Warner Bros. and independent game studio 5th Cell, responsible for the popular Scribblenauts games, were issued a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit April 22 for using popular cat memes without permission.
Charles Schmidt and Christopher Orlando Torres, holders of the copyrights to “Keyboard Cat” and “Nyan Cat,” respectively, claim that Warner Bros and 5th Cell used the cats in the Scribblenauts games without permission in the game and to promote sales. This means that the memes were used without any licenses or authorizations.
The memes, “Keyboard Cat” and “Nyan Cat,” have gained plenty of views over the internet due to their catchy, kind of annoying Youtube videos.
“That popularity makes them extremely valuable for commercial uses. Unlike WB and 5th, many other companies, respecting plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights, regularly pay substantial license fees to use plaintiffs’ memes,” said the plaintiffs in the complaint.
Schmidt and Torres are seeking compensation for damages with interest, as well as legal fees and an injunction against the sale and marketing of Scribblenauts products until all illegally used material has been removed.
Whether they will be awarded this is unlikely since the plaintiffs registered with the copyright office in 2010, while the original Scribblenauts was released in 2009. According to complicated legal jargon, compensation can only be rewarded if the copyright registered before the infringement occurred or within three months after the first publication released the copyrighted material.
Meme copyrighting is usually a bit of a grey area, and honestly it’s surprising to see a meme copyright holder take action against infringement. Don’t Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat belong to everyone? In my heart, I know they do. You gotta believe!