With today’s release of Thor: Ragnarok (a movie I’m quite excited about), I want to point out a case that implicates the copyright of any number of CG characters from movies like it. As reported in this story from The Hollywood Reporter, the owner of software that captures facial recognition used to create and animate characters like everyone’s favorite green smashing machine, the Hulk from The Avengers, is now suing Disney, Fox, and Paramount, over their use of the software and the IP that comes from it.
This case deals with a interesting/strange copyright question. Rearden, the plaintiff, who owns the copyright to this software, argues that he also owns the copyrights to the output of that software: that is, the CG characters. Huh?
While I find it hard to believe that this argument will win the day, this is a case I want to keep my eyes on, if just because these CG characters are everywhere in modern movies. Since the software requires CG artists to create the characters, it seems to me the creator of the software that the artist uses isn’t the owner of the copyright. Isn’t the artist himself a more logical option? Or the producer of the movie, as the employer of that artist. Or perhaps no one owns the character, if the software does all the work on its own. After all, machines, like monkeys, can’t be authors. So I’m doubtful Rearden will win, but who knows? Stranger things have happened in the law.
Either way, I’ll be interested to see what happens.