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A screenshot of the Netflix page for Bandersnatch, a movie in which the viewer can choose the actions of the main character
A screenshot of the Netflix page for Bandersnatch, a movie in which the viewer can choose the actions of the main character

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Bad Choice: Netflix sued by Choose Your Own Adventure publisher

Netflix is being sued by a childrens's book company over a movie that allows viewers to choose the actions of the characters.

Chooseco, which owns the trademark to the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books, is claiming that its brand, which is targeted at children, has been damaged because it is associated with the movie Bandersnatch. It claims the movie "can include references to and depictions of a demonic presence, violent fighting, drug use, murder, mutilation of a corpse, decapitation, and other upsetting imagery."

It also said the lead character in the movie explicitly referenced “a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book”. Choose Your Own Adventure books allow readers to make choices by turning to different pages depending on the choice. Similarly, in the Netflix movie Bandersnatch, which was released in December 2018 as a feature-length episode of the Black Mirror series, viewers are able to select branching story paths, similar to how the books function.

Choose Your Own Adventure books, which were first released in 1979, used to be popular in the 1980s and 1990s but became out of print in 2003. They were re-launched by Chooseco in 2006.

Chooseco claimed it was in extensive negotiations with Netflix since 2016 but Netflix did not receive a license in the end. It said 20th Century Fox currently holds the option to develop a series based on the Choose Your Own Adventure books, and claims Netflix is illegally benefiting from perceived association with the brand.

Chooseco is accusing Netflix of “infringement, dilution and unfair competition,” and demanding “at least US$25 million in damages or Netflix’s profits, whichever is greater,” as well as injunctions against further behavior by Netflix.

We think this is the first time Choose Your Own Adventure books have been in the limelight since their heyday. It is seen as the minnow in the lawsuit as it goes against the behemoth that is Netflix, which has been producing a lot of content in the past year while attracting several lawsuits.

We previously wrote about the video streaming company being sued for US$50 million by The Satanic Temple for copying a statue that they made in the Netflix series, "Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina". There were a lot of points of similarity between The Satanic Temple's and Netflix's version. It did not surprise us that Netflix settled the case out of court with The Satanic Temple.

Although the Choose Your Own Adventure books are known for allowing the reader to make decisions by flipping to different pages of the book, it is not suing Netflix for using the same medium. It is suing Netflix for tarnishing the reputation of its books by introducing adult content in Bandersnatch and infringing upon their trademark.

Chooseco also made an interesting point about how it is using nostalgia as part of its marketing to "hook" adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s, who it considers former readers of Choose Your Own Adventure books, and get them to buy the books for their children.

The court will ultimately have to decide whether its brand will be irrevocably tarnished by the adult elements of the Netflix movie Bandersnatch. Chooseco claims to have sold in excess of 265 million copies of their Choose Your Own Adventure books, but they printed just 620,000 copies for distribution in the US in 2018.

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Mark Laudi

Mark Laudi

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