Copyright laws...regarding works from paralel universes?

That was the best, most informative title I could come up with. I’m sorry. This is also just barely a GQ, and not a metaphysical debate, as far as I can tell.

Anyway, partially inspired by the first bit of this post of Skald’s, which brought up something I’d been musing about for awhile…

Say I somehow cross into another, paralel universe, similar if slightly different from our own, and come back with a couple of DVDs—Casblanca, starring Ronald Reagan, and the complete Firefly series collection, seasons 1-6.

Now, my question is, what’s the copyright/trademark status of these films, if someone wanted to market them in this universe? The studios here didn’t actually make them, and our world’s actors didn’t actually star in them—it was their extra-universal twins.

So…who gets the royalties, or the marketing rights? How bad are the lawsuits going to get? What is the Vatican going to think of all this? :wink:

There’s a surprising dearth of parallel universe litigation in the case law. Presumably, defendants are avoiding suit by moving to different universes where they didn’t get filed on.

If you’re able to get DVDs from the other universe to this one, then lawyers in the other universe can get subpoenas to you, too. The copyright holders in the Regan-Casablanca universe would have reason and authority to sue you for violation of their copyright.

You don’t even need to go to a parallel universe. Say you had a machine that was capable of creating every video frame possible and stringing them all together (this is described in William Poundstone’s The Recursive Universe). You would eventually end up with Casablanca, starring Ronald Reagan.

You didn’t necessarily “create” anything with this machine… it just pops them out. If you own or create the machine, should you be liable for copyright violation?

(There is a metaphysical argument in here as well, in terms of asking “what is art?” In an ontology of art, all of these works exist necessarily, they are just recreated by the filmmaker, musician or artist.)

But the trouble with the “All possible movies” machine is FINDING the movie you want. There isn’t just one Reagan-Casablanca movie, there are millions of them, all different dialog, costumes, cast, and so on. So specifying exactly which movie you want is logically equivalent to creating that movie.

I would believe that there is an inherent jurisdictional limit in any copyright grant. And unless for some stupid reason you choose to pilfer from a dimension in which they thought to include omnidimensional exclusivity in the wording of copyright law, they can’t do jack.

Since this is general questions instead of MPSIMS I’ll have to go with the serious answer that there are no parallel dimension laws for copyright at this time.

Legally, this is probably the case. Ethically, this is certainly the case. But practically? How on earth(s) are you going to track down out of an infinity of parallel universe the one where your work is being pirated?

The OP’s thought experiment is equivalant to what happens when CGI technology matures to the point where we have digital actors and sets indistinguishable from the live action versions, and it becomes cheap enough that it’s easily available for the casual film buff’s home system.

At that point, the production of an ersatz Casablanca starring “Ronald Reagan” will be inevitable, due to the original movie’s enduring appeal in combination of the appeal of the Reagan “What If” meme.

It will probably happen with Firefly as well, but the chances aren’t as good if the tech comes along after most of its current crop of fans are dead. If the tech matures while Joss Whedon is still alive… Maybe we’ll see an authorized version produced by him. :slight_smile:

*** Ponder

Cite? :smiley:

Perhaps this would be a GQ in a parallel universe, but I’m afraid it isn’t in this one.

Since the answer is necessarily speculative, let’s try this in IMHO.

Off to the less deterministic Universe Next Door.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator