Imagine you're Netflix. You get sued by a brand that was really popular in the 1980s, and that says you're now ripping off its trademarks. Do you:
- (a) quietly defend against the suit and hope nobody notices?
- (b) hold a big press conference and demand an apology?
There is no right answer apparently, because the lawsuit is real, the company filing it is the one that owns the old Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80s and 90s, and the jokes pretty much write themselves.
The whole thing has to do with the Netflix show Bandersnatch. I wrote about it here. Short version: it's groundbreaking. You're watching a movie, and you're asked to chime in via an interface and decide what the protagonist will do:
- Will he eat Frosties or Sugar Crisps for breakfast?
- Will he walk in to see the doctor or follow the familiar man on the street?
- Will he restrain his angry emotions or commit a violent murder?
Truly, I think it's a big deal from a technological standpoint. But, when I wrote that article, I had no idea about the legal dispute between Netflix and Choose Your Own Adventure (technically, the company is called Chooseco, which is awesome in and of itself).
Given what I wrote and the conclusions I immediately drew, I can kind of see where Chooseco is coming from:
"Choice after choice after choice unfolds. You get sucked in, much like the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books that a lot of us read as kids."
Whoops. But really, as a writer or a viewer, what other connection could you possible make?
There's even a very meta scene early in the movie in which the lead character specifically refers to the Choose Your Own Adventure books. (Flip to pages 7 and 8 of the legal complaint, here, and you'll find screenshots of it.)
According to the lawsuit, announced Friday and filed in federal court in Vermont, Netflix and Chooseco were actually in talks for Netflix to license the Choose Your Own Adventure trademarks.
But those talks allegedly never came to fruition, and Netflix released Bandersnatch to great interest and acclaim--all to the detriment of Chooseco, according to the lawsuit.
"We have received an unprecedented amount of outreach from people who believed we were associated with the creation of this film, including parents who were concerned that we had aligned the CYOA brand they knew and loved with content that surprised and offended them," Shannon Gilligan, co-founder and publisher of Chooseco, said in a statement to NBC News.
As NBC also points out: "The film includes themes of drug use, murder, violence, and, (spoiler alert) in one scenario, the death of a child."
I reached out to Netflix for comment but have not heard back. Buzzfeed, which apparently first reported on this, says Netflix declined to talk to them.