The Case of Cinematic Déjà Vu

December 14, 2012Article
The new York Times

Novelists understand — and often speak about — the significance of the title; many can’t write until the right one arrives. In film, however, recycled titles remind us that the title is, first and foremost, a piece of marketing. And as evidenced by the parade of sequels, prequels and reboots, when it comes to movie marketing, familiarity is considered an asset, not a concern.

For viewers, this kind of recycling can be confusing, even irritating, but it isn’t exactly illegal, as titles cannot be copyrighted. According to the entertainment lawyer Aaron J. Moss, serials and franchises may be granted trademarks, but any filmmaker who wants a single title protected has to prove that any titular doubling-up would cause consumer confusion and that the title is evocative enough to carry “secondary meaning.”

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