Just when it looked like we were actually going to finally get to see a Watchmen movie, along comes a lawsuit by 20th Century Fox claiming that it — not Warner Bros. — has the film rights to Watchmen.
That in itself wouldn’t be all that surprising. Rights to properties like this can pass through multiple entities, sometimes under very odd circumstances, and sorting things out can be tough. Typically, though, this would be a way for 20th Century Fox to shake some money out of Warner Bros. Except if we are to take 20th Century Fox at face value, they’re not interested in any compensation for its rights according to Variety,
“We will be asking the court to enforce Fox’s copyrights interests in ‘The Watchmen’ and enjoin the release of the Warner Bros. film and any related ‘Watchmen’ media that violate our copyright interests in that property.
Surprisingly, Fox said it would rather see the film killed instead of collecting a percentage of the box office.
“When you have copyright infringement, there are some damages you never recover,” said a source close to the litigation.
I suspect that’s more of a threat to increase their negotiating position, but when Fox originally filed the lawsuit back in February 2008, they did seek to enjoin the movie from going into production, so perhaps they’re serious.
Presumably this lawsuit also places in jeopardy all of the Watchmen action figures and prop replicas that DC Direct had announced, since those relied on the characters in the movie rather than the comic book. DC Direct had once planned to proceed with Watchmen-based action figures, but abandoned it after Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons said they wanted no part of it. DC may have been playing nice in withdrawing the figures, but more likely it was afraid of a lawsuit that would have threatened its hold over the Watchmen rights.
Oh, what a tangled web we weave (wait — that’s a character froma different company. Sorry about that).