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'The Butler' Will Now Be Called 'Lee Daniels' The Butler' - MPAA Rules On Title Arbitration

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 20, 2013 11:26 AM
52 Comments
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"The Butler."
"The Butler."

UPDATE 7/20/13, 11am.

Finally, an end to this saga... at least we hope so.

In yesterday's update, Harvey Weinstein had enlisted the civil rights leader trio comprised of Jesse JacksonNAACP president & CEO Ben Jealous, and National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, Roy Innis, in his fight against Warner Bros. over the use of the title The Butler. And also, attorneys for both sides made further appeals in a hearing of the MPAA’s Title Registration Bureau. Thus far, Warner Bros has been on the winning side of every previous ruling on the matter.You can read that full story after this new update, below.

This morning brings word that, in a ruling by the MPAA, The Weinstein Co. can use some form of 'The Butler' in the title of the Lee Daniels-directed movie, BUT as part of the title, and not as the only words in the title.

And with that, the new title of the film will be... drumroll... Lee Daniels' The Butler. Sort of like Tyler Perry's [Insert every Tyler Perry film name here].

In addition, TWC will have to pay $400,000 (and more) in fines for violating the July 2 MPAA ruling, and they will also have to change all the marketing materials for the film to reflect the new title.

As Variety notes:

TWC will have pay a fine of $25,000 a day, dating back to July 2, or $400,000 for violating the initial ruling, and face stiffer penalties if it refuses to change its marketing campaign. The fine will increase to $50,000 a day if the studio fails to issue new digital materials (trailers, TV ads) by July 26 and new print materials by Aug. 2. TWC will also have to pay $100,000 to the Entertainment Industry Foundation and up to $150,000 to cover Warner Bros.’ legal fees. 

Interestingly, as Variety reports, TWC had already registered “Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’” as a title of the film, back in June with the MPAA. So apparently they were prepared for this ruling in advance.

We are now ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ – we are thrilled,” said TWC spokeswoman Dani Weinstein

So there you have it.

Lee Daniels' The Butler opens in just under a month - August 16th

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UPDATE 7/19/13 4:30pm.

I was hoping this had been put to bed already, since I hadn't read any updates in a little while. But it's still very much in play.

In short, the most recent update, courtesy of THR, states that Harvey Weinstein has enlisted the civil rights leader trio comprised of Jesse JacksonNAACP president & CEO Ben Jealous, and National Chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality, Roy Innis, in his fight against Warner Bros. over the use of the title The Butler.

Throwing their support behind Harvey Weinstein and the Lee Daniels-directed film, the trio released the following statement:

"We are all watching and waiting for the results of today's arbitration and hoping that Warner Bros. and the MPAA make the right decision on this important movie about civil rights."

The arbitration referred to above involves The Weinstein Co.'s lawyer David Boies, making another attempt today to secure the title for the upcoming movie (which opens in just under a month - August 16th), in an appeal hearing of the MPAA’s Title Registration Bureau. Thus far, Warner Bros has been on the winning side of every previous ruling on the matter.

My question is, what exactly are Jackson, Jealous and Innis going to do here, and why would Harvey Weinstein enlist their help? How much influence do they have with the MPAA? With Warner Bros.? Or is their plan to have this case instead tried in the court of public opinion, making public, rousing speeches, and calling their flock to rise up against this *injustice*?

This entire thing is becoming sillier to me. Somebody has to give eventually... and thus far, The Weinstein Company is losing.

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UPDATE 7/5/13, 3:30pm.

And the beat goes on... I don't know about you guys, but I'm really dying to see how all of this ends.

The latest is a lengthy letter that attorneys for Warner Bros sent to attorneys for The Weinstein Company, in response to TWC attorney David Boies' letter on behalf of the company, and director Lee Daniels’ personal appeal to Warner Bros, to allow the to keep the title. My update on that letter happened 2 days ago and can be read immediately after this new update.

There must be some real bad blood underneath all of this; it looks like one wants to teach the other a lesson.

Here's the incendiary letter, courtesy of Deadline:

July 4, 2013

David Boies, Esq.

Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP

333 Main Street

Armonk, NY 10504

Re:The Weinstein Company/The Butler

Dear Mr. Boies:

We represent Warner Bros. Pictures (WBP) and Warner Bros. Family Entertainment (collectively, “Warner”). I write in response to your July 3, 2013 letter on behalf of The Weinstein Company’s (TWC). TWC’s cries of unfairness and its threats to sue Warner are unproductive and unwarranted responses to a situation that TWC alone has created.

Your letter conspicuously omits to discuss the actual course of events in this case. That is no oversight, of course, because TWC has flagrantly and repeatedly violated the rules of the Title Registration Bureau (TRB) of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc. (MPAA). For many years, TWC (including its affiliates and its predecessor in interest, Miramax Film Corporation) has subscribed to the TRB rules and procedures. The TRB functions as the central registration bureau for its subscribers’ film titles of U.S. theatrical motion pictures. TWC is a voluntary subscriber to the TRB. In other words, TWC chooses to avail itself of the many services and benefits the TRB provides. In exchange, TWC, like anyone else who voluntarily elects to participate in the TRB process, agrees to be bound by the TRB’s rules and procedures. Over the years, however, TWC and its principals have operated in the TRB process with breathtaking hypocrisy. They have used the TRB rules and procedures to extract concessions from, and initiate arbitration against, other subscriber companies in order to advance TWC’s own interests. See, e.g., Phoenix Pictures/Miramax-Dimension Arbitration (Oct. 5, 1999) (awarding the Weinstein-controlled Miramax relief against Phoenix’s release of “Got To Be You”); New Line Productions/Miramax-Dimension Arbitration (Dec. 17, 2003) (awarding the Weinstein-controlled Miramax relief against New Line’s “Curse of the Mask”). At the same time, TWC has flouted those same rules if and when they have happened to conflict with TWC’s interests.

As TWC is well aware, TRB subscribers must register each and every one of their film titles and cannot use a title for which they do not have the rights under the TRB rules. See TRB Rules 3.1 and 5.1.2. Pursuant to TRB Rule 3.7.2.2, each subscriber may designate up to five hundred (500) titles as “Permanent Original Releases.” WBP chose to add its title, “The Butler,” to this list in May of 2010. Where, as here, a subscriber submits a title for registration that is identical to the title of a Permanent Original Release, TRB Rule 4.4.2.2 clearly provides that registration will be denied unless a waiver is obtained from the subscriber with the protected title. If a waiver is not obtained, the subscriber seeking to register the identical title can instead register a variation of that title. If the subscriber with the similar permanently protected title protests, the subscriber seeking to use the similar title can request an arbitration, and a panel of arbitrators then decides, based on numerous factors, including equitable considerations, whether or not there is “harmful conflict” between the titles, such that the party seeking to use the permanently protected title should be precluded from doing so.

These are the rules and procedures — among many others — which have been in place for decades, with which TWC is intimately familiar, and which TWC has invoked many times for its own benefit. And yet, as it has also done several times in the past, TWC has chosen to proceed in reckless disregard of the rules, apparently relying on a self-spun “Weinstein exception” to the rules whenever and wherever those rules do not solely favor TWC.

TWC’s violation of the rules in this case include the following:

(1)TWC began promoting its film in September 2012, two months before TWC even attempted to register the title with the TRB;

(2)TWC attempted unsuccessfully to register the title in November 2012, and continued to use the title without authorization for eight months after its registration was denied

(3)TWC delayed for four months seeking a waiver from WBP, during which time TWC continued to make unauthorized use of the title;

(4)TWC failed to timely register a similar title, that Warner would likely not have protested and, even had the matter gone to arbitration, would likely have resulted in TWC’s being able to use the similar title; and

(5) TWC continued to use the title for months after Warner declined to grant a waiver.

In light of the severity of TWC’s transgressions, it is unsurprising that the arbitrators ruled as they did. Indeed there was ample precedent for their ruling, including TWC’s own disturbing pattern and practice of flagrant TRB rules violations. For example, in 1997, the Weinstein-controlled Miramax released the motion picture “Scream” without having cleared the title in conformance with TRB rules. After the subscriber who protested Miramax’s unauthorized use sought arbitration, the panel, as the panel did in this case, enjoined Miramax from any further use of the title; prohibited Miramax from using the word “scream” in any form; awarded damages and attorneys’ fees to the opposing party; and ordered monetary sanctions for any prospective violations of the arbitration award. Similarly egregious violations of the TRB rules by your clients in connection with the motion pictures “Il Postino” (“The Postman”) and “Control” resulted in the imposition of similar injunctions and sanctions.

When viewed in light of the complete factual background, TWC could not reasonably have expected the arbitration in this matter to yield any result other than the arbitrators’ ruling. On the contrary, given TWC’s extensive experience with the TRB and intimate knowledge of the rules, it is truly astounding that TWC chose once again to flout the rules, especially when there were so many opportunities for TWC itself to obviate the harm that TWC now claims. Had TWC timely sought to register the title and timely sought a waiver from Warner, there would have been ample opportunity for TWC to register a clearly similar title if Warner denied the waiver. TWC could have registered any number of alternative titles featuring the word “Butler.” In fact, TWC registered the title “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” which Warner did not protest and which TWC could easily have used. Instead, TWC insisted on continuing to use an unregistered, uncleared, protested title, giving Warner no choice but to bring an arbitration against TWC, not only to defend Warner’s own rights in this case but to defend the integrity of the TRB rules and procedures.

I also note that, as your client is well aware and contrary to what you have written in your correspondence, Warner never agreed that TWC could copy Warner’s protected title. TWC attempted to make this argument at the arbitration hearing and it was soundly rejected by the arbitrators. The evidence was clear and unambiguous that Warner expressly rejected TWC’s request for a waiver — including at least twice in writing — and that TWC continued to use the title in willful disregard of Warner’s rights and in violation of the TRB rules.

In light of the complete background, it is obvious that the accusations your letter makes are both baseless and fruitless, and that TWC is trying to twist this dispute into something it is not. Warner is in no respect trying “to restrict the marketing and distribution” of TWC’s motion picture. The fact that TWC is now using a campaign of misinformation about those rules and procedures to gin up publicity for the film is not lost on anyone. Indeed, the New York Times noted just yesterday that TWC is following its well-worn path of creating “well-publicized controversies” on the eve of a film’s release. http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/03/its-weinstein-vs-warner-brothers-over-use-of-the-title-....

TWC’s attempt to re-litigate a case it lost in arbitration – whether in the press or in court – will never succeed. The TRB rules make it abundantly clear that TRB arbitration is the sole and exclusive remedy for resolving any and all title disputes. The courts do not allow parties like TWC to “sit idle through an arbitration procedure” and then collaterally attack that process in a lawsuit “when the result turns out to be adverse.” Marino v. Writers Guild of America, East, Inc., 992 F.2d 1480, 1484 (9th Cir. 1993). Your suggestion that the TRB rules that TWC voluntarily elected to subscribe to violate the antitrust laws is specious. See Guichard v. Mandalay Pictures, 2005 WL 2007883, at *4 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 22, 2005) (rejecting claim that TRB rules violated antitrust laws); Guichard v. Universal City Studios, 2007 WL 1750216, at *7 (N.D. Cal. June 15, 2007) (rejecting analogous claim that TRB rules were unfair business practices). And, your insinuation that there is some irreparable injury in TWC being subject to sanctions of $25,000 per day for continuing to flout the rules is meritless. If TWC believes that sanction is unwarranted, TWC can make that argument to the arbitration panel or in the appeal process that TWC has voluntarily decided to avail itself of. In all events, the idea that a sanction of $25,000 per day will cause some catastrophic harm to a corporation with the immense resources of TWC and the Weinsteins is self-evidently absurd. TWC’s litigation threats are just more hollow posturing by a party that does not have the facts, law or equity on its side. Let me assure you that Warner will vigorously defend any attempt by TWC to circumvent rules and procedures to which it has voluntarily subscribed and to which it is indisputably bound. It should go without saying that we expect TWC to preserve all relevant documents.

The foregoing is not a complete recitation of all of the facts and law pertaining to this matter, nor a waiver of any of Warner’s rights, remedies, defenses and positions, all of which are expressly reserved.

Very truly yours,

John W. Spiegel

JWS:rcp

cc:John Rogovin, Esq.

Henry Hoberman, Esq.

Floyd Abrams, Esq.

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UPDATE 7/4/13, 10am.

The latest on this is that The Weinstein Company plans to fight the arbitration decision, and have hired high-powered attorney David Boies, who recently successfully challenged Prop 8 in the Supreme Court.

And on top of that, director Lee Daniels has sent a letter to Warner Bros. Entertainment’s CEO Kevin Tsujihara, essentially pleading with him to let them keep the title. Here's a piece of the letter, which is now public:

"I have spent the last four years of my life working on the film, The Butler, and it is the proudest moment of my professional career. I am heartbroken as I write this letter to you. I made this film so I could show my kids, my family, and my country some of the injustices and victories African-Americans and their families have experienced in the fight for Civil Rights. Through the eyes of this loving and hard-working family, the film tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement from the sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, to Selma, Martin Luther King's assassination, and the election of the first Black President.

I am so proud of this movie. Every member of our cast worked for almost nothing so that this story could be told with only our very small budget. If we were to change the title a mere six weeks before we open, it would most certainly hurt the film by limiting the number of people who would ultimately see this important story. This movie is not a blockbuster, nor did we intend it to be. We just wanted to tell the dark and beautiful story of our nation's racial history, where we came from, and how far we have come."

Daniels then goes on to offer to arrange a private screening for Tsujihara. No word yet on whether he's accepted, and whether there has been any progress, so stay tuned...

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UPDATE: 7/2/13, 8:16pm. 

Say it ain't so! And I thought the entire thing was a fiasco that would end very differently than what's transpired tonight! 

According to VarietyWarner Bros. (WB) has won an arbitration over The Weinstein Company (TWC) over its use of the title, The Butler, for the upcoming drama which is already set for an August 16th release.

This means that TWC will have to select another title for the movie! Incredible! I didn't see this coming at all! 

Did I mention that the film is out in just over a month, and, needless to say, marketing materials for it (posters, trailers, clips, and more) already have "The Butler" imprinted all over them. Not to mention that, assuming this holds, the film's title and end credit sequences would have to be edited with whatever new title TWC comes up with.

From where I'm standing, this sounds like it could get very expensive for TWC, unless I'm just missing something.

I'd guess that some other kind of agreement will be reached between the two companies soon, so that TWC can keep the title as is. What exactly would make the WB happy in this case, I'm sure TWC probably has some ideas, since I'm guessing both companies previously discussed the matter privately at some point.

So here's the million dollar survey question ladies and gents: assuming this ruling holds, and TWC doesn't strike some sort of deal with the WB, what should TWC change the film's name to? 

Your picks, so dig in... maybe I'll get things rolling. How about: All About The Butler? The Butler Unchained? Precious Butler? Or maybe Butler Confidential? Or That Movie Set In The White House With All Those Celebrity Cameos & Starring The Guy From Ghost Dog. Or maybe just simply B. Or The B.

But first, if you're just joining us, catch up on what prompted the arbitration in the first place below:

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As Mike Fleming Jr, who reports on this for Deadline, notes, this does seem rather petty.

Warner Bros is the latest Hollywood company seemingly trying to use trademark law to stop another company from releasing a film with a title similar to one in its library.

According to Fleming, the story goes:

A title fight is brewing between The Weinstein Company and Warner Bros over The Butler, the Lee Daniels-directed drama that stars Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo, with a stellar cast playing small roles as the occupants of the White House during Cecil Gaines’s tenure as butler for eight presidents. Warner Bros is trying to block Harvey Weinstein from using the title The Butler on the film, and it seems like a real “screw you.” Warner Bros is claiming it has rights to the title because of a 1916 short silent comedy called The Butler. That one was produced by the Lubin Manufacturing Company and released by General Film Company, and is now in the Warner Bros library. This sure sounds petty, and there is a high level of outrage at The Weinstein Company, I’m told. Particularly because within just the past few weeks, TWC raised a challenge to the Warner Bros film The Good Lie because it is close to the TWC title The Good Life. When Warner Bros lawyers called, TWC demurred and gave Warner Bros the necessary clearance. I’m told that TWC’s attempts to coax Warner Bros included appealing to them on the grounds this prestige film is the last from the late producer Laura Ziskin, the Spider-Man producer who was well liked in town. There have also been appeals made by director Daniels, to no avail. I’m not sure if Winfrey has reached out or not. This will go to arbitration shortly, and each side seems dug in.

Fleming adds that TWC is determined to use that title, so we can only guess that they'll do whatever is necessary to make it so, even if it means placating the WB in some way. 

Hollywood certainly has a long history of recycling movie titles, although I doubt that TWC was thinking about the WB's 1916 short film, when it acquired The Butler from Sony Pictures.

Interestingly, as I learned, one of the earliest similar *title fights* also involved the WB - when the Marx Bros., set to release A Night in Casablanca, in 1946, faced objection from Warner Bros., who argued that their title was much too similar to the WB's Casablanca, released 4 years earlier. 

Groucho Marx reportedly stated, humorously, that he "had no idea that the City of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers." TWC must be thinking something similar about "The Butler."

Most recently, last year, in a *title fight* that wasn't between two Hollywood film titans, but between an indie distribution company and a celebrated author, Curtis 50 Cent Jackson’s Mario Van Peebles-directed sports drama, All Things Fall Apart, got a name change from the original Things Fall Apart, when the film's distributor, Image Entertainment faced push-back from the late Chinua Achebe - all in an effort to avoid further confusion, as some assumed the film was an adaptation of Achebe's seminal literary work, Things Fall Apart, which wasn't at all the case.

My research tells me that the MPAA does have an internal procedure to settle title disputes among studios. I also learned that titles are not copyrightable, and that these title cases usually instead rely on arguments of unfair competition, alleging that a film's identical title might "confuse, mislead and deceive the public" into believing that the new film is related to or affiliated with the earlier one - especially if the subject matter is similar.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you what the WB's 1916 short film, The Butler, is about, because I couldn't find anything on it online. It does have an IMDB page, with cast and crew listed, but no synopsis. Maybe one of you reading this knows something I don't...

But I'm sure this *title fight* between the WB and TWC will be settled in time for TWC's release of The Butler, which is just about 1 1/2 months away - August 16th. And I doubt it'll end in a title change.

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52 Comments

  • Michael A Milner | October 4, 2013 6:56 PMReply

    I really have to question things Jesse Jackson is involved with. Yes the so called minority need a voice. But to be real because he has become so political we Black & White American's know it is corrupt, money, & power Bull Turds. The man portrayed in the movie both served his President, like any Military Man. His biggest contribution is how he inspired the Elected Presidents by his humility & dedication to them even when the laws of the land were not at all representing the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence proclaim as well as guarantee ALL Americans. Any educated American's know that this nation would not be nearly what it is without the contributions Black Americans Have made. The Brave Americans who flew the red tail fighters that escorted the bombers & never lost a bomber plane, & some of those men actually flew purposely into the path of bullets being fired on by the German fighters. Mean while back home they had to use "Blacks Only" bathrooms, water fountains, & had to sit in the back of the bus until my hero Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, & peacefully rally folks to walk or pile into taxis & about Bankrupt the city of Montgomery. Then a powerful speaker directed by the same Holy Spirit that told Rosa not to get up from that seat, The great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, furthered Civil Rights Guarantees proudly & loud so the elected idiots had to listen. & Thank God they did, because we have a better nation because of it. Slavery & Segregation are a bigger black eye on American History than the Vietnam "Police Action." The reason we were coned into it by the French, & the way some disrespectful kids spit on men who honorably answered the Draft & went to fight a war the people were not inspired to stand behind. Segregation still went on silently in Nam, You can guarantee the Black American's humped overtime in a predominate white unit led by a white officer from the south. Talking to a vet in the V A he says it's getting better. Abe Released the slaves & "It was getting better." Now look at the Judicial system in this country, & the prison populations across America. It does not represent a fair legal system. Sentences for Black American's are longer than that given to White Criminals for the same crimes.
    Come on now, lets stop worrying about a title & let the film roll & tell the important story of a humble American proving that a butler's job is important, as well as honorable. Most I have known make a decent buck, & do well with their cash.
    Let us see the movie, & stop all the Bull Turds

  • sergio | October 4, 2013 7:26 PM

    "I really have to question things Jesse Jackson is involved with'

    Well he's got to do something while he's not visiting Jesse Jr in the joint for doing to same things that he did but got away with

  • Donella | July 7, 2013 6:53 PMReply

    I will likely watch this movie because the assembled cast is amazing.

  • JEFTCG | July 7, 2013 7:57 AMReply

    This case ultimately displays the selfishness and frivolity on both sides: WB for wanting to screw with H. Weinstein just because they can, and TWC's odd disappointment over losing a title as innocuous as "The Butler". Most of the alternate titles below are just as good (and funnier.) (And apropos.)

    Attached, please find my additional submission for title:

    "Runnin Thangs: How Servile Blackness and/or Ignorant Negro Caricatures Win Oscars (When The Rainbow Ain't Enuff)". Guaranteed 100 mil first weekend.

  • VM | July 6, 2013 11:06 PMReply

    Title it "Da Butla" and call it a day.

  • artbizzy | July 6, 2013 5:56 AMReply

    Call it "Benson: The Movie", "Yassir" or "Attaboy"

  • Miles Ellison | July 6, 2013 4:27 PM

    Benson actually wound up running for governor.

  • theyounglion | July 5, 2013 6:31 PMReply

    How about calling it "Backstairs at the White House, Part II"? :-)

    Actually, I've been meaning to ask: With all the talk about "The Butler" lately, has there been anything written here I might have missed about "Backstairs at the White House", the 1979 miniseries on NBC that apparently covers the same ground? The miniseries starred Leslie Uggams, Olivia Cole, Paul Winfield, Robert Hooks, and Louis Gossett, Jr., as well as Robert Vaughn, Cloris Leachman, Leslie Nielsen, George Kennedy, Kim Hunter, Harry Morgan, Estelle Parsons, Celeste Holm, and many others. A truly all-star cast for its time. I remember watching it as a little kid...one of those few times my parents let me watch TV on a school night.

    Here was a late 70's drama about the White House with the black servants as the primary characters. I remember we didn't only see them working as maids and butlers to the presidents, but we also saw a lot of their home lives. (I distinctly remember one scene in particular when, at the start of the Great Depression, the Olivia Cole and Leslie Uggams characters learned they'd lost all of the money they'd deposited in their bank.)

    Just wondering if someone here (maybe Sergio) has written about it yet.

  • Emmett Period | July 5, 2013 1:07 PMReply

    "The Help"....at the end of the day that's all he is anyway.

  • Liza | July 5, 2013 12:41 PMReply

    "The American Butler"

  • BluTopaz | July 5, 2013 9:40 AMReply

    Maybe I'm naive and I agree WB are being asshats but couldn't Daniels just call it "The Butler: A Film By Lee Daniels"?

  • FactChecker | July 5, 2013 12:14 AMReply

    I hope Whining Brothers comes around and does the right thing. It's a shame how petty some people can be in this business, especially over things that will do them no harm, and after 100 years mean nothing to anyone living in today's society.

    I really feel bad for Lee Daniels and hope Whining Brothers will come to their senses.

    If you want insight into just how screwed up things are in the upper echelons of management over there, listen to last week's installment of The Business with Kim Masters on KCRW. She breaks it all down -- the chaos that's currently erupting over there with CEOs and such.

  • AccidentalVisitor | July 6, 2013 1:05 AM

    It's not petty. If Harvey and Co has been pulling this garbage for years, and he doesn't have the best rep in Hollywood, then I can understand WB taking a stand and saying enough in order to give TWC a lesson. It is a shame that it has to happen over a film that is an example of one of the rare times Hollywood shines light on issues such as the Civil Rights movement, but it is what it is.

  • FilmGuy | July 4, 2013 8:49 PMReply

    A title cannot be copywritten. Any book publisher can tell you that. This petty controversy is meant to bring more attention to Daniels' film after that last debacle he made. Simple marketing.

  • ade | July 4, 2013 7:50 PMReply

    "A Butler "

  • Miles Ellison | July 4, 2013 6:18 PMReply

    This movie is not a blockbuster, nor did we intend it to be. We just wanted to tell the dark and beautiful story of our nation's racial history, where we came from, and how far we have come

    This is clearly not the description of a blockbuster. If that's what the movie is actually about, it will take this kind of petty, manufactured controversy to get any one to actually see it.

  • Nadia | July 4, 2013 4:31 PMReply

    Maybe I'm just a terrible cynic, but am I the only one who wonders if all of this is just s stunt? I tend to look at these kinds of public blowups with a large serving of *side eye* and not trusting everything that's said. I mean, we're talking about the film aren't we with a month to go until it comes out. I know it may not make any sense because it would mean that WB and TWC got together and planned the whole thing so that there'll be a lot of buzz around the film because of the controversy, which might make more people want to see it.

    Aw hell!

  • Cynthia Thatcher | July 5, 2013 9:02 AM

    Did you even think about what you wrote before you hit the submit button? To suggest that TWC and WB (2 competing studios) would contrive a plot as a publicity stunt so more people would go and see the film, sounds absurd . Oh and if you honestly do believe your own conspiracy theory, I have a piece of swamp land that has oil on it overlooking the ocean I'd like you to take a look at, but be careful of the little green men that landed their spaceships a few miles away. There have been reports of crop circles!!!

    What a moron...

  • Cynthia Thatcher | July 5, 2013 9:02 AM

    Did you even think about what you wrote before you hit the submit button? To suggest that TWC and WB (2 competing studios) would contrive a plot as a publicity stunt so more people would go and see the film, sounds absurd . Oh and if you honestly do believe your own conspiracy theory, I have a piece of swamp land that has oil on it overlooking the ocean I'd like you to take a look at, but be careful of the little green men that landed their spaceships a few miles away. There have been reports of crop circles!!!

    What a moron...

  • ALM | July 4, 2013 6:40 PM

    LOL....Nadia, it's possible.

  • Mark & Darla | July 4, 2013 3:47 PMReply

    Pettiness at its best, a 1916 silent movie that doesn't even appear when you google the title 'The Butler' only if you add '1916'.

    The people who remember the '1916' movie are probably all dead by now, so I doubt the people in the present will get the two movie mix up.

  • Francois | July 4, 2013 2:44 PMReply

    What about: "I can't believe it's not butler!"

  • Miles Ellison | July 4, 2013 4:48 PM

    Perfect.

  • CC | July 4, 2013 2:11 PMReply

    I wouldn't necessarily call this a petty dispute nor would I pull the race card.

    This is a disagreement between two big hitters in the film industry, so MONEY is lurking somewhere in the wings. As Tambay noted, there's a huge expense associated with changing the title at this stage of the game. But I am not quite sure what Warner Bros hopes to gain by their move, but again, I tend to believe money is a goal. Then again, this dispute could be as simple as an ego pecker pull.

    Yet, I don't quite understand where Lee Daniels is coming from:

    "If we were to change the title a mere six weeks before we open, it would most certainly hurt the film by limiting the number of people who would ultimately see this important story. This movie is not a blockbuster, nor did we intend it to be" ~ Lee Daniels

    Oh really, Lee? Let's see how that works. Changing the title will limit the number of people who can see the film? What, splain-that-to-me, please. I mean, I just don't get it, if Django was called Bango-Bongo, would less people have had the opportunity to see it? I am obviously missing something. And what's this nonsense about the movie not being a "blockbuster"? Wait a minute, the budget my not be in the traditional "blockbuster" category, but is he implying The Weinstein Company's intent in funding this film is based solely on their desire to tell the dark and beautiful story of our nation's racial history, where we came from, and how far we have come? Come on now Lee, you know I loved Precious but you can miss me with that slow game.

    Geez, Mr. Daniels could have left well enough alone when he had the nerve to utter those sappy lines about the po' struggling actors who "worked for almost nothing so that this story could be told".

    Yeeeaahhh riiiiiight, Lee. But in the end, starving artist aside, regardless of a title change, we all know who this movie is for, which may make it a blockbuster success when it's all said and done.

  • Winston | July 4, 2013 1:22 PMReply

    This is so wrong. And I feel terribly for Lee Daniels. Now his left butt cheek reads "Precious", and the right cheek reads "The Butler"-- how awkward it'll be if they make them change the name. Tattoos are risky business, man.

  • Langston | July 4, 2013 1:00 PMReply

    This is so unfortunate. It appears as though Lee Daniels is now placed in the middle of a petty dispute between Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Company. I hope it works itself out so that The Butler can remain the name of the film, as the campaign for it is already in pretty full swing.

  • ALM | July 4, 2013 12:56 PMReply

    Lord, they are hiring high powered attorneys now? Is it that serious? A slight change in the title is not going to hurt the movie that much. People go to see the MOVIE. Changing a word in the movie's title should not alter the quality of the movie.

  • Zaidi | July 4, 2013 10:24 AMReply

    Leave it to Hollywood to make things difficult for a struggling, black Director.

  • Curtis | July 4, 2013 11:45 AM

    I wouldn't automatically say that this has anything to do with the fact that Daniels is a black director. It doesn't have anything to do with him really. So I wouldn't pull out the race card on this one yet.

  • James5 | July 3, 2013 11:16 AMReply

    "The Help"

    What do you mean we can't use that either.

  • Mustang55 | July 3, 2013 7:26 AMReply

    The Constant Butler

  • Miles Ellison | July 3, 2013 12:02 AMReply

    Act Like a Man, Think Like a Butler.

  • mr truth | July 3, 2013 12:08 AM

    They should just call it off.

  • Donella | July 2, 2013 11:38 PMReply

    Oh, I forgot my entry. You Got Served Miss Minnie's Chocolate Pie... by the Butler!

  • Donella | July 11, 2013 1:26 PM

    I, Butler

  • Donella | July 2, 2013 11:35 PMReply

    I found this bizarre because it's been my understanding that titles are not copyrightable. The "unfair competition" argument is a new one on me. Maybe that's just Hollywood.

  • Mark & Darla | July 2, 2013 11:14 PMReply

    Consider Titles

    Presidents' Butler
    Butler to the Presidents
    Serving the Presidents

  • JEFTCG | July 2, 2013 10:02 PMReply

    They should call it "The Precious Monster's Ball Is Driving The Help To Miss Daisy".

    Please mail my residuals check to c/o "Shadow & Act".

  • ALM | July 2, 2013 9:26 PMReply

    New title: "For Brown Skinned Men When the Serving Platter is Not Enough"

  • Notorious R.E.G. | July 2, 2013 8:54 PMReply

    Why not just call it 'Butler.' Drop the "The."

  • Anonymous | July 5, 2013 6:31 PM

    Yes, I've been saying this for days.

    "Butler".

    Simple. Some things aren't worth the fight.

  • Paula Deen | July 2, 2013 8:38 PMReply

    No worries y'all!
    I kinda lak the title,
    THE BLACK BUTLER

  • mykepyke | July 2, 2013 8:21 PMReply

    From a 2009 Variety article about Push/Precious:

    The MPAA’s title registration office tries to prevent such duplications. Companies cannot copyright titles. Instead, the MPAA notifies its members of all new titles registered with its office. If a studio or producer has a previously registered project with a similar name, it has 10 days to lodge an objection (at a cost of $15). If the two parties cannot come to a resolution, the MPAA will arbitrate, though the group says that scenario is extremely rare: Of the roughly 20,000 objections logged in 2008, there was only one case that made it to arbitration.

    http://variety.com/2009/film/news/when-push-comes-to-shove-1118000415/

  • sherlockjr | July 2, 2013 5:50 PMReply

    Shouldn't an heir of the Edison company sue Warners? Check out IMDB (this site will not allow me to include urls.

    THE BUTLER 1916


    THE BUTLER- 1915

  • Black Sun Tzu | July 3, 2013 5:21 AM

    Yeah, it sounds to me like WB has no grounds to prevent WC from using that tittle since they also "stole" it from another movie. I just find it interesting that the judge didn't consider that relevant.

  • Emanuel B | July 2, 2013 11:34 AMReply

    Wow. Never realized titles can't be copyrighted.

  • Adam Scott Thompson | July 2, 2013 11:31 AMReply

    Dick move.

  • Alison Wonderland | July 2, 2013 10:07 AMReply

    If worse comes to worse, Lee can retitle it: "The Butler: Based on the novel Push by Sapphire."

  • jasmien | July 2, 2013 9:35 PM

    Servers: Based on the fact no one wants to bring great stories to the table.

  • Patrick | July 2, 2013 9:55 AMReply

    I love the song "Crazy" written by Willie Nelson and absolutely owned by Patsy Cline. I also love the song "Crazy" by Seal. And Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" is pretty damn good too. All three stand on their own and prove that you can have success with the same title without infriging on or degrading the quality of the others. I have a hard time seeing Warner Brothers point on this.

  • Shavonne | July 2, 2013 1:45 AMReply

    This is ridiculous on the part of Warner Bros, like ANYONE is clocking that silent film made almost 100 yrs ago. Nothing stops Harvey Weinstein, NOTHING. I am not saying anything about him personally (that is a whole other can of worms), but he usually gets what he wants, and this will be no exception.

  • Reid Rosefelt | July 1, 2013 9:49 PMReply

    Groucho also wrote Warner Brothers, in his very amusing letter that: "I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try."

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