Mimesis Law
6 March 2021

AMC Threatens To Sue Walking Dead Fans Over Predictions

June 16, 2016 (IP Flow) — In the latest David v Goliath copyright debacle, AMC has threatened to sue die-hard fans of hit show The Walking Dead, who call themselves “The Spoiling Dead Fans” (TSDF), for making predictions about a cliff hanger in the latest episode.

The operators of the forum on Facebook who have a following of around 364,000, routinely discuss the plot twists and potential future scenarios of the upcoming episodes including information not yet made public. In the final episode of the latest season of the Walking Dead, Negan killed an unnamed character after a violent attack with his barbed baseball bat “Lucille.” As per usual, the TSDF page erupted with possible identifications of the victim.

AMC responded by sending a cease-and-desist letter to the operators threatening legal action if they publish the correct plot twist.This course of action seems insane as in effect, TSDF could be sued for merely making public a single name without elaborating on further plot details. They furthermore alleged that TSDF had received protected information which would guide their spoilers of the upcoming season. An allegation which the operators of TSDF vehemently deny but which has led them to agree to refrain from making any further predictions. This isn’t totally unchartered territory as the makers of Twin Peaks successfully sued the authors of a book that published an account essentially recounting the first eight episodes of the series. Here, the judge opined that the authors were outside fair use as the:

detailed recounting of the show’s plotlines went far beyond merely identifying their basic outline for the transformative purposes of comment or criticism. The court found that the plot synopses contained in defendant’s book were essentially “abridgments,” which are protected as derivative works.

In the case at hand, however, the discussed plot lines are imagined scenarios of what could potentially occur in the upcoming Walking Dead season set to be released in the Fall. Let me make this crystal clear, AMC is threatening a lawsuit for predictions, not actually released and published spoilers as HBO has done with Game of Thrones fans.

According to Mitch Stoltz, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

Copyright probably doesn’t cover revealing a single fictional detail about a show, and copyright doesn’t apply to facts that are discovered without having access to the creative work. So if ‘The Spoiling Dead’ community deduced the identity of the ‘Lucille Victim’ by looking at aerial photos of the sets, public sightings of the actors, rumors, etc., without actually having seen the episode or the script, they didn’t infringe any copyright.

Regardless, logic and reason are unlikely to prevail here as AMC is in a position to embroil TSDF in expensive litigation that it may not be able to defend itself from. This could set a dangerous precedent in copyright enforcement and punish the very people who are making such shows popular, the fans.

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  • jdgalt
    16 June 2016 at 5:47 pm - Reply

    What jurisdiction is TSDF in? If it’s a state with a decent anti-SLAPP law, that could save them.

  • Matt Norwood
    17 June 2016 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    “This could set a dangerous precedent in copyright enforcement”

    It’s already a pretty crowded field when it comes to the chilling effects of copyright overreach.