Dan Gillmor
Ray Bradbury's Bizarre Complaint

Ray Bradbury is one of the great science fiction writers. But in his advancing years he's also acting in a fairly petty manner.

The author of the brilliant novel "Fahrenheit 451" is claiming to anyone who'll listen (AP) that Michael Moore has somehow committed an act of intellectual theft by naming his new movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" without asking permission.

Don't you hate it when your favorite writers do, write or say stupid things?

This reminds me of the horror of reading Orson Scott Card's homophobic essay, "Homosexual "Marriage" and Civilization".

79 Comments

i don't get what's stupid about bradbury's claim. moore took the name without permission, right? why didn't moore ask for permission should be the real question.

Given that Orson Scott Card is an active Mormon, I can't imagine that you would be so surprised by his stance as to be horrified -- and given the enornmous weight Mormonism places on the traditional family unit, it's even less surprising.

I didn't find it to be homophobic at all. He does not condemn homosexuals. Rather, he makes the point that marriage exists primarily to create a mother/father partnership for the purpose of raising children. He is basically correct.

Never mind a literary nobody like you calling a giant like Bradbury stupid, let me ask you a legal question about one of your trademarks.

I'm working on a new super blogging tool. I think I'll call it Movable Type 9-11. Why? Well, it's a very well-recognized name. I won't have to make it famous, because it already is. I'm being a nice guy about it and all. I named it this because I *like* Movable Type.

Now the question: At what point will your lawyers blow me to smithereens, before the product comes out or after?

Respectfully, your comments about Bradbury really are a bit strong. Moore's is clearly a sendoff of the Bradbury title. He doesn't know Moore or owe him anything. No one ever said he shares (or has to share) your politics or Moore's (or mine for that matter). (And, though as a US citizen I won't be voting for George Bush, who is to say who has chosen the right course in the long run? History is hard to know and has a strange way of turning out assumptions, perspectives, etc. on their head. Bush is internationally reviled as a warmonger, but so were those who said "we have to forcefully stop Hitler and now" in the mid-Thirties.) And I'm not sure why his failure to be overjoyed at Moore's cheeky play on his novel title qualifies him as "stupid." I've usually enjoyed your weblog but I'm sort of put off by this.

I agree with Ron on this, the article is not homophobic. If anything it is about how changes in marriage and societies perceptions on it can be damaging to society.

Moore's movie title is clearly a homage to Bradbury's work, Fahrenheit 451 (so named because that is the temperature at which paper combusts). I think it shows respect for the Bradbury's novel, since without knowing about the novel you wouldn't know what Fahrenheit 9/11 was supposed to mean.

A) you are not a 'literary nobody' Joi

B) Book and movie titles fall outside of US copyright laws -- a title can be reused without getting permission.

C) The article is ill-informed about laws and constitution if it includes:

"Because no constitution in the United States has ever granted the courts the right to make vast, sweeping changes in the law to reform society"

What does he think something like a constitution does? Establish the fees for dog licenses?

Two instances of men discrediting themselves by saying something offensive and foolish. And I'm not including Bradbury in this.

I'm just upset on behalf of Walt Whitman's widow that Bradbury didn't get her permission to publish "I Sing the Body Electric."

Also, I'm pretty sure that there are lots and lots of products and services called Moveable and Movable Type extant, from the UK television show to the design business in Toronto that happily exist alongside of MT the company.

Trademark law allows for multiple users of the same mark for the same reason that copyright law does NOT allow a copyright in titles: because free expression is better served and incented by the absence of this protection than they would be by its presence.

Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451, so we know he loved the First Amendment. I just wish he loved the First Amendment enough to share it with the rest of us.

Wow, there's so much wrong in some of the comments to this post that I'm reminded of Wolfgang Pauli's quip "This isn't right. This isn't even wrong."

First, let's point out that one can talk about whether "stealing" a name is right or wrong in the absence of whether it is legal. Spoofing or referring to names is a longstanding literary tradition -- and Cory's invocation of Bradbury's use of "I Sing the Body Electric" is right on.

Although we can say "Copyright protects any expression fixed in a tangible medium," generally speaking a title, by itself, is not substantial enough to warrant specific copyright expression -- at least, I'm unaware of any case law where someone successfully sued someone else for copying their title -using copyright law-.

So protection of titles is done under trademark law. There's lots we can say about trademark law, but the useful summary is: something is a trademark violation if it would confuses the average consumer of the product as to the origin of the product.

Let's put aside the "title's can't be trademarked" claim. Looking at Dave's excellent "Movable Type 9-11" example: that's a pretty clear violation, since the average reasonable consumer would look at the blogging tool "Movable Type 9-11" and say "Ah! I see that Ben and Mena Trott have released a new version of Movable Type." Conversely, if Dave released a -movie- called "Movable Type 9-11," that would equally clearly -not- be a violation, because it's a completely different market.

To give another example: I can't legally start making pink fiberglass, because the color "pink" is trademarked (really, tradedressed) by Owens-Corning for the purpose of selling fiberglass (no, really, it is. I swear.) But I can make pink frocks and sell them without running afoul of trademark law.

I don't know anyone yet who I've heard say "Hey, I hear Ray Bradbury's book _Farenheit 9-11_ has been made in to a movie and is coming out next week!" So this fails the sniff test. Michael Moore is well within his legal rights here. From a non-legalistic, common sense standpoint, this seems like an appropriate riff on a title that is, after all, part of our shared cultural heritage.

Errata for my previous comment

"to warrant specific copyright expression" -> "to warrant specific copyright protection"

"would confuses" -> "would confuse"

"title's" -> "titles"

the dangers of commenting before one has one's morning coffee, I guess.

Peterb:

You raised good points, but how did you help your case with that first paragraph? My point is similar to what I was trying to say about the original post: it's the question of the level of discourse. You don't have to, in the final analysis, agree with Bradbury. But calling his position "stupid"? Besides, Moore is really an extraordinary piece of work. (It actually pains me that he and I have such similar politics.) It's simply not the same, by emotional degrees, as "I Sing the Body Electric." I don't agree with the critics who feel that Moore's work is dishonest (in the sense that it is not factual), but his presentation of facts contextually often results in de facto distortion, and he interweaves fact and opinion so tightly in his movies that it can be hard to separate them. And this movie appears to be very politically charged on top of that. Bradbury is entitled to express irritation. It isn't "stupid." Let's not let the conversation in the more intelligent neighborhoods of the web even begin to slide toward the gutter in which it resides at other sites.

By the way, the Times has an article (http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/20/movies/20SHEN.html?hp) addressing the accuracy of Farenheit 9-11.

I'm just wondering whether Bradbury got permission of the heirs of Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) to use the doctor's name in the title of his book. I mean, someone might think that Herr Fahrenheit wrote the book!

I'm so glad to see that Cory Doctorow weighed in on this issue. Not only as a writer (not to mention a science fiction writer) but as an advocate of literary freedoms. As a student of literature I have to agree with Cory, Joi, and others that Bradbury's response is absurd. The use of an allusion to another author's title has been employed by writers for centuries. Particularly in poetry and political satire. The modernists drew attention to language and literature as an ever evolving process. No one work speaks to this more beutifully than Joyce's Ulysses. One of the messages of Ulysses is that no one writer is solely responsible for their work, that all works of literature are necessarily patchworks drawing on previous traditions (as is language itself). In the chapter "Oxen of the Sun" Joyce moves backwards from his contemporary moment to the very origins of language itself, showing how all writers are indebted to those before them and that the progress of art is best understood as a collaborative effort. And while we may attribute particular "inventions" to individual authors those approaches are really just reconstructions of prior techniques. The frustration of the young artist who wants to be "original" and "the only one" is shown in Joyce as a naive stage in one's artistic process. His protagonists emerge from this state only through a realisation that what they are part of a continuum. That is modernism (and what some call post-modernism). Bradbury is certainly entitled to his feelings (particularly if he disagrees with the film) but he did not invent *the word*. The same thinking I'm talking about here can be applied to so many other things as well. This includes technology.

I personally find it pretty amusing when people with some tiny claim to fame in a restricted domain run around referring to people as "literary nobodies".

BTW, I'd love to link to the self-described net pioneer who actually described Joi Ito as a literary nobody, but he's deleted the post from his blog...

Bradbury hurts more, though -- and less for me than for most, though I sympathize with someone like Cory Doctorow, who I expect admired him more than I do. I always respected him, but wasn't a fan, like a lot people I knew. Bradbury's thoughts on the matter of the title "theft" are astonishingly bitter and confusing, and one is left wondering why a literate, intelligent man with a long history of insightful work would regard himself as exempt from such traditions of his craft as homage by title.

Bradbury has an excuse -- though again, a troubling one. He's getting old; you don't like to think of a keen mind growing inflexible with age, and there's a tendency to lay off. But as the leading posts in this thread show, his words carry weight by virtue of his status, which makes it that much more important to call them out when they're wrong.

So to boil it down - anyone who has a different opinion than you is wrong, and shouldn't speak at all? Tolerance doesn't mean everyone has the same "good" opinions Joi - it means understanding that there are people who disagree with you - and having the good taste to respectfully disagree. In this post, you use middle school level "You're wrong!" logic instead. Argue on points, assuming you actually have any.

Bradbury says that no one should be able to use the word "Fahrenheit" followed by a numeral as the title of a new work without first securing his permission. This is Joi's point. "Tolerance" doesn't mean that you never get to call bullshit on those who indulge in it. "Tolerance" doesn't mean that you sit idly by while supposed champions of free expression cover themselves in shame with stupid, damaging propreitary claims to common words. You're mistaking "tolerance" for "shutting up and eating what you're fed."

This whole thing could have been avoided if Michael reached out to Ray asking for permission to reference his book in his movie title and explained why and how it helped build awareness to the censorship issues raised in the book. Perhaps there is something bigger going on here - does anyone know Mr. Bradbury's political orientation and could it be the differences there that are the core reason for the very public disagreement?

The point of free expression is that it requires no permission. Literature has an actual, non-hypothetical tradition of writers taking each others' titles and playing with them without ever asking permission. That's not impolite: that's how writers have always done it. That's how Bradbury has always done it.

But Bradbury (and his apologists) have invented a moral code from whole cloth in which an author must get another's permission in order to play with her titles. This code has never existed. It's never been the way that authors operated. Ever.

Its invention today does not bind Moore, nor me. My next story will be called "Fahrenheit 451."

Cory's comments remind me of the person who sits in the movie theater talking the entire time or worse yet giving away what's going to happen since he's seen the film before. Legally, we all know there's nothing wrong with it. But, it's classless, annoying and inconsiderate.

Just because it's legal for Moore to use Bradbury's title, it doesn't make it right for him to ignore Bradbury's call for 6 months. Moore's people claim that they admired Fahrenheit 451 and found it inspirational. If someone claimed to be inspired by my work, used its cultural connotation to try to make a ton of money and publicity off of it and then refused to return my calls...I'd ask for an apology as well.

The analogy is broken. It's not the norm to talk during movies. It IS the norm to remix titles without permission. Even Bradbury himself remixes titles without permission, as do all of his peers.

This is more like conceiving of a private distate for the smell of popcorn and showing up at the movies and bitching endlessly about the inexcusable rudeness of all those popcorn-eating jerks in the audience.

I don't agree. It is, at the least, impolite to not even respond to Bradbury's call. It's a little scary that you don't seem to see that. And while I agree that the analogy is off, yours is even stranger in some sense.

I'm sorry that I scared you. I hope you recover.

It seems clear to me that the energy of this entire controversy is derived from Bradbury's status, and how one reacts to that.

The bulk of posters here seem to be showing reations ranging from mild discomfort to outrage that someone would dare to criticize the actions or utterance of the great man.

Others, most obviously evidenced by Cory in his spirited (and absolutely accurate, BTW) defense of literary tradition, but also by the posts on the not-so-fine points of copyright and trademark law, are not willing to give Ray Bradbury a pass just because he's famous. They evaluate his actions as they'd evaluate the actions of anybody else.

These are two mutually incompatible positions. That argument is not going to get resolved here, because it's about different things. One side is looking at the power that an old lion can wield, even when he's wrong, just by force of reputation; the other is basking in the fading glow of that reputation, with apparent disregard for the ideas and works that made it great in the first place. (And in the process, perhaps, missing some of its most important legacy. Don't any of you find it ironic that the work Bradbury is so intent on defending is Fahrenheit 451, a book about suppressing dissent by suppressing artistic and literary expression?)

Well, I had read and enjoyed at least one thing that you had written in the past. Your tone (and absolute lack of contrition about it) here has come as a real surprise.

Actually, Eric, these are not the only issues at play here. Tone matters (or at least it used to).

Sure. And I think it was Bradbury's apoplectic, apocalyptic, and apalling tone that set this whole little contretemps in motion.

Yes, tone does matter. But so do words. After all, they're where tone in written communication comes from.

If we read words in this debate carefully, we'll see something interesting: For the most part, the language of those who condemn Bradbury's position carefully direct their condemnation against the position. Dan Gillmour's original post, and my conjectures about his mental state are exceptions. They've cited precedent and law.

For the most part, all the posts on the other side have cited sentiment. Dave Winer took a stab at a legal analogy by conflating copyright and trademark, and confusing commercial versus literary use. But that was kind of it for the the evidentiary appeal on that side of the debate.

From where I'm sitting, this looks like an open and shut case: It's something that writers have always done, it's widely accepted and usually taken as an homage, and there was no evidence that it would in any way cheapen the reputation of a book that (alas) hardly anybody reads anymore.

On the other side, it's all about offenses against the memory of an old lion.

As far as I'm concerned, it would be disrespectful to a great literary legacy to allow it to constrain freedom of expression.

Respectfully, I'll disagree with your calling Card's essay homophobic. In my view, he does a sufficient job of explaining the value of the nuclear family, and demonstrating how altering a society that was designed to support that construct has had detrimental effect. At no point did I see him demonstrating a hatred or fear of homosexuals.

The problem I have with the article, which I imagine many would share, is that he's done a fine job of pointing out the problems without proposing an alternate solution. I came away with a clear picture of why he doesn't want to change the definition of marriage. But I didn't see any proposal to stop society from marginalizing gays, or for that matter -- anyone else who doesn't fit into happy face nuclear family.

"Literary Nobody?" --Is Dave Winer on a quest to be the lamest sphincter on the InterWeb?

As for Bradbury, I agree with what Cory said, it's pitifyl someone who is so pro-1st Amendment can't see what he is doing is so hypocritical. Did Bradbury trademark "Fahrenheit 451?" No one is ever going to confuse a documentary about W with the Truffaut movie or the book.

Sounds like someone whose star is fading fast trying to get back in the spotlight. Blech.

I find it amusing that an allusion to a title would ruffle the feathers of such a revered writer.

If such things are to be taken seriously, I suppose that were I to write something called Die Rabbit, Die, Mr. Updike or his estate would come after me.

And while I suppose Joi is a literary nobody in the sense that he hasn't written a well reviewed novel, Winer's statement suggests that a mere reader can't have an opinion.

I swear: Winer's asinine put downs and attempted power plays are why I stopped reading tech blogs ages ago.

And finally, we don't own writers regardless of how much of an emotional investment we have in their work. If you're disappointed in Bradbury or Card, I suggest you check your hero worship at the library door. Given a long enough lifespan, everyone will get a chance to look foolish.

Mr. Bradbury certainly has a right to his feelings. Mr. Moore also has centuries of artistic license on his side. But, can anyone besides me believe that a fellow writer (that was not already feuding with the subject of his hommage ;-}) would not return a phone call, for gosh sakes?

I can believe that details get lost in the shuffle, yes.

I can believe that if you've got a busy schedule, or an imperfect assistant, phone calls don't get returned.

I can also believe that someone might make one phone call, never make a followup call (and if it's that important, why not make a followup call? oh, right, the onus was supposed to be on Moore...) just to stir things up.

If we want to believe that people can make mistakes, we have to believe it about everybody -- Michael Moore, Ray Bradbury, you name it.

Thanks Cory and peterb for arguing the case about why I think Bradbury's statement was stupid. Just to be clear, I'm not calling Bradbury stupid. I was just saying that his statement was stupid. We all say stupid things and it's disappointing to others when we do. I was a Bradbury fan and I was disappointed. When I say something stupid, I'm sure people will tell me it was stupid. I don't think the word is too strong and I don't take it back.

This is one of my favorite paragraphs in the Chicago Manual of Style:

"The right of fair use is a valuable one to scholarship, and it should not be allowed to decay through the failure of scholars to employ it boldly. Furthermore, excessive caution can be dangerous if the copyright owner proves uncooperative. Far from establishing good faith and protecting the author from suit or unreasonable demands, a permission request may have just the opposite effect. The act of seeking permission establishes that the author feels permission is needed, and the tacit admission may be damaging to the author's cause."

I can understand the arguments that it would have been "nice" if Moore had contacted Bradbury and I don't think it would have been "stupid" to do so, but reading the comments about it being "required" lead me to believe that it was good that Moore didn't ask permission.

In the US, you have guidelines for fair use and things you can do without seeking permission. Seeking permission is one of the most expensive and stifling activities and something Creative Commons is trying to address. The point of the quote from the Chicago Manual of Style and I think Cory's point is that unless writers and creators exercise this right, it decays. I realize that fair use applies to copyrighted works and in this case titles are not protected by copyright, but I think both relate to the issue of the need to ask permission and literary freedoms. In a way, I hope this discussion has helped some people understand that Moore was in his legal rights and that his exercising his rights helps other understand them better.

As Dan Gillmor points out, Bradbury has a film coming out. Maybe he's just being clever and using this as an opportunity to promote his film.

I think Bradbury's position is understandable and definitely not stupid. Don't you think the proper thing for Michael Moore to do was to ask? If Bradbury was pro-Bush, he wouldn't have wanted the title of his works being used for Michael Moore's movie. For him to just blatently use the title like that is just plain asinine.

As to your comment about Orson Scott Card being homophobic, I don't see what is wrong with being homophobic. If there is nothing stupid about being afraid of heights or spiders, what is being homophobic stupid?

I don't think Orson Scott Card's comments are "stupid". They are scary (to me) and were disappointing for me. I had just assumed, mistakenly, that his politics and beliefs would be different based on the tone of his books.

The reason I call Bradbury's comments "stupid" is that they show a lack of understanding (or willingness to admit) the common practice of "stealing" titles. Even he himself engaged in it. (See Cory's comments above for an argument about why it's not "asinine".) This common practice is legal and I personally believed, should be encouraged. (Did you notice Dan Gillmor complaining about my stealing his headline for this post?) As I said above, I don't think it would have been "stupid" if Moore asked permission, but it definitely isn't necessary.

On the other hand, since Bradbury contacted Moore and not the other way around, I do agree that returning his call would have been "proper" from a common courtesy perspective.

I haven't read Bradbury's F 451, therefore I haven't noticed the quote. Bradbury may be a big name in the Sci-Fi lit. circle, but I'm not his fan and so are most of the movie viewer. How can Bradbury prove Moore's title is a quote of 'his' Fahrenheit? Had Bradbury actually watched Moore's movie in the first place? If he think Moore's work sucks, he should state it first with some reason, then proceed to display his displeasure to be used 'his' Fahrenheit, otherwise the argument in some of comments in here that getting permission is a good well-known custom among artistic community would be nothing more than superficial excuse to hide Bradbury's tricky discourse to attack Moore's political view without giving an account of his own political logic and motive except for obscure copyright claim. Sure he is not a critic and he may have freedom to express his honest feeling in public without good supporting logic, then someone, 'literary nobody' or not, should be free to show honest feeling to such remark if it's not beyond free speech, too.

For Orson Scott Card's essay, it looks like he's addicted to hermeneutics too much and confusing societal need and semantics of the word 'marriage', purposefully or not. Think about slavery or caste, it can be invisible if it's without physical discrimination, but it's still a form of discrimination. If those who can't make children - including infertile people - can't marry, it's horrific enough, I think.

Was that really Dave Winer or an impersonator? Did the IP address match his? If so, I think he's really in meltdown right now. What provoked that personal attack on Joi?

To Cory: Bradbury is not suing the guy, so he's not really making a legal claim. And it's pretty established that titles and other "finite" combinations of words are not protectable.

There are a whole constellation of other legal claims possible for Bradbury, however, like passing off, interference with business relations, trademark, etc. None of these would seem to apply in this case, but they can result in (non-copyright-base) protection of generic words.

it is however Fahrenheit's family that ought to be upset at both Bradbury and Moore. i mean why not Celsius? what is so hot about a temperature scale that has water freezing at -32?

writers and titles of their work make for an interesting suject, it is about the identity of the work which somehow the author tends to endow with some of his/her identity in the title, or may be not.

Bradbury is forgiven due to advanced age and the side effects that that is associated with. Moore... well, the verdict is not out on him just yet.

Frankly, I was surprised to know Ray Bradbury was still alive. I am glad he is still living and complaining. I hope he'll write a good fiction on this very subject. Maybe the lead villain's name will be Michael Moore. Heh heh.

This discussion is petty, bizarre, and stupid.

Michael Moore is a charlatan, and no decent person wants to be associated with him. Stealing Fahrenheit 451's title implies to the unsuspecting audience that Bradbury approves of the Moore enterprise, and forever causes a great work of fiction to be associated with a cheap piece of exploitive propaganda. Of course Bradbury's not happy.

Moore's doing the same thing that porn producers do when they give their works - of about the same quality as Moore's, more or less - the names of popular movies slightly modified.

I don't think anyone has claimed that Bradbury has a right to sue over this, but whether he does or doesn't, he certainly has a right to be annoyed, and in that he's in very good company, because Michael Moore is a charlatan, and decent people don't want to be associated with him.

Isaac Asimov lived to a fairly ripe old age and never did anything stupid or petty, IMO. I don't think that Ray is stupid or petty either, but he does seem to be acting kind of lame.

I wonder how Isaac would have reacted to this kind of situation. He probably would have shrugged his shoulders and gone off to write another 50 novels in two years, or something.

I love the irony when authors - who rely on the First Ammendment more than almost any other person - threaten to sue cause they didn't like what someone else said or wrote.

I don't know the laws or conventions involved here, but I side with Bradbury on this. Moore should have at least asked permission from Bradbury.

Bradbury seems to be handling this very well, preferring an agreement between "gentlement" as opposed to litigation.

Michael Moore on the Left has about as much intellectual capacity, moral and journalistic integrity, and quality of delivery as Rush Limbaugh does on the Right.

To me, this is another example of his irresponsible approach to film-making.

Ray G, you're missing the point that Cory made earlier: freedom of expression requires no permission. I personally have no idea whether Bradbury is "preferring an agreement" or whether he's simply been told by his lawyers that he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of winning a case.

I suspect that both you and Richard Bennett (earlier comment) are allowing your personal distaste for Moore and/or liking for Bradbury to cloud your views of this case.

In the end, Bradbury is in the wrong.

Ian,

No, I get it, and I can see both sides on this issue. I am siding with Bradbury on this one mainly because it's not just the word "Fahrenheit" that Moore used in the film, but the entire concept of something as important as freedom or books burning at a given temperature. As one commenter mentioned, many people may not even be familiar with the reference to Bradbury's book, so a little courtesy and a reference to the book would have been nice.

I should also clarify that I am not taking a legal stance, because I don't know the laws, and quite frankly I don't care. To me, again, it is just another example of Moore's utter sloppiness.

Finally, in all fairness, I don't think I am the only one "allowing my personal distaste for Moore" to cloud my opinion on this. Almost every post in this forum, including Joi's, is biased based on their stance on Moore's film. In particular, I took offense to Joi's hinting at Bradbury's objection to the film title being evidence of creeping senility. I am much more open to objections based on principles not personal attacks deisgned to cut down someone personally.

What a bunch of bickering ninnies...

Oops.. I should go ask permission to the last person I heard using each of those words... and make sure they fit fully with the meaning I am trying to convey. Arck! and these too!

Aside from that, Joi "clarified" his position. Learn to read. Then go learn how language and culture work. Oh and look up "intertextuality". Then read some literature, preferably from the western canon (if you are a westerner). If reading isn't your thing, then perhaps watch some films (not Hollywood movies)... or listen to some independent (non-commercial) music... or.. or ... or... it is all around you. Life feeds on life. The tie that binds, kills. Finish the equation.

We have 10,000 years of documented examples of how freedom of expression works, and how "asking for permission" doesn't. Culture is a natural phenomenon which follows the same "laws" and "patterns" as any naturally evolving system. Current fascist capitalism won't stop it.

/end rant

Look, music-stealers, all Bradbury has done is complain about Moore ripping-off his title a few weeks before the release of the Real Fahrenheit 451. If he sues, you can all play lawyer and have lots of fun hurling invective at him for trying to curtail the First Amendment rights that Moore makes his living abusing.

At the moment, all Bradbury has done is complain, and that's a First Amendment protected activity, even if it's completely baseless (i.e., when the EFF does it.)

Let's keep in mind Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature of paper burning, not just the title of a book about book burning. Props to Bradbury for his zen moment of wit. I don't think he would have sold quite as many books just calling it "Book Burning", and a message was put across effectively that like it or not suppression of knowledge and expression is a universal evil.

Moore clearly drew inspiration from Bradbury with his title. But that seems to have clouded the fact that Moore is creating his own analogy between book burning and civil liberties (or truth) burning, not between the excellent book itself and the documentary.

This is a particularly fitting analogy. I've been in that position many times: do you use the excellent idea that succinctly makes the point, or do you drop it because of a non-terminal wart. I say you use the analogy.

Plus, we may have Bradbury to thank for widespread knowledge of the temperature that paper burns at; but I'd venture to say a hell of a lot more burns at 951 ;).

Giving respect where it's due is needed here, sadly a call was not returned. But oh what sweet irony in this dispute.

Moore clearly drew inspiration from Bradbury with his title. But that seems to have clouded the fact that Moore is creating his own analogy between book burning and civil liberties (or truth) burning, not between the excellent book itself and the documentary.

Why do you associate "Fahrenheit 9/11" with book burning? How does 9/11 relate to book burning?

I think it only paraphrases the singular point of no return in the change of political climate in the US. In other words, I'm not surprised if it's titled "Celsius 0" or "Hot September Night" or whatever :)

If it was a respectful "homage" as some here insist, then why didn't Moore contact Bradbury first and respectfully ask for permission? And so what if, as some here have said, copyright law does not protect titles. Common decency should have compelled Moore to at the very least inform Bradbury, one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, that he would be baldly asserting his right to Bradbury's world famous title (and all the powerful and profound associations that title summons).

As a direct descendant of Johan Gutenberg, I would like to inform you that my lawyer will be contacting all of you fortwith and post haste in re: "Movable/Moveable Type" v1.0, 2.0, 2.661, 3.0 and 9-11.

:)

Thank you Cory for your comments here.

I think what freaked me out about the Card essay was that I often expect people who imagine the future for a living to know and understand at a gut level that advancement means reducing discrimination and growing to acceptance of the diverse nature of human relationships -- unless of course it's a dystopian future. Alas, many times this is not the case, and it make me wonder how the writer assimilates these two seemingly disparate views without gaining from one, or losing from the other.

Advancement sometimes implies reducing discrimination and enhancing acceptance of the diverse nature of human relationships, but that depends on the starting point, doesn't it? The move from small, relatively egalitarian hunter gatherer societies to the world of, say, the ancient Romans was a necessary phase of human progress, but in a whole bunch of respects society probably became less tolerant and free. (The ancient German tribes were rough fighters, but I don't think they typically sought captives in the way that the Roman's did: to reinforce the sense of domination and humiliation of captive peoples.)

We've had a good few decades, but in the long sweep of human history, who can say where we reside in the course of events.

For a start, Marriage is a term people invented to name the ceremony we invented to mark two people's commitment to be monogamous with each other. It has nothing to do with raising children. You don't see animals having a wedding ceremony before they have offspring, do you?

Secondly, Ray Bradbury needs to

get his head out of his backside.

That is all.

I believe the tagline for Moore's movie (I daren't speak its name!) is "The temperature where freedom burns!" (see www.imdb.com). I personally wasn't aware of the allusion to Bradbury's book, and while it may have been polite and correct of Moore to seek out Bradbury to make him aware of his intention to use a title that pays homage/refers to his book, it was neither morally nor legally necessary. However, it might be time for Moore to acknowledge the origin of the title, particularly if he is asked the question directly.

I've come back to look at this after a day, and after scanning through the additional comments, I'll just add this:

You pretty much have a choice on this one, to side with free expression, or with Ray Bradbury.

That's it. Period. Conceding that it's polite to return phone calls, especially to revered literary figures, has no bearing at all on whether it was legitimate for Moore to make an allusion to F451. It's sure a better and more evocative analogy than "Bowling for Columbine" (which refers either to "Bowling for Dollars" or "Bowling Alone", or possibly both).

BTW, as to whether that was really Dave Winer or not: Yes, it was. I know it was because shortly after making that post, he made a similar post on his blog, which he then quickly deleted. I know it was there because it was in his feed when my aggregator grabbed it.

Also on the Winer subject: Ironically enough, later in the same day he made this comment on his blog:

The name Unix derives from the name Multics. Unix is one "ic." Get it? And then Linux is derived from Unix, it's Linus's "ix." This is good, it's called standing on the shoulders of giants. It's respectful.

So: If he likes you, allusions to an earlier title are "respectful"; if he doesn't like you, they're 'trademark violation' [sic]. (Unless, of course, we don't "get it".)

That seems to be similar to the position taken on this thread by some folks: Because it's Ray Bradbury, it's a problem. If it had been, say, Christopher Hitchens, or Roger Ebert, it would have been OK.

Eric:

I love it when people make declarations like "That's it. Period." in a setting like this. How nuanced.

Peter --

Well, what can I say. This is obviously a nuanced discussion. Just going with the flow.

Mr. Moore certainly has a hard time coming up with original titles for his works of fiction.

Roger and Me: "The King and I"

Bowling for Columbine: "Bowling For Dollars"

Dude, Where's My Country?: "Dude, Where's My Car?"

The Awful Truth: verbatim ripoff

The only title he didn't steal was his autobiography, "Stupid White Men".

No, Eric. You are helping to shape it.

I've visited your site. Very interesting.

Richard Bennett:

"Mr. Moore certainly has a hard time coming up with original titles for his works of fiction."

Oh come on. Moore achieves a good deal of compression of meaning by evoking instantly recognizable titles and putting a spin on them. That isn't theft. It's just a literary device and you know it.

How about dispensing with the bitchiness and show us if you can make a reasoned argument?

Theft is a literary device, patrick, but it's not one that creative people have to use too often.

BTW, downloading music is not a creative act.

Moore should have asked for Bradbury's blessing, or at least returned his communications.

What kind of schmuck doesn't respond when Ray Bradbury calls? I'd have a real difficult time not getting excited about that, even if I was Moore.

That being said, I have a long-time friend who is related to Ray Bradbury. (Grand-nephew or something like that.) (Heresay alert!)

As I've heard it, Bradbury has been growing more and more curmudgeonly as he gets on in years. I guess that's to be expected of such a didactic and prolific writer.

Regardless of any personal quirks, Bradbury has every right to be upset if he wishes. It's not "stupid". Foolish and petty, perhaps. But he's well within his rights.

At least he didn't just reach for the lawyer on a stick and start thwackin'.

Thanks for your comments, Cory, peterb, Joi and others.

What is stupid about Ray Bradbury complaining that Michael Moore stole his name is that titles are not subject to copyright. Therefore Ray Bradbury may own the content, but not the title. Additionally, it is not a copy but a literary reference - something Ray Bradbury, along with all great writers, has done himself.

This discussion is so stimulating. Some studies suggest that intellectual stimulation can stave off senility (doubt it has much effect on curmudgeonliness ;}) Wonder if the film version of Farenheight 451 would have been made or released in any other era since? I think it's pretty good, especially the wardrobe :-) Barbarella is a favorite of mine as well...but, I digress. What if Moore had asked and Bradbury refused? I'm of the opinion that permission is not required.

OOPS. Farenheit.

OOPS2. Fahrenheit. Sorry :-{

Everyone is missing the point.....its not about the rights to copyright " Fehrenheit 451"......Ray Bradbury pilfered from many sources to get his message out.the MARTIAN CHRONICLES is really about the plights of the NATIVE INDIANS tranposed to a mars setting.......Shakespeare stole storylines from his youthful touring group before he made it big at the GLOBE in london.........what worries RAY BRADBURY is that he having a remake of "FAHRENHEIT 451" movie coming out in a year or two......SO DO YOU WANT TO GO WITH ME AND SEE "FAHRENHEIT 911" by ray bradbury

I heard that the estate of the late novelist Malcolm Bradbury is suing Ray Bradbury for using Malcolm's surname... Seriously, Ray, all art is derivitive, you are a pillar of 20th century science fiction and should know that. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. And Michel Vuijlsteke on in comments on brianstorm's weblog has found at least 12 instances of you deriving titles from other sources: http://www.brianstorms.com/archives/000372.html

So did Bradbury have permission to nick "Something Wicked This Way Comes" from Shakespeare?

First, none of the posters need to make their political leanings or reading preferences part of the discussion. Claiming to be a liberal but not on Moore's side, or claiming to be a Bradbury fan but not on Bradbury's side... not only is it logically irrelevant, but no one really believes you anyway. Second, while we're on the subject of credulity, aren't we just taking Bradbury's word that his phone calls went unanswered? And is there some kind of law that you have to call people back? Maybe Ray gave verbal permission and regrets it. Maybe Mike's lawyers looked into it and decided the law was clear on this. I mean, gimme a freakin' break-- Fahr. 451 is one of the greatest books of all time, and in 20 years when nobody remembers which idiot won the 2004 election, people will still be reading Bradbury. Give it up, dude-- you're awesome but you suck!

One of the greatest books of all time? Maybe, but it's no "My Pet Goat".

Excelsior!

Ok, the whole Fahrenheit 9/11 thing... I'll say this: I'm with Ray Bradbury on this 100%. I happen to dislike Michael Moore very strongly. Plus, I've met Ray Bradbury before. Yes, he is aging, he may be old, but you know what? Who really cares? Michael Moore is a self-absorbed know-it-all... and... I'm gonna stop writing this, because I just found out about this whole thing 2 seconds ago... and I'm gonna go work on my Literary Analysis paper...

I agree that Bradbury should be mifed, just like Asimov should be whth that I,Robot fiasco. While the title of his book is a proveable fact, and is not copyrighted per se, there is a clear association with Bradbury and his writing. Maybe I'm guilty of hero worship or something, but if I were going to parody or 'borrow' something from such a venerated and well-known figure I'd darn well make sure I knew their opinion beforehand. Moore seems to have decided and then went, oh well...

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