L.A. Asserts Copyright Interest in TV Cop Shows
Thu Aug 1, 8:31 PM ET
By Steve Gorman LOS ANGELES, (Reuters) - No-nonsense Sgt. Joe Friday
of "Dragnet" and the clean-cut cops of "Adam-12" never had to do
anything like this.
But the City of Angels has made it clear that its real-life police
department is here not only to serve and protect, but also to collect
licensing fees. The city of Los Angeles has threatened legal action
against the makers of two new TV police dramas if they use likenesses
of the city's trademarked police department badges, logos, or even
the LAPD's good name, without city permission.
The municipal government is insisting that producers of the upcoming
CBS series "Robbery, Homicide Division," and NBC's "Boomtown" -- both
set in Los Angeles -- pay licensing fees for rights to symbols that
"belong to the residents and taxpayers of L.A.," Ana Garcia, a
spokeswoman for the City Attorney's Office, told Reuters this week.
"We expect to be treated just like the GAP, Starbucks and Coca-Cola,"
she said referring to popular brands for apparel, coffee, and soft
drinks. "Hollywood is the one industry that should be extra sensitive
to the issue of intellectual property."
Not to mention prooduct placement. Garcia, said the LAPD, its badge
and its logo were registered for trademark and copyright protection
in 1999 under a process started by then-City Attorney James Hahn, who
is now the mayor. The new city attorney, Rocky Delgadillo, is
vigorously enforcing those protections, she said.
It's a far cry from the days of such classic police dramas as
"Adam-12," and "Dragnet," the landmark series starring Jack Webb as
dead-pan Joe Friday, solving cases drawn copyright- free from the
actual files of the Los Angeles Police Department. With the LAPD now
being treated as a brand name, veteran "Law & Order" producer Dick
Wolf is likely to get a much different reception as he proceeds with
plans to bring a modern version of "Dragnet" back to prime-time on
ABC next year.
By contrast, Wolf said his years of experience as executive producer
of the long-running NBC hit drama "Law & Order" and other shows set
in New York City have been unfettered by municipal trademark issues.
"The NYPD has been nothing but supportive and helpful in 15
consecutive years of filming on the streets of New York," Wolf said
in a statement issued by his publicist on Thursday.
Neither has the veteran ABC cop show "NYPD Blue" had to deal with
City Hall or the New York Police Department over licensing or
trademarks, a writer and technical advisor to that show told the Los
Angeles Times. CBS, a division of Viacom Inc., referred queries about
"Robbery, Homicide Division" to the show's producers, Universal
Television, which declined comment.
But NBC West Coast executive vice president Marc Graboff took
exception to the city's position, saying it could drive shows out of
Los Angeles. NBC, a unit of General Electric Co., said its "Boomtown"
series "will not be portraying the actual LAPD shield or logo in the
series, which is within accepted industry and legal guidelines."
Legal experts said the city may be on shaky ground by tryin! g ! to
assert a trademark or copyright interest in the use of the LAPD name
or its depiction by the entertainment media. "You're probably within
your rights to make a television show about the LAPD or people in the
LAPD ... without infringing," said entertainment lawyer Matthew
Falley. "There's a closer question of using the badge or the shield."
Falley cited a federal appeals court ruling in California last month
that held the 1997 pop hit "Barbie Girl" was a parody protected by
the free-speech provision of the U.S. Constitution and thus did not
breach Mattel Inc.'s trademark for its iconic Barbie doll. Garcia, of
the City Attorney's Office, said that the producers of the FX cable
network's new Emmy-nominated show "The Shield" changed the name of
the program from "Rampart" to avoid copyright conflicts with the
city. Rampart is the name of a police station at the heart of a
real-life LAPD corruption scandal. "The point is they didn't leave
town, they're shooting, they're successful, and they're up for an
Emmy. And we're glad that they're here," Garcia said.
A spokesman for FX, a unit of News Corp. Ltd.'s Fox Entertainment
Group Inc., denied that producers of "The Shield" bowed to pressure
from the city. He said "Rampart" was a working title that the network
decided was too obscure for viewers outside Los Angeles, and that the
show always had been set in a fictional southern California community
that was not Los Angeles, even though it looks like Los Angeles
because it is shot Los Angeles.
-- Carrie McLaren Editor, Stay Free! 718.398.9324 www.stayfreemagazine.org www.illegal-art.org ---------------------------------------------------- Rumori, the Detritus.net Discussion List to unsubscribe, send mail to majordomoATdetritus.net with "unsubscribe rumori" in the message body. ---------------------------------------------------- Rumori list archives & other information are at http://detritus.net/contact/rumori ----------------------------------------------------
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