Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat sue Scribblenauts
A lawsuit was filed on April 22nd accusing Warner Brothers and 5th Cell Media of willfully infringing against Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat copyrights and trademarks. Charles Schmidt (Keyboard Cat) and Christopher Torres (Nyan Cat) believe they own the memes which they claim were willfully misappropriated, appearing in multiple versions and marketing materials of the hit game Scribblenauts.
The claim argues that the WB logo is also “a meme, even though it is only two letters inside the outline of a shield. Of course, WB employs an army of lawyers who use trademark and copyright law to zealously protect its intellectual property, including its logo.” Schmidt and Torres also note that other companies have paid them licensing fees in the past.
The suit is claiming damages in excess of $75,000 and could easily cost both the plaintiffs and defendants several hundred thousand dollars to take the case to the end. Rocketboom reached out to Brad O’Farrel who was largely responsible for the Keyboard Cat’s rise to fame (and has also contributed as a writer to some of Rocketboom’s best episodes) to get his opinion on the case. “I signed the rights over to Charlie so it has little to do with me.” When pressed for an opinion: “I don’t really have an opinion on it either.”
UPDATE: Rocketboom reached out to plaintiff Chris Torres and received the following response:
TORRES: Whew, this has just been one big mess of a situation. I think the worst part about it all are the people that don’t know how copyright/trademark even work and are attacking us for this, when we are doing it just to protect our intellectual rights. In terms of Nyan Cat, I’m in legal agreements with the owner of the song and even with the lady who uploaded the video on YouTube.
ROCKETBOOM: Have you ever issued a cease and desist on these copyrights before?
TORRES: Yes, we’ve sent out DMCAs to companies before, but it’s usually only a last resort situation when the company doesn’t want to work with us..
It’s one thing to have fan art of it, or to use it noncommercially . I love it when people do that sort of stuff, and essentially, that’s how memes are memes to begin with. Totally all for it. However, it’s not cool when a large corporation with their own IPs take it and make money from it without approval from the creator. I am just one graphics artist, my art is how I make a living.
The Internet has this general mentality where “if it’s on the Internet, it’s free-reign”, especially with memes. Some sites even take your photographs, art, etc, slap a watermark on them, and rake in ad revenue, while creators don’t see a single penny. However, in the end, somebody owns that property. Putting a copyright and trademark on our work is just a way to protect ourselves from situations like this. Even though all art is protected, you don’t get taken serious unless you have legal papework for it. You don’t see companies even making slight resemblances to big corporation characters like Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty!
ROCKETBOOM: Has anybody else ever infringed on nyan cat to this degree?
TORRES: I’m not really sure, but this is definitely the first time it’s been on
news sites like this.
ROCKETBOOM: Were you able to engage in any negotiations with WB prior to issuing the complaint?
TORRES: Yes, when I first saw that Nyan Cat was being used in their recent Unlimited title, I was actually really upset. I actually had Kia Kamran, my attorney, reached out to engage in an amicable resolution. However, we were disrespected and snubbed aside. The representative for the company even went out to call this a “nuisance”. Getting into a legal dispute is definitely not something I ever want to do unless we don’t have a choice.
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