RE: RARA-AVIS: Double your title?

Jerry Buck (
Sat, 15 May 1999 23:19:19 -0700 > I'm pretty sure you cannot copyright a title in the US. However,
> Hollywood has (or at least had, as '50s drive-in movie producers started
> with the title, then made a move to fit, or not fit, it) a film registry
> to keep film titles from being repeated. It must still be in effect,
> because I remember Dave Simon telling me they had to get David Mamet's
> (actually his lawyer's) permisson to use the title Homicie for the TV
> program. I wonder if someone could challenge it as violating anti-trust
> laws.
> Mark

Movie titles are registered, but re-use seems to be common after a movie
has been out a while and has faded. Obviously, you're not going to see
another CASABLANCA, but some titles have been used three or four times.

I'm relying on memory here, so it may be inaccurate. But wasn't HOMICIDE
originally called HOMICIDE ON THE STREETS?

When SPENSER was brought to television ABC and Paramount had to make the
title SPENSER FOR HIRE because of an NBC sitcom on about the same time
called SPENCER. It went very fast. There was also SPENCER'S PILOTS in 1976,
which lasted for about 10 minutes.

You can't copyright or register ideas either. Writers who've pitched to
unscrupulous producers are sometimes told "What a coincidence. I already
thought of that idea."

Jerry Buck

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