The CompUSA commercials - Jay Maynard

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Tuesday, 1 February 2005


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0839 - The CompUSA commercials

I've gotten a DVD with five CompUSA commercials on it. There are superficial differences, but there are more than enough similarities to make it clear that they were inspired by, and are trying to evoke thoughts of, me and my costume.

My agent should get his copy of the DVD today. Assuming he can play it, I'll know what he thinks pretty shortly, and we'll decide where to go from here.

current mood: [mood icon] irritated

(34 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:chipuni
Date: - 0000
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I'm confused. Isn't your costume based on the movie Tron? Couldn't CompUSA claim that they were also basing their costume on the same movie?
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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My costume is indeed based on TRON, but there's more there: in particular, the guy they have in the costume is indeed shaped like me. (He's no Bruce Boxleitner either.)

Even more, I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have done the commercial in the first place had I not come along and popularized (for whatever value of "popular" you choose to assign) the idea.
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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But "Guy shaped like me in a TRON suit" isn't exactly something that can be copyrighted, given that it is itself a derivative work of Disney's copyrighted IP, and it would be pretty hard to trademark without Disney's lawyers coming down on your like a ton of bricks, as Disney is legally obligated to vigorously defend its own trademarks or risk losing them.

So even if CompUSA said "Yeah, we got the idea from you, and decided to rip it off without giving you any credit whatsoever," what sort of action could you take?
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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OTOH, everything I've done so far has been promoting TRON, and nearly all of the stiff in the public eye has been for ABC, a Disney subsidiary.

We're definitely looking to take some sort of action, but don't know exactly what just yet.
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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OTOH, everything I've done so far has been promoting TRON, and nearly all of the stiff in the public eye has been for ABC, a Disney subsidiary.

Well, that definitely changes some things, if Disney's signed you to some form of agreement. That both protects their trademarks and legitimizes your use of same, so CompUSA couldn't take the tack I suggested.

Unless you're acting as an agent of Disney in bringing this suit, though, I don't see how you have standing.
[User Picture]
From:peterb
Date: - 0000

I'm from the Internet!

(Link)


Safe as houses.
[User Picture]
From:libram
Date: - 0000

Re: I'm from the Internet!

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Looks like he's got cameltoe in that picture...
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From:kinkyturtle
Date: - 0000

Re: I'm from the Internet!

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IM?

Nice work saving your poor punctuation skills in JPEG format!
[User Picture]
From:peterb
Date: - 0000

Re: I'm from the Internet!

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Not my work, I'm afraid.

Jay is a bit of a meme on 4chan. With this caption. I have no idea who produced the original article.
[User Picture]
From:kinkyturtle
Date: - 0000

Re: I'm from the Internet!

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Oh, righto. Never mind, then.
From:rendtheheavens
Date: - 0000
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tron man...would you like to make a cameo in one of my online movies? I can't pay you. But might get ya some more publicity. How about you and my main character Mitzy The Green Mini-Poodle go on some adventure? My site is at www.crackedreel.com You wouldn't even have to show up here, due to my low tech methods of movie making, I'd just need a picture.
From:rendtheheavens
Date: - 0000
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sorry about that............this should work..

http://www.crackedreel.comSorry about that...this one should work.
[User Picture]
From:evilzug
Date: - 0000
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fight it tooth and nail, man
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From:michaelmink
Date: - 0000
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Jay's argument regarding ABC is very well taken. Disney/ABC could hardly go after Jay when a good-sized hunk of his major public appearances have been for the company. If CompUSA tried that argument, it could very well backfire, badly. Disney could take the argument that "Jay's use of the TRON costume has our blessing...but *yours* doesn't."

A key piece of evidence here would be the internal memoranda and emails at the ad agency, while they were creating this spot. If "TRONGuy" shows up in there, the ad agency is going to look somewhat foolish. Also a bit cheap. Why not just hire Jay in the first place? I mean, how much is Jay going to cost, even if he is union?

I don't know how much in damages Jay can get (esp. if the campaign is over), but I'll just bet the lads at Disney Legal can find a few nasty things to smack CompUSA over the head with.

I wouldn't mind seeing stills from the DVD (if possible), just to give a musteline lawyer's eye view of the matter.
[User Picture]
From:phanatic
Date: - 0000
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I don't know how much in damages Jay can get

Jay, personally?

Probably approximately zero, because he'd first have to show damages, and I don't see how he could do that. The point that Jay seems to have Disney's tacit blessings regarding his use of the Tron likeness is a valid one, but that doesn't equate to him being able to prevail over CompUSA in civil court, because he himself has no *rights* to Disney's IP. If CompUSA is infringing upon Disney's IP, it's up to Disney's legal staff to pursue that issue; Jay himself probably doesn't even have standing to bring the suit. If I showed up before the court to sue CompUSA for infringing upon Disney's IP, the suit would be dismissed instantly, because I have no standing to bring it.

As a more general issue, while Jay's TRON suit is an impressive accomplishment, especially from a geek perspective, I don't see anything novel about it from a legal perspective, it's simply a derivative work of someone else's copyright. While CompUSA might very well be infringing upon Disney's IP, they're probably not infringing upon "Guy dressing up as TRON," because that's probably not even protected in the first place.

[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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There are both grounds to sue (there's more here than the costume) and damages, but discussing both in public right now is probably unwise.
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Ask and ye shall receive...

Picture 1
Picture 2
Picture 3
Picture 4
[User Picture]
From:michaelmink
Date: - 0000
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Ehhhhhhh, your suit's waaaay better.

I definitely see how someone could come to the conclusion that TRON and TRONGuy was an inspiration.

I don't know how far a lawsuit would get. On the other paw, perhaps Jimmy Kimmel should be made aware of this. Significant hay can be made out of this. Confrontation with CompUSA, anyone?

(PS Adam Buckman in the NY Post this past Sunday said that Kimmel was the best thing on late night, and was badly underrated.)
[User Picture]
From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Or how about simply a skit on Kimmel mocking CompUSA and their somewhat-blatant image theft?
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Should we not be able to come to an agreement with CompUSA, this is certainly an option.
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From:shelbystripes
Date: - 0000
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Of course, should you take that option, you'll have to pay me royalties for providing you the idea. =o)
[User Picture]
From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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You and michaelmink get to fight over them...he came up with the idea about the same time you did, on IRC.
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From:foxx
Date: - 0000
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He's much slimmer.
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From:mortonfox
Date: - 0000
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I think that CompUSA guy looks more like a guy in a circuit board. It'd be stretching it a little to say that it is a ripoff of your TRON costume.
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From:angelwind
Date: - 0000
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You'll be hard pressed to have a case with this. I haven't seen the commercial, but unless he:

1) materializes from some VR world (which they could claim, and use other (bad) movies to point out)
2) makes specific references to Tron or its plotline
3) glows in the dark without the help of CG effects

there's not a legal leg to stand on.

The costume looks nothing like yours, is of a completely different design and has words on it, and is also missing one of those discs. "Influenced by" and "ripping off" is a very hard thing to prove unless specific references are made, otherwise Hollywood could easily sue itself in the soap opera world alone.

He also looks nothing like you.
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From:squnq
Date: - 0000
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I'm afraid I'll have to agree. Their costume is more akin to "guy in a computer circuitry suit" than "guy in a TRON suit". Their costume does not present the wearer as a "warrior", although I have not seen the commercial so I cannot say wheither that is the context CompUSA was aiming for.

Regardless, the idea of suing because some company decided to use, to put it bluntly, "another fat guy in a computer costume", is rather laughable IMHO. Plus their guy looks absolutely nothing like Mr. Maynard. It's a waste of everyone's money, including that of the American taxpayer. To support the concept of suing CompUSA with Disney's blessing over this issue is frankly frivolous.
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Nearly everyone I've asked about the commercials has told me that their first thought was of me when they saw it. That tells me that there's enough similarity to present a genuine issue of fact - and that's what courts are there to decide.

As I mentioned above, there's enough there to make a case that doesn't meet any court's test of frivolousness. I'm not going to lay it out here, though. Why should I let them know my arguments before I make them?
[User Picture]
From:squnq
Date: - 0000
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I dunno - I still don't think it'll fly in court. It'd be like me suing Harry Knowles because when I had a beard, I look exactly like him, so I could sue him for stealing my "opinionated fat bearded guy on the internet" schtick.

The court might not test wheither it's frivolous or not, but it's really a waste of their time and you're not losing anything because of it. There's been fat guys in a Tron costume before you, only difference is you appeared on TV and they didn't. Maybe the ad writer happened to have seen you on TV and that exposure sunconsciously influenced the ad somewhat, but by that logic pretty much any concept in marketing, or to take it to an extreme, any concept in modern music, writing or art, would be open to lawsuits.

Your Warner LJ icons in themselves are copyright violations of an equal nature to the one you're debating suing CompUSA over. They're based on an existing character concept, you just took that concept and modified it. Now, you're not profiting from it, but it's still the same principle. And CompUSA, if they really were influenced by Tron guy, didn't twist the concept nearly as much. *cough*
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From:pholph
Date: - 0000
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Nearly everyone I've asked about the commercials has told me that their first thought was of me when they saw it.

Their train of thought being something like "Hey, he kind of reminds me of that pudgy guy who dressed up like a tron fanboy..." right?

I mean, every time I see a pudgy kid trying to look tough with a broom stick handle, I think of that star-wars-kid too.

Just because we think of someone, doesn't mean that we're not mocking them at the same time...
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From:arcturax
Date: - 0000
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Saw this via another journal. Maybe you should be flattered they picked up the idea from you? Or maybe they also got it from Tron.

As it is, there is always going to be idea sharing and some borrowing of ideas in the world. People should just learn to accept that and try to be the better act. As it is, the current sue happy copyright environment has turned the world of content creation upside down and supressed a lot of great ideas. I know someone who started making these neat little hats and selling them on Ebay and within a week, there were about 5 copycats doing the same. She doens't sue them, she just gets more creative than them.

As for your costume, that is really pretty cool. Can't say if it had been me I'd have been yellow, but hey, it's still cool, especially the neon!
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From:jmaynard
Date: - 0000
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Which other journal? I don't mind the influx of new readers, but I was curious where it came from.

It's not really yellow, more of a light green. The electroluminescent wire is neat stuff, though.
[User Picture]
From:arcturax
Date: - 0000
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Found it on squnq's journal while I was following friends of links. So it wasn't really from anyone I know.
[User Picture]
From:arcturax
Date: - 0000
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Oh and as for the suit, it looks yellow to me, but maybe its the digital camera acting up on the color. I know someone with a bright purple dragon costume that shows up blue on most digital cameras.
[User Picture]
From:gwalchmai2k
Date: - 0000
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I`m no legal expert, but from my admittedly limited understanding, unless they`re claiming that it`s a Tron costume (which they don`t seem to be), I wouldn`t have thought there were any copyright issues. The colouring is radically different, the designs are radically different, and it`s even labelled 'Technology', which the Tron costume clearly is not. They`re not even implying it`s a Tron costume and other than the shape of the helmet, the costume can be described as vaguely similar at best.
As regards the actor`s appearance compared to your own, he looks somewhat younger (no offense), he doesn`t wear glasses, and he`s completely clean-shaven, so irrespective of whatever costuming similarities there may or may not be, the actor himself bears no resemblance to yourself that I can see.

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