tvbatmanThis week, Rich Johnston broke the story that part of the reason for the Fox lawsuit against the Warner WATCHMEN may be a rights swap of sorts:

Sources tell me that Fox want the 1960s Batman TV series. Currently Fox own the TV footage, but Warner Bros own the characters and trademarks, via their ownership of DC Comics. The rights to a DVD release have been held up for a long time now, and this case looks like it may be the instrument to release them.

Oh, Fox will get a wodge of cash as well – many millions of dollars it seems. But it seems they also want the rights to release the Adam West-starring Batman on DVD, something long denied fans of the series. And Warners will get the “Watchmen” film, to release as planned.

This kind of rights swap is not unheard of in studio history. For instance, Universal once swapped the rights to Oswald the Rabbit for sportscaster Al Michaels. However, this deal is not so simple.
TVShowsOnDVD explains that the rights to those long lost Batman TV episodes are tied up in more rights than you could possibly imagine:

Why? Because, as CBR notes, Fox owns the footage. That footage is theirs to release in any manner they see fit…as long as they obey all contractual language involving licenses, royalties and residuals. For the big-screen film which was in theaters in the ’60s, shortly after the first season (and which recently came out on Blu-ray), there had been language in the contracts that covered release of the footage in places other than a theater (on an airplane flight, for example). Language which could cover the home video releases that came along ages later…something that wasn’t imagined in the late ’60s! But for the television episodes, there was no such language in the contracts about showing the footage anywhere else besides on television. So Fox can’t show it anywhere else, such as on a DVD, because they don’t have any rights to do so. The contracts did have language, though, to cover licensing small clips out to other productions (which is why some short footage can show up on DVDs like Holy Batmania!, but not entire episodes).

Also, because the show had so many cameos based on other pop culture sensations of the time, the rights are incredibly convoluted.

Wow, this just gets juicier and juicier.

*Yes, yes, we know that is the most trite and hackneyed post title ever…but it just felt…right.


  1. The Al-Michaels-for-Oswald-the-Rabbit swap was the first thing I thought of when I heard the Watchmen-for-Batman rumor, too.

    Great minds, clearly, think alike…

  2. Whatever it takes to get the Adam West stuff to DVD, I’m ALL for!!!!! I’ve got great bootlegs of it, but an official digital restore would be great!

  3. My 12-year-old daughter has been waiting for the DVD release for several years. So the fan base may shrink, but it lives on!

  4. I like Rich Johnston, and credit is due where credit is due — but I don’t know that I would call running what amounts to idle speculation in the absence of any sources or attribution as “breaking the story.”

  5. “I don’t know that I would call running what amounts to idle speculation in the absence of any sources or attribution as “breaking the story.” ”

    That’s because it isn’t.

  6. a big “seconded” to BPearce.

    Rich is not a reporter—he’s never “reported” a story in his life, and anyone with any respect for journalistic principles should tread very carefully here.

    Why does everyone in the comix industry blogosphere accept that if Rich reports it, it must be true? Hey Beat, why not spend some of your ample spare time backtracking Rich’s “reporting”?? he’s wrong so often it’s ridiculous…

  7. Rich isn’t a reporter, and as far as I’m aware, makes no claims to be. He’s a rumour columnist, and as he says himself, LiTG is an entertainment column, not a news column.
    He’s not always right, but again, he doesn’t claim to be, he’s just repeating rumours that he’s heard, or in some cases, extrapolating theories from the information he’s received.
    I think most peple in the blogosphere (god I hate that word…) are fully aware that his columns aren’t always completely accurate, but he does have a pretty decent hit-rate, and after a cursory look through the last couple of months of columns, I couldn’t see more than a handful of stories that were blatantly incorrect…
    It’s easy to hate on Rich, but he does this out of a love for the medium, and personally I think it would be a lot more boring without him!

  8. It’s a crime that every show is on DVD but the greatest Batman of them all. Burgess Meredith: best Penguin, Julie Newmar: the icon, Yvonne Criag: will always be the real Batgirl. Frank Gorshin: manic genius, and Cesar Romero and he have the best laughs of them all. I would gladly trade in Christian Bale and Heath Ledger for a little Adam West and Victor Buono.

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