We have all heard of Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat - if you haven't it might be time to spend some time online. We see these characters all over the Internet - from Facebook photos to videos. They have become some of the best known memes, and definitely some of the longest running.
Because of this, it is no surprise that Warner Bros. wanted to incorporate them into their newest Scribblenauts title, Scribblenauts Unlimited. We saw their inclusion in the game during Nintendo's WiiU E3 2012 event and also New York City launch event. What we didn't know at the time was that Warner Bros. did not have permission to use these characters.
Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat are creations owned by Christopher Torres and Charles Schmidt. The creators love that the characters are used as memes, for non-profit purposes - comedy on the Internet. For-profit purposes, however, are very different; if you are going to make money off of someone else's creations, you pay for that ability. As it turns out, Warner Bros. and studio 5th Cell did not do this. The creator says,
We reached out to the companies in hopes of working out an amicable resolution of the issue, yet were disrespected and snubbed each time as nothing more than nuisances for asking for fair compensation for our intellectual property. That's not right. I have no issues with Nyan Cat being enjoyed by millions of fans as a meme, and I have never tried to prevent people from making creative uses of it that contribute artistically and are not for profit. But this is a commercial use, and these companies themselves are protectors of their own intellectual property. Many other companies have licensed Nyan Cat properly to use commercially.
The creators have, obviously, been forced into filing suit against Warner Bros. and 5th Cell. If the rights aren't protected now, then the copyrights lose almost all of their value. You cannot set a precedent like that or no one will ever license them properly.
Since Warner Bros. and 5th Cell chose to act as if we had no rights in characters we created, filing a lawsuit was the only way we had to protect our intellectual property rights from being used for others' commercial profit without our consent. Too often normal artists like us don't have the means and resources to protect our rights against big media corporations who use our work for their own profit without permission. We are looking here just to be treated fairly and to be fairly compensated for our creative work.
Hopefully, when all is said and done, the artists will receive what they deserve - compensation for the inclusion of their creations in Scribblenauts Unlimited.