Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: rights to characters in books, radio, and films - Sam Spade

From: James Michael Rogers (
Date: 03 Sep 2010

  • Next message: James Michael Rogers: "Re: RARA-AVIS: RE: rights to characters in books, radio, and films - Sam Spade"

    Are you sure you aren't thinking of the successful "self-plagiarism" suit over Hammett's stories in his anthology "The Adventures Of Sam Spade"? I'm not saying you are wrong - in fact, this sounds quite reasonable - but this case seems like it would have leapt to my eye back in my copyright classes. Or could this have been an ancillary cause of action?


      ----- Original Message -----
      From: Vince Emery
      Sent: Friday, September 03, 2010 11:29
      Subject: RARA-AVIS: RE: rights to characters in books, radio, and films - Sam Spade

      mrt asked:

    > Does anybody know then this exploitative notion of "right to characters"
      started in the film industry? It's atrocious for writers that somebody would
      have a right to something they haven't even written (future installments in
      a series, for example). Or am I reading this wrong? It seems that there is
      almost a boilerplate expectation on the part of those buying film rights,
      which makes me wonder how it started and why it has been accepted.

      My reply:

      From a legal standpoint, one of the landmark cases occurred when Warner
      Bros. fought the CBS network, Sam Spade's radio sponsor (Wildroot hair oil),
      its advertising agency, producer, director, and Dashiell Hammett over the
      radio series "The Adventures of Sam Spade." Warner said it owned rights to
      the characters "and other materials" because it bought all performance
      rights to "The Maltese Falcon."

      The original lawsuit was filed May 28, 1948, and after appeal was resolved
      in Hammett's favor on November 9, 1954.

      You can find the appeals court decision here:

      For Hammett's lengthy affidavit, in which he describes "The Maltese Falcon"
      and his interest in and use of his character Sam Spade, see Discovering The
      Maltese Falcon and Sam Spade, pages 328-337.


      Vince Emery

      Vince Emery Productions
      SAM SPADE edited by Richard Layman
      by George J. "Rhino" Thompson
      - LOST STORIES by Dashiell Hammett
      Box 460279, San Francisco, CA 94146 USA Phone 1.415.337.6000


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