Netflix is a morass of streaming movie and TV content — how much is there, really? (a good topic for another post) — that we’ve had a family subscription for years.
Unfortunately, I missed seeing Black Mirror: Bandersnatch ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ when it was released in December 2018. This movie is viewer interactive in the sense you choose what happens next in the movie — literally — with your remote.
Netflix’s VP of Product, Todd Yellin, said at the FICCI-Frames conference in Mumbai. “We’re doubling down on that. So expect over the next year or two, to see more interactive storytelling. And it won’t necessarily be science fiction, or it won’t necessarily be dark. It could be a wacky comedy. It could be a romance, where the audience gets to choose, should she go out with him or him.”Netflix says more Bandersnatch-style movies are coming
This interactive movie experience (learn more about it from Netflix themselves here) reminded me first of the Choose Your Own Adventure stories I enjoyed as a child and secondarily of Don Bluth’s fun laserdisc game, Dragon’s Lair. Apparently, this familiarity in our current litigious society led to a $25 million dollar lawsuit against Netflix by publisher Chooseco:
According to Chooseco, that’s a $25 million problem for Netflix, given that Stefan Butler, the main character in Bandersnatch, explains to his father that his latest video game design is based on a fictional book. After his father remarks that it must be good because Butler is always “flicking backwards and forwards,” Butler responds, “No, it’s a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book.”Netflix Asks Judge to Dismiss “Choose Your Own Lawsuit”
That was back in May 2019 and all my searching around does not yield an update to the court’s decision as of this writing. There are other articles that describe Chooseco’s legal position:
Chooseco also notes that it does license its trademark for media other than books, including a development deal with Disney. The motion also cited a decision from the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court that the maker of a greeting card infringed on the trademark holder of the slogan “Honey Badger Don’t Care.”Publisher Digs In for Fight – Waterbury Record June 13, 2019
It’s common knowledge that litigation can take some time to resolve. The less expensive route for Netflix likely would be to pay for licensing from Chooseco. As noted in the article above, they have licensed usage in other media than books.
If no settlement is reached and the court doesn’t dismiss, what might be their findings?
My guess — and it is only that — is that the courts will look at how this was handled with videogames like the aforementioned Dragon’s Lair and Night Trap for the Sega Genesis CD.
Did the publishers of those videogames pay a licensing fee for the concept of the player choosing the path of the character in the game?
Then again, Netflix isn’t marketing this as a game. They marketed it as a movie attached to their Black Mirror anthology TV show. That show deals specifically with unintended consequences of technology. Ah, the irony.
Will definitely stay tuned!