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Copyrights and Wrongs

Today I write about copyright law and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen over at The Morning News.

By the way, this article contains the conjunction "contrawise," which I hereby declare to be a Real Word. Please begin using it forthwith.

Update: I am now a Contributing Writer for The Morning News.

Posted on July 11, 2003 to Elsewhere


Email exchange. Warning: contains a laughably minor plot spoiler for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. (The book, that is; judging from the LXG preview the film contains no subtlety whatsoever.)

Hi. Overall, I enjoyed your piece on The Morning News about the new League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie and related copyright issues, but I would just question one small omission. In describing the cast of characters, you leave out Mina Murray (Dracula's reluctant victim). Although she was the person who actually assembled the notable gents in the comic books, it seems that in the film she's been given an enhanced bodice, overt vampirism, and a backseat to Connery's Quartermain and the questionable addition of two more crew members. (Tom Sawyer? Really.)

Ms. Murray is a strong female character in a superhero comic, rare enough as that is even for Alan Moore, and as much as I'm dreading the potential clusterfuck that will be LXG, I shudder most at the indignities committed upon her character (compared to which I'm sure this mistake will seem a kindly gesture).

I'm guessing that this was an innocent oversight, but still, it rankles.

Thanks for your time.

Melissa Ahart

Hi Melissa. Actually, Mina was left out by design. In the series we don't have the foggiest clue who Mina is until the, what?, fourth book or so, because she goes by the name "Mina Harker" and gives few clues as to her background. I omitted her from the litany because including "and Mina Murray from Dracula" would have ruined the surprise. As something of a spoiler-phobe, I just couldn't bring myself to do it.

Before you ask: Yes, I realize it's completely ridiculous for me to be zealously guarding this one little secret of the book when the media campaign for the movie is all, like, "BLAH BLAH MINA MURRAY VAMPIRES DRACULA BLAH!!."

By the way, I have to agree about Tom Sawyer, although I'm even more mystified by the inclusion of Dorian Gray. What, the guy has the astounding ability to Be Young? Yeah, that's gonna be a big asset for the team.



Hmmm. Yes, I see your point. Kudos for protecting spoiler-phobes everywhere. I'd never thought about it that way, as I think I'd figured out in the beginning that she was "MINA FROM DRACULA", as that character is only the Wilhemina Harker, nee Murray, in 19th-century gothic literature that I can think of. (Perhaps there's another lurking in The Castle of Otranto, but really, at that point, who's keeping tabs?) Also, knowing who the other characters were, there was some narrative expectation established that she too was somehow... er... extraordinary.

Thanks for your response and your sensitivity to a maligned heroine, and again, I salute your defense of the public domain. Enjoy the movie, and Mina's newly-heaving bosoms.


Posted by: Matthew on July 11, 2003 9:26 AM

Phrase of the Day: "newly-heaving bosoms"

Posted by: ken on July 11, 2003 12:22 PM

Great article but where is Mighty Mouse? What's a league of extraordinary rodents without mighty mouse!? Aside from that, one extra point and a minor correction regarding LXG. First the correction... in your comment above you mentioned that she goes by mina harker until the fourth book. This is a typo I'm guessing. She went by murray (her maiden name) to keep the secret. Harker would have given it away from the beginning. As for Dorian Gray, the movie poster labels him as "an immortal" so I'm guessing they've stretched his ability from remaining young (while the portrait decays) to being flat-out bullet proof. Each character is labeled: A Hunter (Quartermain), A Rogue (Invisible Man, A Beast (Dr. Jekyll), A Scientist (Nemo), A Spy ("Agent Sawyer"), A Vampire (Mina), and an Immortal (Dorian Gray). Also, the plot synopsis from the official website bears no resemblance to the plot of the comic and IMDB has no credit for a Fu Manchu so unfortunately this is a complete rewrite or perhaps new episode. Incidentally, this was pulled from the IMDB trivia page for LXG - "Due to rights issues, the name of the Invisible Man has been changed from Dr. Hawley Griffin in the original H.G. Wells novel." It would be interesting to know the specifics on that.

Posted by: Matthew Sebring on July 11, 2003 3:26 PM

Not really appropriate to this posting, but I'm glad I wasn't the only one horrified by the "we clicked on our first date" guy from 07/09. Kinda puts all the bad dates I've been on in perspective.

Posted by: Beth on July 11, 2003 4:23 PM

Ah, but "contrawise" *is* a word. Sure, you won't find it in Webster's, but (to my knowledge) it was made up by Lewis Carroll. Tweedledum and Tweedledee say it in "Through the Looking Glass".

Posted by: Kathleen on July 11, 2003 5:22 PM

just wanted to say your article made it to slashdot, congrats! or something :D like i'm not sure this is something you celebrate, cuz you're already published, but it is pretty cool! like going platinum or something :D

Posted by: Anonymous on July 11, 2003 6:18 PM

I think Lewis Carroll used "contrariwise".

*quickly checks the book*

Yup, Tweedledee in Chapter IV, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

I humbly accept your nomination for dork of the weekend.

Posted by: Gopi on July 11, 2003 9:16 PM

Nuts to being sucesfully published! REAL writing cred is mesured buy slashdotation!
Great article by the way.

Posted by: Liedo on July 11, 2003 9:18 PM

Mighty Mouse will have to save the League of Extraordinary Rodents until the other members can join.

But he's not a good example of rodents that are not in the public domain, as some of his films are in the public domain. I specifically see many references to "Wolf! Wolf!" being PD. But it is necessary to ensure to obtain as source material one of the PD films where MM is using the operatic style. It's much better to show him singing, rather than the original style.

Posted by: Mighty Googler on July 12, 2003 3:21 AM

Just a quick note to let you know (for the people who haven't checked eldred.cc lately) that, as of June 25th, the Eldred Act has become HR 2601, a proper bill introduced on the House floor. The next step on this adventure is to write your US House Rep and give 'em the nudge.

Definitely a great article, btw.

Posted by: Eric W. on July 12, 2003 1:51 PM

I know of your legendary inability to spell but what kind of a geek are you, mbaldwin?!?!? It's "Quatermain," not "Quartermain." Poor Alan Moore and H. Rider Haggard must be sooooo disappointed.

Posted by: your favorite writer, Ted on July 12, 2003 11:19 PM

"Due to rights issues, the name of the Invisible Man has been changed from Dr. Hawley Griffin in the original H.G. Wells novel."

Rights issues, nothin'. I'll bet it's because the pronunciation of 'Hawley' gives publicists the vapours.

Posted by: Rory on July 14, 2003 2:46 AM

Danger Mouse!

Posted by: George on July 14, 2003 10:18 AM

Great article. But check out this story in today's LA Times. It includes this: "Fox couldn't get the film rights to all of Moore and O'Neill's characters, so The Invisible Man is now known as An Invisible Man, and a Fu Manchu character was dropped." Hollywood operates by a different set of rules. It doesn't acknowledge that the public domain exists, even when it would benefit from it.

-- Bret

Posted by: Bret Fausett on July 14, 2003 12:14 PM

"While the Nicaraguan army's new recruits were susceptible to such tactics, the more seasoned troops were too Contrawise to be so duped."

Posted by: Chris Craft on July 14, 2003 2:23 PM

The Invisible Man changed to An Invisible Man? Why not just call him Another Invisible Man or Invisible Man 1138? If they really want to avoid rights issues, they should title him The Invizabuhl Man. Or MC Invizabuhl.

Posted by: palinode on July 15, 2003 9:22 AM

All I can say is, when I read "SBCEA" my mind responded with "sebaceous," i.e. greasy, which is pretty much how I've felt about Sonny Bono since 1965. How fitting that he should be immortalized with this handy acronym.

And how can any halfway literate citizen of the world fail to recognize the name "Mina Harker," for chrissakes?

I am looking forward to catching the flick this weekend, by the by. Looks like fun to me.

Posted by: Kevin from Seattle on July 15, 2003 4:48 PM

i saw both "LXG" and "PotC" over the weekend, and of the two the latter was better! so score for disney :D

Posted by: Anonymous on July 15, 2003 8:07 PM

LXG didn't seem half as bad as the reviews make it out to be. Maybe I'm a little forgiving towards this type of movie, though. Most movies these days with any attempt at literary allusion seem quite content to rehash the old story with fresh actors and big-budget special effects. LXG is at least an original piece of work that borrows tastefully. Sure, it feels a bit contrived, but if you can't let go of yourself enough to enjoy 2 hours of silliness that probably takes itself too seriously, you shouldn't go to movies.

BTW, anyone who doesn't immediately get the Mina (Murray) Harker reference will probably be just as lost when the movie hits them over the head with it. They almost deserve to have it spoiled. ;)

Posted by: noah on July 28, 2003 4:12 AM