May 31, 2004

First "Casablanca," Now "Cast Away?" [10:42 am]

Fox Objects to a Parody of ‘Cast Away’

The movie’s writer and director, Bryan Michael Stoller, a friend of Mr. Jackson, said he believed the studio was trying to quash his film to avoid association with the tainted pop star.

“Michael Jackson is in it, and he’s always been a target,” Mr. Stoller said. “I guess they feel it will get a lot of exposure because of him. And No. 2, I think they’re just bullying the independent filmmaker because they can.”

A spokeswoman for Fox said the letter seeking to block the film “speaks for itself” and had nothing to do with Mr. Jackson.

In the letter, which demands that Mr. Stoller change the title of his film, a Fox lawyer, Jon Del Barrio, wrote, “The distinctive and famous `Cast Away’ title has clearly achieved secondary meaning among the public, and as such has attained trademark rights associated with its use.”

The letter added: “We hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist from further use of the `Cast Away’ mark or any other name that is confusingly similar to the `Cast Away’ mark.”

[...] In a follow-up letter on May 4, another Fox lawyer, Robert B. Cohen, wrote, “The alleged parodic nature of your film does not extend to your film’s title.” He added, “A parody must make comment on the underlying material that it parodies.”

Mr. Stoller said his movie did exactly that. “They’re playing God,” he said. “I can’t afford a lawyer right now. I can’t get errors and omissions insurance. No distributor will pick it up. They’ve pretty much killed the movie unless I change the title.”

For those who haven’t seen them, here are the Marx Brother’s letters to Warner over "A Night in Casablanca"

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