Comics2Film: Special Report

Thu, March 2nd, 2000 at 12:00am PST

Comic Books
Rob Worley, Columnist

Hudnall and Paquette Win Round One!

[Harsh Realm]Andrew Paquette and James Hudnall scored a victory against Twentieth Century Fox, Chris Carter and Harris Publications yesterday in U.S. District Court in New York. Paquette and Hudnall are the creators of the Harsh Realm comic book and the plaintiffs in a well-publicized lawsuit over appropriate credit and fair dealing with regards to Carter's TV version of their concept. District Judge John S. Martin, Jr. rendered a preliminary injunction against Fox and Carter, which orders them to display an improved credit on the show. Harsh Realm is slated to begin airing this month on the FX Network. "I'm pretty happy," Paquette told Comics 2 Film. "Of course, we've been expecting this for a long time."

When the show originally aired on the Fox network, it sported a prominent, opening-credit card which read "Created By Chris Carter". Hudnall and Paquette's names did not appear in the initially aired episodes at all. Subsequent episodes ran with a tiny "inspired by" credit which flashed by during the closing scroll.

Tuesday's ruling by Judge Martin states that this is unacceptable. "The problem with this solution is that the 'Created by' credit appears at the very beginning of the show almost an hour earlier," Martin wrote. "It is not reasonable to believe that viewers dashing to get to the refrigerator between television shows will give the same attention to the credits at the end of the show as they do to those at the beginning. Thus, the defendants' actions, while an improvement, do not solve the problem of consumer confusion."

The ruling orders that, if the show is to air, Fox must insert an "inspired by" credit in the opening credits. The new card would be inserted immediately after the "written by" credit. The ruling allows a created by credit for Carter to appear earlier in the opening sequence.

While it's not exactly what Hudnall and Paquette hoped for, the injunction is a first-round victory in what is likely to be a long legal process. While Carter and Fox maintained that the credits were appropriate in regards to the regulations set forth by the Writers' Guild of America, Judge Martin ruled that the network's agreement with the guild is no defense for violating federal laws. Quoting the same authority that the defendants' cited, the ruling reads, "the 'reproduction of a work with a false representation as to its creator' could support a finding of false designation [of] origin where the defendant failed to credit the original creator."

The suit also spotlights inconsistencies in the WGA's handling of the issue. WGA rules forbid awarding a "created by" credit when source material exists. The Harsh Realm TV show is obviously an example of something developed from source material. The court ruling solidifies the claim that the comic is the source material for the show. If the WGA continues to allow Carter to hold the "created by" credit, it would seem to be in violation of the WGA's own regulations.

Paquette tells C2F that, while the victory is very encouraging the "inspired by" credit is still short of what he and Hudnall want. "In the industry, an 'inspired by' credit is not really worth all that much. An 'inspired by' is typically given to people who have no business in 'the business' and who have no future prospects in 'the business' either."

Paquette suggested the 'inspired by' credit would typically be awarded to a concept exchanged during something like a casual, coffee-shop conversation. Conversely a 'based on' implies much more substantial source material. "There's a huge difference between having six published issues of a comic book series, that we're paid for as source material, and a coffee-shop conversation."

As stated earlier, the injunction is just the first ruling in the ongoing suit. There are still issues concerning the creators receiving fair compensation for their creation. In a previous interview, Paquette told C2F that he and Hudnall were only collecting $625 apiece for each episode of the show.

Paquette told us that he expects the suit to continue for "a hell-of-a long time, primarily because I've got no intention of giving up."

"I don't like dishonesty in any form," Paquette assures us, "and I am perfectly willing to sacrifice money for that principal."

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