The Batmobile is Now a Copyrighted Character

Would Batman consider this justice?

DC Comics won an appeal recently as a holder of copyright interest in the Batmobile. After a panel of appeals court judges declared the Batmobile a character in and of itself, they ruled that Gotham Garage, owned by Mark Towle, has been infringing on copyrights held by DC Comics by producing life size, drivable, replica Batmobiles based on the 1960’s and 1989 version of the vehicle.

This is not the first time that Mark Towle has seen a ruling against his custom-made Batmobiles. Warner Bros brought a similar lawsuit in 2013, with the same claim that the car is copyright protected as a major ‘character’ in the Batman universe. Towle and his attorney argued back that claiming a vehicle as copyrighted would impact the car manufacturing world in serious ways that could hurt the industry and consumers.

But Towle’s arguments were not enough to sway the judges, either in 2013 or in 2015, as both times they ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. As one of the most recognizable vehicles in comics, movies, and television, the Batmobile is being seen as not only an accessory that Batman uses to fight crime, but as an integral ‘member’ of Batman’s crime fighting team. As such it is being awarded the same level of copyright status that the Caped Crusader and his sidekicks can claim.

So far the Batmobile is the only vehicle that has been declared copyright protected, but only time will tell if other recognizable properties such as Speed Racer’s Mach 5, the Green Hornet’s Black Beauty, or Ghost Rider’s Hell Cycle will follow suit.

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Melissa Voelker

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