Moore will claim satire as his defense should this go to trial and will likely succeed, especially if the judge wants to play it safe in a case concerning free speech.
I, however, think Bradbury has a good case. Not only does a copycat title weaken the originality of his title, but the divisive nature of the film in question can hurt the sellability of the question. I’m not sure how you say this in a legal way, but Moore’s film puts a big ol’ stink on the title, at least to half of America.
And this is even more relevant because Frank Darabont is directing a new movie adaptation of the book Fahrenheit 451. Moore’s film title may hurt the sales of Bradbury/Darabont’s film. People may see “Fahrenheit” on the Marquee and not pay any attention to the last three numbers. This is especially important in that the movie will naturally be seen by a great many people who aren’t aware of the classic sci-fi book by Bradbury, and thus their only perception of a movie entitled “Fahrenheit” will be Moore’s film.
FYI: I should mention that, while I don’t agree with Moore’s politics, I don’t bring this up as though this is news that will sink the film. It shouldn’t and it won’t. One just has to wonder at the sheer legal ineptness of someone who wouldn’t even clear this before naming the film…and one would think that at least one Miramax lawyer would have been on the ball. Aren’t there millions of dollars at risk here?
What do you think (take our poll) of the merits of any legal case?
I may be biased politically, but far more biased just by the fact that it’s RAY BRADBURY. I like Ray Bradbury.