Batman fans might want to avoid spoilers on Twitter, but if Warner Bros. has its way, that’s not all they’ll want to steer clear from: The Hollywood media megalith has issued a copyright claim over a hashtag: #legendends.
The terms of the license would probably apply only to the U.K., which doesn’t have the same law doctrine of Fair Use that the U.S. has. WB must be aware that it can’t actually extend those terms to Twitter users all across the globe. A quick search of the U.S.’ Patent and Trademark search site reveals that Warner Brothers hasn’t filed to register “legend ends” in the states or in the European Community trademark office.
However, if, over the next few days and weeks, people begin using the hashtag solely in conjunction with Batman and The Dark Knight Rises, which many have already done, WB will have a strong case that it has established trademark rights to the phrase.
Copyright lawyer Heidi Tandy, who is on the legal staff of the Organization for Transformative Works, believes that while the license is a “limited license similar to the kind you’d find on a bulletin board.”
It’s also bad PR.
“It's a problematic move,” Tandy said, “and shows overprotectiveness by WB UK, but the license they're asking for is virtually identical to the one every Twitter user grants to Twitter itself - and Twitter already has the right to license those rights away.”
Essentially, Warner Bros. is asking tweeters for a license that’s virtually identical to the one that every Twitter user already agreed to when signing up for the service.
Still, not all Batman fans are going to be happy about coming under the purview of a corporate thumb just for tweeting their excitement about the film.