Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Monday, December 07, 2009

Princess of Mars Trailer

Well, it looks like The Asylum's low budget version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Princess of Mars is getting closer to release. They've just posted the trailer on their site and YouTube. Interestingly, they're trying to tie it into James Cameron's upcoming megabudget opus Avatar.

I'm not going to go into everything that's wrong about this project creatively - clearly, there's a lot wrong with it - but I am curious to see how this challenge to the ERB Estate's interpretation of "public domain" plays out.

It's nothing personal on my part - I've nothing against ERB Inc. and both understand and sympathize with their desire to keep a tight grip on all of Burroughs' creations - but I do believe that they have been willfully misinterpreting the legal definition of "public domain" in order to maintain their hold over said creations, and unjustly using threats of litigation to prevent anyone from challenging them.

Part of the original intent of allowing works to fall into the public domain in the first place was to allow future creators to create new, derivative works from PD material (Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen being probably the most obvious, recent example of this, along with Spielberg's War of the Worlds, and the many, many Sherlock Holmes and Dracula pastiches over the years), while the ERB folks have been insisting that the PD status of Burroughs' early works mean only that the works themselves can be freely reprinted, while derivative works (such as films or graphic novels) are not allowed. I believe that the law does allow such derivative works... and apparently, so does The Asylum's lawyers.

I'm very curious to see if this movie actually gets released and what happens if it does.


Jim Shelley said...

Wow! That is one interesting trailer - but not in the way they intended I think.

I agree with you, the most interesting aspect of this whole thing will be to see how the ERB team reacts - they've scared comic publisher from publishing Barsoomian themed comics in the past, so they may scramble to shut this down as well.

Andy said...

If ERB is so dead-set against their works being PD then I wish they would make a version of "A Priness of Mars" themselves.

Traci Lords is so NOT Dejah Thoris that it makes my head spin.

Martin Powell said...

As I've said before, Disney owns the film rights to A PRINCESS OF MARS, licensed from ERB, Inc. I suspect they'll eat Asylum alive...or not. Regardless, it's up to Disney to decide, not the Burroughs family. IF push comes to shove, it's obvious who will win.

Christopher Mills said...

My point is that I don't believe that Disney does own the rights to the story, because, if it is in public domain, then *no one* can *own* it.

Whether we're talking about Disney or ERB Inc., I believe that they're in the wrong, no matter how many lawyers they have and how many threats they make.

So far, it sounds like they've successfully intimidated a lot of folks, but The Asylum has already released one ERB-inspired film (THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT) and nobody stopped that.

I don't have a horse in this race. My interest is strictly academic - I believe that intellectual property law should be applied the same whether it involves an individual or a corporation - though these days, corporations seem to make their own rules, especially Disney.

Martin Powell said...

You may well be right, but all I know is that I've seen "legal" documents that Disney paid a huge chunk of bucks for the copyrights to the story, just as they did for TARZAN OF THE APES. Disney lawyers aren't dumb. Evil, maybe, but not lacking in intelligence. It's possible, one way or another, that they wouldn't consider this lame-looking production much of a threat and nothing will happen. Me? I dunno what to expect.