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The Real Monsters Behind Godzilla 243

Posted by kdawson
from the radioactively-enhanced-cash-cow dept.
eldavojohn writes "A Wired blog looks at the real monsters behind Godzilla: his lawyers. Do you think Godzilla is basically a glorified T. Rex? Guess again, as his lawyers have tirelessly argued: 'He's erect-standing. He's got muscular arms, scaly skin and spines on back and tail and he breathes fire and has a furrowed brow, he's got an anthropomorphic torso. The T. rex has emaciated bird-like arms and stands at a 45-degree angle.' Read on to find out why they targeted the site davezilla.com but not mozilla.org. Another abuse of the American trademark & copyright system? You decide — just don't make a float of him or you'll find yourself paying an undisclosed sum to Toho Co. Ltd."
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The Real Monsters Behind Godzilla

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  • by Count Fenring (669457) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:13PM (#25892403) Homepage Journal

    Helpless people on subway trains
    Scream to God, as he puts liens on their assets to cover the cost of legal proceedings!
    GODZILLA!

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:14PM (#25892411) Homepage Journal

    1. godzilla is decades old. ip law should time out after a decade, at worst

    2. this is corporate takeover of our culture. its our culture. not their ip. we need to hammer this point home

    3. ip law exists to serve us. but it has been pervered to extort money for decades, even way after the artist is long gone. ip law doesn't even serve the artist, it serves the distributor

    the story of the 21st century will be the story of the death of ip law. it is simply morally unsound

    • by geekoid (135745)

      There ias nothing lorally unsound about ip law.
      It's unethical for it to be stretched and abused against it's intent.

      There is a place for IP law. Anything going beyond 20 years(a generation) is wrong and damages the culture.

    • Pepsi (Score:5, Informative)

      by tepples (727027) <tepples AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:32PM (#25892647) Homepage Journal

      godzilla is decades old. ip law should time out after a decade, at worst

      "Godzilla" is a trademark, and exclusive rights in trademarks are perpetual by design. Should Coca-Cola be allowed to pass its own products off as Pepsi, just because Pepsi has been around since 1903?

      • allow me to rephrase (Score:5, Interesting)

        by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:37PM (#25892727) Homepage Journal

        ip law between corporate entities is still sound, and always will be sound

        ip law as applied to civilians, civic organizations, parody, hobbyist websites, etc.: dead

        • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

          by Shatrat (855151)
          So should I be allowed to bottle my urine and sell it branded Mt. Dew?
          I am a civilian after all.
          You're still over-generalizing.
          • That would make you a business entity. The parent said "corporate entity", but I'm sure they meant "business". Regardless, there are important differences between trademark, copyrights, and patents; there should be separate laws for each. For instance, as long as a company is producing a product, it should have exclusive use of its trademark (i.e. product name, company name, product logo, etc).
            • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

              by en.ABCD (881787)

              Regardless, there are important differences between trademark, copyrights, and patents; there are separate laws for each.

              There, fixed that for you. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

        • by Ihmhi (1206036)

          I've heard the argument that you can't use a name or a derivative thereof in many situations because it would devalue the brand name.

          Would having a site with -zilla in it really ruin Godzilla's building smashing, fire breathing reputation? I doubt it. Now if someone made a shammy called the Shamzilla and it was a piece of junk, then it is certainly undermining the Godzilla name.

          Even so, I think there should be a point where a trademark is recognized to be a part of the popular lexicon, like Xerox.

      • Should Coca-Cola be allowed to pass its own products off as Pepsi, just because Pepsi has been around since 1903?

        Since coke has been marketed so extensively that it's become a household name for cola, coke's trademark use should be revoked (by the society that granted it to them) now, when society needs to use the mark more widely. Especially since, in this case, there's a very similar (and arguably better) product struggling against a larger monopoly, because of that issue.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Silicon Jedi (878120)
          Dude, are you some kind of hick or something? No blue states use "coke" as a generic for cola. It's *sniff* used for other things.
          • by Sj0 (472011)

            The irony being that historically, [url=http://www.snopes.com/cokelore/cocaine.asp]coca-cola was named after cocaine[/url], because it contained (allegedly non-addictive) parts of the cocaine plant.

            The name being a portmanteau of the two main ingredients, it's funny that they managed to trademark the street name of the same drug it got it's name from.

      • So it would be allowable for a corporation to trademark peter pan and prevent works containing him long after the copyright expires?

      • by gilgongo (57446)

        "Godzilla" is a trademark, and exclusive rights in trademarks are perpetual by design. Should Coca-Cola be allowed to pass its own products off as Pepsi, just because Pepsi has been around since 1903?

        Oh, that's easy: the answer is "no" if they are selling the product for money (that would indeed be a clear case of "passing off"), but "yes" if they are not. That's why they're called TRADE marks, because they exist to protect interests in commerce. There are three exceptions under which trademarks can be used: fair use in comparative advertising, in noncommercial use, and in news reporting or commentary.

        So, if I want to make a brown fizzy drink to give away to the kids at my school's fair one Saturday, an

        • Equally stupid (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @07:57PM (#25893673)

          Equally stupid is the following "argument":

          If you want to get a rise out of the soft-spoken Moss, ask him something like, "Isn't Godzilla just an overgrown Tyrannosaurus rex?"

          "He's erect-standing. He's got muscular arms, scaly skin and spines on back and tail and he breathes fire and has a furrowed brow," Moss says, repeating arguments Toho often makes in its lawsuits. "He's got an anthropomorphic torso. The T. rex has emaciated bird-like arms and stands at a 45-degree angle."

          Actually, at the time he was conceived, about every image on the planet including a T-Rex showed it:
          - Standing erect (they had to break the tailbone structure to do this, but they were convinced they were right because "it's a lizard, it has to drag its tail."
          - With significantly larger arms (though not quite as big as Gojira's).

          Take a look and compare Gojira to the T-Rex from the 1933 version of King Kong [youtube.com], or to any other movie featuring dinosaurs up until the late '80s. What do you get? You get a "Rex" standing upright on its hind legs, walking forward, dragging its tail.

          The only reason Gojira has human-ish arms is that they were putting a rubber suit on a fucking human to get the effects.

          This is a joke. Gojira is, in fact, just a mutated oversized Rex. They gave him fire breath because the Japanese, like most Asian cultures, have a dragon obsession and fire breath is cool.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        "Godzilla" is a trademark, and exclusive rights in trademarks are perpetual by design.

        A trademark of what? Godzilla is a fabricated mythical creature. It isn't a product. It doesn't endorse products. They have made some products based on Godzilla, but The Godzilla is as trademarkable as Grendel.

        Should Coca-Cola be allowed to pass its own products off as Pepsi, just because Pepsi has been around since 1903?


        There is nothing in the article of someone making a dragon/dinosaur movie and calling it Dogz
      • Godzilla would appear to be a variant of the rather theocentric initial syllable.

        I would presume that trademarks which incorporate preexisting social ideas, cannot then be argued to be incorporable.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      godzilla is decades old. ip law should time out after a decade, at worst

      You are confusing copyright with trademark. Should I be able to call my product "Coke"? After all, Coca-cola is even older than Godzilla! Yes, copyright should expire after a reasonable time, but since they are still making Godzilla movies (last one was in 2004) this is still a valuable trademark. Yes, "copyright" IP should become a public domain part of our culture the death of the original creator. (The simplest solution is to mak

      • by Zordak (123132)

        Except if Harry Potter goes out of copyright, you do have the right to call your wizard Harry Potter. Trademark can't be used to artificially extend the life of a copyright. If I can distribute copies of The Count of Monte Cristo, but the estate of Alexandre Dumas still holds a trademark, I'd have to call it, That Book About the Guy Who Got Revenge After Being Unjustly Imprisoned in the Bastille. Not quite as catchy.

        Also, I wouldn't tie copyright immediately to the life of the author. Otherwise, expect

        • by Abreu (173023)

          Just a pointer, Edmund Dantes was imprisoned in the Chateau d'If, not in the Bastille...

          Now, back to topic, we should probably go back to a copyright of "author's life plus 20 years" or something like that.

          After all, it is not an unreasonable expectation to want to leave some inheritance for our children...

          • by Sj0 (472011)

            How about 20 years?

            After all, it is not an unreasonable expectation to leave money you earned during your own lifetime as an inheritance to your children. I mean, everyone else does.

          • Now, back to topic, we should probably go back to a copyright of "author's life plus 20 years" or something like that.

            After all, it is not an unreasonable expectation to want to leave some inheritance for our children...

            Perhaps, but it is eminently unreasonably to use such a desire as a justification for long copyright terms.

            The vast majority of copyrighted works are without any copyright-related economic value whatsoever. Of the tiny minority of works remaining, the vast majority only have such economic va

          • After all, it is not an unreasonable expectation to want to leave some inheritance for our children...

            And why can't you put part of your income (while alive) in a trust fund, like the rest of us? Your argument is bogus.

            That said, I think tying copyright to the author's death is ripe for abuse. I personally would, right now, set it at 25 years for free, with a required $1 filing and registration to extend to 50 years. That may even be too long, but it is most certainly without a doubt fair enough to the existing copyright holders. Under this scenario descendants / estates can continue to hold the copyrig

      • by gilgongo (57446)

        But this is trademark, and you have no more right to call your product "Godzilla" than you have to sell stories about a wizard named "Harry Potter".

        Yes, but the existence of a trade mark does not prevent you from using it for non-commercial purposes. The OP was implying that Godzilla should by now be in the public domain. In the public domain, it is absolutely right and proper that if I want to make an animation of some Godzilla-like dolls duking it out on YouTube, and call it "Godzilla" I should be allowed to do so as long as I do not profit from it.

        Trade mark law is clear: there are three exceptions under which trademarks can be used: fair use in com

        • by Babbster (107076)

          In the public domain, it is absolutely right and proper that if I want to make an animation of some Godzilla-like dolls duking it out on YouTube, and call it "Godzilla" I should be allowed to do so as long as I do not profit from it.

          Clarification: You're free to make as much profit on material in the public domain as you want/can.

    • by Sinbios (852437)
      Our culture?

      Who is this "our" you speak of? [wikipedia.org]
    • by StikyPad (445176)

      But is it a part of our culture because it has intrinsic value and meaning, or because we're a consumerist society which finds value and culture in whatever corporations are selling? I tend to believe it's less of the former, and more of the latter. We say we want Mickey Mouse to be free, but if he was, he'd be a stupid mouse, just like Paul Bunyan is a stupid lumberjack, and Babe is a stupid Blue Ox. Godzilla, King Kong, and Han Solo would lose their value if there wasn't a concerted effort to preserve

    • by Garwulf (708651)

      "2. this is corporate takeover of our culture. its our culture. not their ip. we need to hammer this point home"

      Excuse me...WHOSE culture?

      It's part of JAPAN'S culture - we just enjoy it as a guilty pleasure. It doesn't speak to us the way it speaks to the Japanese.

  • There goes Tokyo!
  • Luckily... (Score:5, Funny)

    by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:16PM (#25892443) Homepage Journal
    We have ethical machines to deal with lawyers like these.
  • Doesn't the headline imply that there were ficticious monsters behind Godzilla?

  • by Lostlander (1219708) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:18PM (#25892485)
    He looks more like an allosaurus [wikimedia.org] or perhaps a Dryptosaurus [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Solandri (704621)
      Actually he sounds more like a T. Rex costume with the inevitable compromises necessary to put a human actor inside it. Add some modified spines from a stegosaurus, and fire-breathing from mythology and you're there.
      • He looks vaguely (really vaguely) like a bad drawing of a T. rex, by someone that did not know T. rex's correct posture.

        Even in my earliest memories of Godzilla, I never remember thinking that he looked like T. rex.

    • I'm not sure. As the article points out, Godzilla stands erect while these beasties do not.

  • TROGDOR! (Score:5, Funny)

    by KDR_11k (778916) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:19PM (#25892501)

    He's got an S, a more different S, consummate Vs, spinities, wings, a beefy arm for good measure, angry eyebrows floating above his head and he comes IN THE NIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!

  • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:20PM (#25892503)
    The lawyers have failed to stop Godzirra!! Run! Run for your lives!
  • They don't sue rent-a-zilla.com ?
  • They do own the trademark "Godzilla" and they need to protect it. "Cabzilla" shouldn't be regarded as infringing, but the picture certainly is, and re-labeling wine bottles is trivial. I would be predisposed to conclude that "Godzilla" is trademarked, but use of the "zilla" suffix for monsters is pretty much public domain by now, so I wouldn't have gone after Davezilla or Mozilla. They do have a clear-cut cause of action against anybody using the Godzilla image or the full name.

    How would slashdotters feel

    • by Lostlander (1219708) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:26PM (#25892567)

      How would slashdotters feel if somebody started selling a Linux branded cabernet with a picture of Tux on it without permission?

      Most likely? Drunk.

      • by Tetsujin (103070) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:31PM (#25892631) Homepage Journal

        How would slashdotters feel if somebody started selling a Linux branded cabernet with a picture of Tux on it without permission?

        Most likely? Drunk.

        What's so unpleasant about being drunk?

        • by Locke2005 (849178)
          Sigh... if you're going to quote Douglas Adams, at least quote him correctly:
          Ford: "It's unpleasantly like being drunk."
          Arthur: "What's so unpleasant about being drunk?"
          Ford: "You ask a glass of water."
          --Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Chapter 6
        • by forkazoo (138186)

          What's so unpleasant about being drunk?

          For the love of FSM, don't ask a glass of water! ( I just like to be contrary.)

    • I guess I'd feel drunk?

      More seriously, Linux itself uses the blank-x format for its name, but it would be stupid and specious to claim that it infringes on the Unix trademark. And that's what Davezilla and co. are actually doing.

      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Which is exactly my argument -- a wine called "Winix" is ok, but a wine called "Linux" is not.
        • But the blog and the wine in the article aren't called "Godzilla," they're respectively called "Davezilla" and "Cabzilla."

          Basically, the problem here is a studio using trademark to, essentially, hold on to a copyrighted property for longer than copyright would normally allow. Characters and fiction should be covered under copyright, not trademark.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by PitaBred (632671)

            If you use a picture of Godzilla on your product "Cabzilla", then you most definitely are attempting to use the well-known trademark of Godzilla in your marketing. A specific work is copyright... the character is trademark. It actually works out quite well, because it allows you to make future works that are definitely yours without confusion in the market.

        • by billcopc (196330)

          How about a wine called WineX ?

          Is Transgaming gonna have to choke a bitch ?

    • Someone capitalizing off of Linux by selling WINE?! Preposterous [codeweavers.com]!!

      DISCLAIMER: I have nothing but love for these guys since getting mine free [slashdot.org]
    • Well, as I was walking through the wine aisle of my local liquour store, I saw a bottle of Ubuntu wine [kwv.co.za]. No Tux logo though.
    • by billcopc (196330)

      Someone should register courtzilla.com and point it to Toho.

  • and god help you if you pronounce the name wrong....it's GOJIRA you moron!!
  • Are we surprised? (Score:5, Informative)

    by PCM2 (4486) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:30PM (#25892625) Homepage

    Just because it's foreign (and maybe a little silly) doesn't mean it's not a high-powered brand. Middle-class American white folks might not realize it, but Ultraman is the third most merchandised character in the world, right after Mickey Mouse and Charlie Brown (and before Superman). And the people who command that kind of market share have lawyers? Color me shocked.

    • I'm shocked too... that the most merchandised Japanese character isn't Hello Kitty.
      • by PCM2 (4486)

        It's true, Hello Kitty makes hella money. [independent.co.uk] I can only guess that brands like Ultraman and Godzilla keep selling to boys well into their teenage and young adult years worldwide, while outside Japan Hello Kitty sales drop off dramatically among adolescent and teenage women. The 15-25 year old demographic loves to part with its disposable cash. I don't have figures, but that's my hunch.

    • ...Dexter got hauled off by Major Glory to see his lawyers for IP infringement.
  • Gives you one excuse .. .. to get out of an engagement to a bridezilla.

  • From TFA:

    Godzilla, U.S. District Judge Dickran Tevrizian wrote, is "a fanciful, arbitrary word used to describe a fire-breathing, prehistoric, often-schizophrenic dinosaur."

    Perhaps he's just off his meds.

    • Reminds me of the ending of Godzilla: 2000. A few of the actors are on a rooftop and the little child asks, "Why does Godzilla always save our city?"
      And the Scientist type replies, "Maybe there's a little Godzilla...in all of us"
      Cue the triumphant music and then cut to Godzilla absolutely wrecking everything as he leaves the city. I may be a little fuzzy on the details, but I will always treasure the absolute absurdity of that ending.

      Godzilla is a registered trademark of Toho Co. Ltd and is used h
  • vs Megalon (Score:5, Interesting)

    by opencity (582224) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @06:39PM (#25892741) Homepage

    The weird thing is some of the Godzilla movies have entered the public domain. We used a piece in a TV commercial (years and years ago - think Morris worm) and Toho showed up and said no (or face the wrath of our suitcase baring legions). So we took the actual image of Godzilla out but still used the rays destroying tanks, people running, smoldering buildings and there was no problem. Used it again on MTV a couple of times.

    Someone should do a bootleg Kiss Vs Godzilla for the asshole IP Olympics.

  • float f = (float) godzilla;

    Am I safe now?
  • From TFA:

    Warner Bros., for example, didn't know it needed Toho's permission to use Godzilla in a 1985 chase scene in Tim Burton's Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The Hollywood studio paid an undisclosed amount to Toho after it was sued.

    They may have been able to convince a judge of this and so been able to merely pay out some cash and still release the film, but I don't believe it for a second. No MPAA member, particularly not one that owns the rights to Bugs Bunny, can be ignorant of IP rights associated with a fictional character. Lying sacks of shit.

  • I love this scene from the movie Goldmember. Complete parody of the topic of this thread. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEJm0uIVwUc [youtube.com]
  • by doti (966971)

    Funny they don't mention the game.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SimCity#Scenarios [wikipedia.org]

  • 45-degree angle (Score:3, Informative)

    by Randle_Revar (229304) <kelly.clowers@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @08:21PM (#25893915) Homepage Journal

    >'The T. rex has emaciated bird-like arms and stands at a 45-degree angle.'
    >45-degree angle

    Someone has been reading really old paleontology material, or has been reading really bad children's books. Also, they apparently never saw Jurassic Park.

  • I mean its not like wine goes bad fast or anything....couldn't he have simply just relabeled the bottles without a picture of godzilla and gee, give %5 of the take to ip holders? Maybe he should have sent a couple of bottles to japan.

  • Did these guys send a cease and desist to Subway? They replaced giant monster lizard in there five dollar footlong commercials quite suddenly with a really dorky robot.

  • by blankoboy (719577) on Tuesday November 25, 2008 @11:32PM (#25895395)
    Just for reference, the name "Gojira" (the actual Japanese name for Godzilla) was derived from combining the Japanese words for Gorilla (gorira) and Whale (kujira). It would have been hilarious if Godzilla's inventor had envisioned the actual beast to be a mix of the two creatures.

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