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Choose Your Own Adventure publisher sues Netflix over Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

By Cal Jeffrey · 46 replies
Jan 14, 2019
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  1. Chooseco, publisher of the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books has filed a lawsuit against Netflix over its interactive movie Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. The complaint filed in US District Court in Vermont claims that the movie-streaming service willfully infringed its trademark and damaged the brand’s reputation.

    The plaintiff contends that Netflix initiated negotiations to license the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark in 2016. Chooseco ultimately decided against allowing the name to be used. Since that time the children’s books publisher has sent the streaming company at least one cease-and-desist notice over a different interactive TV program.

    While Netflix does not use the trademarked phrase in the title, description, or marketing of Bandersnatch, it seems Chooseco is concerned over a line in the film that uses the brand name. The movie’s main character, Stephan Butler, refers to a fictitious novel as a Choose Your Own Adventure book.

    "In the first few minutes of the movie, the protagonist refers to a fictional book in the diegesis as a 'Choose Your Own Adventure' book. Netflix has no license or authorization to use Chooseco's trademark."

    Chooseco claims that this reference gives the implication that the book (also titled Bandersnatch) in the movie is part of its official series. The lawsuit states that the “dark” content of the film includes “depictions of a demonic presence, violent fighting, drug use, murder, mutilation of a corpse, decapitation, and other upsetting imagery,” which is true.

    “Association with this grim content tarnishes Chooseco’s famous trademark,” the filing alleges.

    The publisher's target audience is generally young adolescents from ages seven to 14. Bandersnatch was produced for a much more mature audience. Chooseco does not like the association drawn between the movie and its books. Even though some the company's more recent marketing attempts have been aimed at adults, the books are still geared for kids.

    "Part of Chooseco's marketing strategy includes appealing to adults now in their twenties, thirties, and forties who remember the brand with pleasant nostalgia from their youth and then buy Choose Your Own Adventure books for their own children," the complaint reads.

    The plaintiff is seeking $25 million in damages. Netflix has yet to comment on the case.

    Permalink to story.

  2. amstech

    amstech IT Overlord Posts: 2,186   +1,375

    What a bunch of losers.
    1) No one remembers 'Choose Your Own Adventure Books'. NO ONE.
    2) Your seriously picking a fight with Netflix over this, the same company that helped put Black Mirror on the map?
    I hope Chooseco dies a horrible, office on fire, cars running into cars, cats jumping off roofs death.
  3. Lew Zealand

    Lew Zealand TS Guru Posts: 610   +495

    Everyone knows that there's no such thing as copyright and intellectual property. Those are made-up tools of The Establishment meant to keep ideas shackled to the elite and keep their bottomless bank accounts full. People create ideas and products to share freely to everyone and all the other communist utopia crap.
  4. Stiqy

    Stiqy TS Enthusiast Posts: 51   +45

    1. What's wrong with you?
    2. They have a pretty clear-cut case, it could go either way, but it's reasonable. After a few years of negotiations and previous interactions on the fair use of their TM there is no possible way that line of dialogue is an accident, and Netflix knows it.
    3. Seriously, what's wrong with you? Is Netflix your mom?
    Squid Surprise, senketsu and Bubbajim like this.
  5. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,691   +436

    So should certain RPG games also be sued by CHOOSECO? Should they sue me as I make choices every single day and some are monetary which I gain from?

    This is moronic. Fortnite lawsuits all over.

    Unless I am missing something. Enlightened me.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019
    Eldritch and Reehahs like this.
  6. seeprime

    seeprime TS Guru Posts: 378   +405

    If the line "choose your own adventure" was only spoken, I think that favors Netflix. If they put it in print, on screen, then a trademark infringement case has some merit. Let the courts decide! We can enjoy our popcorn while money vs. big money dukes it out.
    senketsu, Eldritch, Reehahs and 2 others like this.
  7. Stiqy

    Stiqy TS Enthusiast Posts: 51   +45

    I think this is what you are missing: "Netflix initiated negotiations to license the “Choose Your Own Adventure” trademark in 2016. Chooseco ultimately decided against allowing the name to be used. Since that time the children’s books publisher has sent the streaming company at least one cease-and-desist notice "

    a) Netflix clearly understood it needed a license to associate itself with an existing brand.
    b) Netflix didn't get the license.
    c) Netflix deliberately tried to make that association anyway.

    It's pretty damn simple.
    Squid Surprise likes this.
  8. H3llion

    H3llion TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,691   +436

    Ok I missed that part, that is pretty crazy. But this type of story can be an IP? It's a genre, unless ripping off an actual story line?

    Back to the gaming example. If I created a new type of game genre and someone wanted to create a game based on that genre, I could run a lawsuit?
  9. Stiqy

    Stiqy TS Enthusiast Posts: 51   +45

    It's the specific phrase "Choose your own adventure."

    You can start your own credit card company if you want and your product be exactly like every other credit card company, but you're tag line can't be "Don't leave home without it." or American Express will sue your ***.

    They can say "this is a "Choice you make mystery" or any other variation all they want... just not use the trademarked phrase.
    Squid Surprise and senketsu like this.
  10. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,519   +1,516

    I’m a teacher-librarian.... and LOTS of people have heard of Choose your own adventure books.... Netflix is clearly in the wrong here, but the one flaw is I’m not sure how they’re going to prove “damages”. By their own admission, their audience is the 7-14 age range and Bandersnatch is not.... so, just by having the spoken line “choose your own adventure” inside the film, how much damage could their brand possibly take?

    Obviously $25 million is simply the first “ask” and will almost certainly be settled for less.... how much less? Guess we’ll find out eventually.
  11. Strango

    Strango TS Member

    I think a lot of people see Choose your own adventure as more of a genre than a company owned name or book. Its any easy way to describe a book or any media where you make decisions and I myself wasn't even aware of the books existed. If they really cared about their "brand" name being associated with anything but kids novels they would have gone after telltale games, most rpgs where you make decisions, and various other types of media that describe themselves as "choose your own adventure". Hell, it even has its own tag on the steam store https://store.steampowered.com/tags/en/Choose+Your+Own+Adventure#p=0&tab=TopSellers
    Right side bob likes this.
  12. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 769   +378

    It will be fair if Netflix director of this episode admits he knew nothing of such series, apologizes and changes/removes this one line from this episode. But under no circumstances shall Netflix give them even a tiny settlement!
    Companies suing other for infringing fairly simple sentences and phrases is madness. This must not spread or we will have to go back to cave men language because most of the words phrases and idioms are copyrighted.
  13. drjekelmrhyde

    drjekelmrhyde TS Evangelist Posts: 322   +113

    Give them the $25 million and call it a day. It's not even worth going to court over.
  14. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 769   +378

    Give them? GIVE THEM? But then copyright trolls will start scanning everything trying to find something that has already been "said." They will then go to the "original" phrase creators and offer them to sue infringing party wit their help! This is very very bad and trolls must not win.
    Eldritch likes this.
  15. Plutoisaplanet

    Plutoisaplanet TS Booster Posts: 92   +71

    How is this different from alternate ending movies? Those have been around FOREVER with DVDs.
  16. Bubbajim

    Bubbajim TechSpot Staff Posts: 661   +647

    Jesus. I have a feeling someone's childhood was marred by a wrong turn in a Choose Your Own Adventure book.
  17. xxLCxx

    xxLCxx TS Addict Posts: 231   +153

    Bandersnatch was very week. The entire last season was rather week.
    If you are looking for something closer to the original Black Mirror, check out “The Oath” (2018) (from and with Ike Barinholtz). The acting is a bit week and the story feels overly “pushed” at times, but it’s certainly a treat compared to Bandersnatch.
    P.S.: Don’t be alarmed by the ratings. Some people don't like it when you hold a mirror up to them. ;-)
  18. Eldritch

    Eldritch TS Addict Posts: 122   +114

    Copyright trolls are getting out of hand. Just saying a common phrase like choose your own adventure is ground for lawsuit? It not the main tagline or logo or the printed punchline etc but just a spoken line.
    Even more worrisome is some people are trying to justify these bullies/thugs. Absolutely horrible trend which leads to owning of even what we can say by corporates.
    What next? We will be sued by LG for saying Life's Good?
    indiferenc likes this.
  19. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,519   +1,516

    OK, the people who keep posting need to actually READ the original article. It's not that Netflix simply used a "common phrase" (and it's only common due to the success of the actual Choose Your Own Adventure franchise - much like "Don't leave home without it" became popular because of American Express), it's that they actually asked Chooseco for the license - and they said NO!! It's one thing to do something wrong without meaning to... it's quite another to ask permission, get denied, and DO IT ANYWAYS!

    Kind of like when a kid takes a cookie from the cookie jar... if they just take a cookie, then their parent might simply say "no cookie", and no punishment ensues. But if the kid says "Can I have a cookie?", the parent says "No", and then the kid takes a cookie ANYWAYS.... then punishment is clearly deserved.

    Netflix, you were caught with your hand in the cookie jar - after being told "No Cookie!"

    Saying that, this has probably benefited both Chooseco and Netflix tremendously with the added publicity. I suspect that a settlement will occur and both companies are going to be pretty happy.
    senketsu and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  20. Eldritch

    Eldritch TS Addict Posts: 122   +114

    No, there should be no settlement and these trolls need to be boycotted by the masses.

    Also, I don't agree with they asked about XYZ but were denied when this is not the punchline or heading. If Netflix had said Bandersnatch : Chose You Own Adventure then sure they would be right but they are suing them for a innocous dialogue which nobody even noticed (I had their book like a decade ago and never noticed this) unless they made a litigation out of it.

    Thugs/Trolls must be boycotted and I will do my part by boycotting them and other trolls for sure.
    indiferenc likes this.
  21. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,519   +1,516

    You might not agree... but it happened... again, please READ the article before you comment...
  22. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,723   +415

    This was why the lawsuit brought up the argument about Choosco's recent marketing efforts:

    "Part of Chooseco's marketing strategy includes appealing to adults now in their twenties, thirties, and forties who remember the brand with pleasant nostalgia from their youth and then buy Choose Your Own Adventure books for their own children."

    If parents (who are in the film's demographic) see it and associate the phrase with the brand then they may be less inclined to buy a CYOA book for their kids. This part of the argument is important for claiming damages.

    As far as the merit of the case, I believe you were right in saying that the wrong going here was the asking/denial/doing aspect. This is nothing like when Sky UK sued Hello Games for using the word 'Sky' in the title of its game. In that case it was just outright trademark trolling.
    senketsu likes this.
  23. Eldritch

    Eldritch TS Addict Posts: 122   +114

    Yet again, the permission issue doesn't matter in the least as its not an misuse of their brand name as it is not highlighted in any way and is nothing but a line of dialogue in conversation then why the copyright trolls be allowed to harass others?
    If I say 'Man my lifes good' can LG sue me? Shall we check all the catchphrases before opening our mouth in fear of copyright trolls? Why not run this through an parser for all YouTube videos so you can find maybe tens of thousands more people to harass for being humans and saying stuff.
    They are trying to piggyback on Netflix brand to get some sale for their dying brand and make some $$$ in the process by hoping to get a settlement. Pathetic.
  24. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,519   +1,516

    Hmmm.... maybe ask yourself this question... "Why would Netflix bother to ask permission if they didn't think they legally had to?"

    Apparently your knowledge of copyright law is far superior to Netflix's legal team?
  25. indiferenc

    indiferenc TS Booster Posts: 47   +51

    something being legal/illegal has no bearing on whether its right or wrong. simply because choose your own adventure may have the legal advantage, doesnt mean that its not a stupid, petty, troll move. if netflix had leveraged the name to promote the show, or used it for financial gain, we would have an issue. but they simply have a character say a common phrase, one that is now used to identify a specific genre of book. if I name something "rock and roll" and make money from it, should I be allowed to sue anyone who even utters the phrase in a movie or show or song? no, because its bullshit.

    I think netflix did the right thing by reaching out to CYOA initially, and when they said no, Netflix decided to see if they would be sued over a common phrase of generic words. which, im assuming, they also saw as a stupid lawsuit.
    Eldritch likes this.

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