June 04, 2004

Bradbury Schmadbury

BoingBoing reports that Ray Bradbury has been quoted calling Michael Moore all sorts of nasty things for "stealing" Brabury's book's Fahrenheit 451 title and naming the movie Fahrenheit 9/11.

Well, well. What would Bradbury have to say about his own "theft" of Walt Whitman's poem verse, to name one of his stories? I Sing The Body Electric, published around 1969, is actually a name of a famous poem by Walt Whitman.

And don't forget Bradbury's story The Women, why, that's the same name as the 1939 George Cukor-directed comedy film starring Joan Crawford and Norma Shearer.

And then there's poor Shakespeare, who is owed mega-royalties for Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. That's a phrase right out of Act IV Scene 1 of a little ditty called Macbeth, maybe you've heard of it. Bradbury's hoping you haven't.

At least Moore had the courtesy to change the title a bit and add something original to it! Bradbury just went ahead and copied verbatim. He's got some explaining to do.

By the way, it took me 2 minutes to find these title "thefts". Imagine what I might find if I spent two hours.

Posted by brian at June 4, 2004 05:10 PM


Amen, Brian. I was shocked to hear that story about Bradbury (one of my favorite writers). The fact is, all art is derivative. Doih. He knows that better than anyone.

Posted by: Jerry at June 5, 2004 03:28 PM

Found these (1984-2004 apparently):

2004: The Cat's Pajamas. Shamelessly filched from Ida Chittum, Art Cumings, The cat's pajamas, Parents Magazine Press 1995.

2002: One more for the road. Copied from Tana Reiff, One more for the road, Lake Education, 1994.

1998: Kaleidoscope. The same title to the letter as Delia Blackburn, Kaleidoscope, Naylor Co. 1974.

1998: A Chapbook for Burnt Out Priests, Rabbis And Ministers. Suspiciously similar to A chapbook for little chaps by Stuart Guthrie, Pear Tree Press, 1920.

1997: With Cat for Comforter. Only three years before that, Patchwork Animal Quilts: 8 Cuddly Comforters by Marcia Dalbey Shurtleff. Coincidence? I think not.

1997: Driving Blind. Wait, let me guess, Driving Blind's eponymous album, released in 1996, again a coincidence. Suuuure.

1994: The Ravine and Here There Be Tigers. The ravine by Kendal Young, Longmans, 1962. "Here be tigers?" Take your pick: Elizabeth Saxon's Here be dragons, Outposts Publications, 1972. Or Basil Copper's Here be daemons, St. Martin's Press, 1978. Or Gerry Kennedy' Here be ghosts, O'Brien Press, 1980. There's gazillion more. And all before Bradbury.

1992: Quicker than the Eye. "Inspired" by the 1989 film Quicker than the eye, produced by Peter-Christian Fueter and directed by Nicolas Gessner? Or rather by the 1932 book Quicker than the eye by John Mulholland?

1987: The Sound of Thunder. Taylor Caldwell, The sound of thunder, Doubleday, 1957.

1987: Fever dream. Again, just two years before: James A. Freeman, Fever dreams, Adams Press, 1985.

1984: The Smile. Er, yeah, Bradbury' propably never heard of Brian Wilson either I guess?

1984: A Memory of Murder. And he'd never heard of Judson Pentecost Philips' Memory of murder, Ziff-Davis, 1947. Uh huh.

On a related note, if I were Riccardo Di Corato I'd be very afraid: it looks as if he shamefully plagiarized Bradbury in 1977 with this 451 formaggi d'Italia. Or rather, was BRadbury intentionalmly copying that 451 from Roy Alexander's 1940 451 tage... Die kaperfahrten des deutschen hilfskreuzers "Wolf," mit einem geleitwort von admiral z. v. von Lans und einem vorwort und anmerkungen von konteradmiral a. d. Nerger, dem kommandanten des "Wolf."?

That Bradbury. He's a character.

Posted by: Michel Vuijlsteke at June 6, 2004 03:37 PM

not my list, I hasten to add :)

Posted by: Michel Vuijlsteke at June 6, 2004 03:41 PM


Posted by: ARGH at June 7, 2004 12:15 AM

Hey dude, actually, you see, one can't go back and talk to shakespeare and ask to use his work.

Bradbury is still alive, Moore could have at least stopped being a douche and at least talked to Bradbury.

Posted by: Hunter at June 7, 2004 12:38 AM


Posted by: RAY BRADBURY at June 7, 2004 01:10 AM

Actually, Bradbury's main contribution to the book Fahrenheit 451 may have been just the title. It's an episode lifted from Lithuanian history and placed in America of the 1950s. As part of the tsarist effort to assimilate the "New Lands" of the empire into the empire, and to divide Poland from Lithuania (they were unified in one state for centuries) the bright guys and gals in Moscow decided to ban Latin letters in Lithuania, but not in Poland. This had the effect of making Lithuanians read more Polish books. But it also gave rise to the famous book smugglers, who risked life and limb to smuggle books into Lithuania. I talked to Ed who does Niekas fanzine (published PKD's Tagore letter way back when) about this a few years back, I think he said Bradbury never mentioned the Lithuanian connection as far as he knew, so maybe he sublimated it at some point. Shit like that happens. One stupid question: so what is 911 F the burning point of? Paper is 451, right?

Posted by: storge at June 8, 2004 08:12 AM

Fahrenheit 9/11: The Temperature at Which Freedom Burns

Posted by: Trevor at June 19, 2004 10:26 PM

Holy crap are you people stupid. Forgetting that you apparently don't know a damn thing about public domain and how copyright law is affected by a few hundred years... Bradbury's beef with Moore is that Moore never asked his permission, and doesn't want the name of his work associated with Moore's hack hitpiece. For instance, word is that a studio is trying to get a big serious adaptation of F451 underway, but this will now be interfered with by the similar-sounding F911.

Even if you're being humorous, this is a ridiculous stretch.

The lengths you punks will go to in order to defend the guy, I swear....

Posted by: Eric Spratling at June 23, 2004 02:01 AM

For your information Eric, Michael Moore doesn't need permission from Ray Bradbury for anything - BECAUSE YOU CAN"T COPYRIGHT A TITLE!

Posted by: J. at June 23, 2004 08:42 AM

Yes, and what with all those times in my post where I claimed that Bradbury had a right to sue Moore for stealing the copyright in his title, you are absolutely right in YELLING THAT FACT AT ME IN CAPITAL LETTERS.

But oh-- whoops. I didn't. I mentioned how Shakespeare's work was 400+ years out of the public domain to illustrate just how ridiculous it is to compare the line Bradbury "stole" from Macbeth for one of his book's titles. The only way the two situations would be remotely analogous would be if Bradbury had called his book "Macbush" or something similar, and only if Shakespeare was alive today to have the work of "his" (the playwrights back in the day were ripping each other off left and right, so that's more than a little iffy) play impugned by association in people's minds.

The fact that Weird Al Yankovic *always* (excepting a misunderstanding in Coolio's case) gets permission from his subjects before parodying their songs has AFAIK little to do with copyright laws, and everything to do with the fact that Yankovic is a decent human being who doesn't mess with other people's work instead without their blessing.

Michael Moore, in case you haven't noticed, is nothing of the sort.

Posted by: Eric Spratling at June 23, 2004 11:37 AM

Your statement that Weird Al gets permission from the artists whom he parodies because he's decent and that it has nothing to do with copyright law is ludicrous.

His getting permission has everything to do with copyright laws. Firstly, the artist can block him from spoofing the original song if he/she wishes (assuming they have control of the songs copyright). And second, if Al didn't get permission first, he'd get his ass sued (which I think holds a bit more gravitas that your "decent human being" analogy).

Weird Al has to get permission because he also uses the music of the hits he spoofs - which is intellectual property that can be copyrighted. Conversely, any musician can write a song called "Like A Virgin" (hell, they can even name their album that), and as long as it has nothing to do with the original, it's fair game.

If Michael Moore had borrowed any characters, plot devices, etc., from Bradbury, then yeah, there'd be a case. But as it stands, Moore owes old Ray nothing.

Posted by: J. at June 23, 2004 12:09 PM

It's hilarious that you're so desperate to bring this back to copyright law, which I'm not really saying is what the Moore/Bradbury issue is about. All I'm saying that Moore is an asshole for usurping the name of a classic literary work --whose author is still alive-- to associate it with his piece of dishonest propaganda hackwork, and that a) he never sought permission from Bradbury, and b) he refused to change the title when Bradbury requested. Any legal case Bradbury can claim against Moore is both out of my interest and expertise.

Anything y'all can do, I guess, to distract from the fact that you're calling Bradbury a hypocrite because he "stole" one line off a 400 year old play. Pathetic.

Posted by: Eric Spratling at June 23, 2004 01:00 PM

What's pathetic is that you're making some hackneyed "moral" argument about Moore's actions.

He has every right to name his "dishonest propaganda hackwork" after Bradbury's novel. Again he neither needs his permission, nor has to change the title. It's called freedom of speech.

Whether or not you like or dislike Moore and his opinions, I could give a monkey's. But I fail to see how Moore is an "asshole" using your flimsy talking points.

Now, if we want to talk about Dubya being an asshole, well, now you're on to something....

Posted by: J. at June 23, 2004 01:15 PM

Ugh! I just clicked on your noxious, ultra right-wing website. Methinks your problem with Michael Moore has less to do with any ill that he's done to Ray Bradbury than the subject matter of his film.

Johah Goldberg? Puh-leeze....

Posted by: J. at June 23, 2004 02:14 PM

"It's called freedom of speech."

Holy gosh, if I had a nickel for every time a liberal's tried to throw that in my face. As if conservatives will just respond with, "Oh! Freedom of speech? Why, I never thought of that! Well then, you can be as much of an incorrect lying ignoramus as you want and I will have no place to criticize you on the merits. My apologies!"

Moore's an asshole because he lacks common courtesy, much as you lack in common sense. You keep coming back to the question of legality which I never disputed, and your ignorance is truly astounding.

I'd say I'm done with you.

Posted by: Eric Spratling at June 23, 2004 05:55 PM

Order. I will have order in this here blog.

Mr. Spratling, no more attacking the messenger. Focus on the message, or post somewhere else.

Posted by: brian at June 23, 2004 07:36 PM

Typical Repub...

Thank God you neo-cons will be gone in November!

Posted by: J. at June 24, 2004 07:35 AM

the thing that pisses me off is i just finished re-reading bradburys book on writing, "zen in the art of writing" and in it he goes to great lengths to talk about how wonderful and important and useful it is for people to look back on and use their memories and their heroes for inspiration in creative works. i think michael moore's appropriation of the title is nothing more than adulation along that same vein

Posted by: tim boucher at June 29, 2004 07:28 PM

Seems to me that the reason Moore didn't contact Mr. Bradbury is he felt forgiveness would be easier than getting permission. Professional courtesy should have had Moore contact him.

Posted by: Scott at July 1, 2004 09:01 AM

Oh sweet children...

This whole thing makes my little head ache.

I would think that if Mr. Moore (a gentleman I have very little knowledge about, and who I therefore refuse to judge) honestly chose that title (and the accompanying sub-title, a take on "the temperature at which books burn") as an homage to a great story about out-of-control government censorship... he could have returned Mr. Bradbury's call six months ago, rather than allowing this to become a reported news item that translates into publicity for his film.

I may be off-track, but from my casual and relatively disinterested observation, Mr. Moore subscribes to the old P.T. Barnum theory of "any publicity is GOOD publicity"- and it is. For all the accusations of attempted censoring of this film, it seems to be doing just fine; being #1 at the box office last weekend and grossing over $24Million so far means that a lot of people are paying an average of $7 per to see it.

From what I have gleaned, Mr. Bradbury isn't looking for money- he's 83 years old, for pete's sake, and lives quite comfortably- he just wanted Mr. Moore to acknowledge the inspiration for the title of his film. I'm quite certain Mr. Bradbury knows that most reasonably well-read people have read Shakespeare, so explaining the title of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" was unnecessary... at least when it was initially published.

Quoting now about Farenheit 451, as posted by: storge at June 8, 2004 08:12 AM:

"...it also gave rise to the famous book smugglers, who risked life and limb to smuggle books into Lithuania. I talked to Ed who does Niekas fanzine (published PKD's Tagore letter way back when) about this a few years back, I think he said Bradbury never mentioned the Lithuanian connection as far as he knew, so maybe he sublimated it at some point."

Forgive me, but I have to say this... basically, Bradbury's title and the variation that is the topic of discussion have been used in both instances to title a fictionalized account of actual events?

OK, I had to say that. Flame away... I'm wearing asbestos lingerie!

Posted by: Rania at July 1, 2004 05:16 PM

Should MM have gotten RB's blessing?...Yes. Should the fact that he didn't cause such a controversy?...No.
Did Weird Al ever really need to get permission before parodizing the song?...Yes & No. The interesting thing is that any one song, depending on it's creation can have as few as one copyright or as many as three levels. Follow me. A song is made up of a score, lyrics and arrangement. So technically if you are parodizing a song and intend to use the real music, you could need upwards of 2 copyright permissions. If you are using the actual lyrics you'd need the lyricist's copyright as well.

But this is all a moot point considering that F911 is a work of satire, and is well outside the realm of using RB's intellectual or corporeal property. Notice how the furor over Al Frankens book was resolved quickly last year, eventhough he used the trademarked "Fair and Balanced" in his title.

Posted by: Sebilrazen at July 3, 2004 07:44 AM

Guys, guys. Obvious know-nothing democrats for sure.

"Your statement that Weird Al gets permission from the artists whom he parodies because he's decent and that it has nothing to do with copyright law is ludicrous."

It is accurate. You need to realize that there is an exception to copyright law for parody. Which you would if you weren't a democrat thief.

In addition, for the most part, anything under ASCAP or BMI licensing can be used, you just pay for it, you don't need permission (with exceptions, I'm not running a tutorial for ignorant Michael Moore fans).

Now the trademark interest in a book's title, and touching base with an author? Or why Blade Runner paid the author of the book of the same name a fee for the use of the name in a movie about "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?"

Moore is a hack, a liar and a thief, who is doing his best to steal from Bradbury, both in execution and for publicity.

I never thought of F911 as satire, but you make sense, acknowledging that it is nothing but lies and twisted ravings of a thief and plagerist.

Anyway, the Anon Again group is disbanded, but I thought I'd snark for them one last time.


Posted by: Anon Again at July 4, 2004 05:28 AM

I see that the Neo-conman Neo-Commie squad, fresh from their Trotskyite duty of exporting ideology at gunpoint (Bolshevik, Bushevik, same methods, only difference is the ideology they want to impose at gunpoint), is out here again, trying to do burn books like their Russian forebearers.

Farenheit 911: the temperature at which freedom burns.


BTW, I have not found one factual error in the information Michael Moore presented. His conclusions that he draws from that information may be wrong (I just saw that movie, and the paranoid conspiracy theory about Bush and the Saudis was especially silly), but not a single factual error has ever been brought to my attention. I've been looking at the Republican talking points about the factual errors in the movie. For example, regarding how many days of vacation Bush took in his first six months of office: the official Republican talking points say that Moore never presents George's case for why his vacations were actual working vacations. In fact, Moore presents Bush, in his own (admittedly stumbling) words, explaining that his vacations are working vacations. The same is true for all of the other "factual errors" mentioned in the Republican talking points that I was looking for as I watched the movie. THEY WEREN'T THERE! It's as if the Republicans were watching a different movie from the one I watched!

But then again, propoganda doesn't have to be truthful, and since the anti-Moore propoganda is just that -- propoganda, based on the Big Lie principle made famous by Goebbels so many decades ago -- the fact that it's all lies is, well, no surprise.

- Badtux the Libertarian Penguin

Posted by: BadTux at July 4, 2004 07:11 PM

The difference between Bradbury's use of another writer's words and Moore's is that Bradbury's are specific allusions. Moore doesn't seem to be alluding to Bradbury's context so much as to the fact that it's a really clever title. I don't know anything about copyright laws, but I do know that Bradbury's literary allusions refer to the works, not just the title. Reading these comments is leaving me torn between my left-wing politics and my understanding and appreciation of basic literary principles.

Posted by: Laura EnglishMajor at July 6, 2004 01:35 PM

I think Ray is probably angry because of the F-451 film in the works, and also because his title was used in such a political film. Ray has always claimed he didn't care for political or preachy writing (though he's done his share of preaching).

Just to add some fuel to the fire, I thought I'd point out some other titles Bradbury has borrowed. Most of the ones mentioned above are such common words and phrases (Kaleidoscope, Fever Dream, Cat's Pajamas, Driving Blind, Quicker than the Eye, etc.) that they are hardly worth mentioning -- those are just coincidences. I'll supply the real borrowed titles, but you can look up the original authors yourself. :)

"And the Moon Be Still As Bright"
"And the Rock Cried Out"
"Another Fine Mess"
"The Cold Wind and the Warm"
"The Cricket on the Hearth"
"The Golden Apples of the Sun"
"A Miracle of Rare Device"
"Perchance to Dream"

Some are literary, some are from films, and some are from old songs. But I think Bradbury expects readers to know these phrases already. He's not trying to fool anyone. But neither is Moore. I'm sure he didn't intend to pass that title off as his own invention. (Oops. I almost borrowed a line from Alice!)

If we all had to stop and explain our sources each time we made a reference or allusion, we'd never get anywhere. And it's no fun. Like explaining a joke to a stupid person.

Posted by: Agent4HARM at July 10, 2004 02:45 AM

In response to a posting made on the "fair and balanced blog"...

This isn't about whether or not Bradbury's book sales go up. It's about the fact that Michael Moore obviously borrowed the title and concept of Bradbury's book without even having the courtesy to touch base with the author. I support Moore's film and I'm a fan, but I am also a fan of Bradbury, and when someone so blatantly copies your work (i.e. Bradbury chose the title because 451 degrees fahrenheit is the temperature at which book paper burns, and Moore's film has said "the temperature at which freedom burns”), they should be respectful enough of the original artist to get their permission. Again, I thought the title was a great idea and I was thrilled when I heard it - but I assumed Moore had the good sense to communicate with Bradbury beforehand. Regardless of what the law states, it shows a lack of professionalism on Moore’s part. Granted, he’s not known for being a professional guy, but before you all immediately jump to his side of the issue, think how you feel if someone so obviously used a title or concept that you had created without even bothering to check with you.

Posted by: Go Bradbury! at July 11, 2004 05:44 PM

This is some of the funniest stuff I have ever read..a comments section being used as a message board..I hope 'Brianstorms' has been as amused as I. What a freakin' controversay..

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