Nyan Cat Creator Comments on Warner Bros. Lawsuit

Responding to the widespread reporting that the "Nyan Cat" creator and "Keyboard Cat" creator sued Warner Bros. over the inclusion of the Internet memes in the game Scribblenauts Unlimited, Christopher "Nyan" Orlando Torres said that he tried to talk to Warner Bros. about the issue but was disrespected on multiple occasions.

He also said on his Tumblr page that they refused to offer any compensation and that he has never tried to stop non-commercial use of his meme within the Internet community:

"We reached out to the companies in hopes of working out an amicable resolution of the issue, yet were disrespected and snubbed each time as nothing more than nuisances for asking for fair compensation for our intellectual property. That’s not right. I have no issues with Nyan Cat being enjoyed by millions of fans as a meme, and I have never tried to prevent people from making creative uses of it that contribute artistically and are not for profit. But this is a commercial use, and these companies themselves are protectors of their own intellectual property. Many other companies have licensed Nyan Cat properly to use commercially.

In Scribblenaut Unlimited, you have to actually type out the words “Nyan Cat” and “Keyboard Cat” to get our characters to appear in the game. In fact, the game forbids you from making any copyright references in their games with a pop-up error. Meanwhile, 5th Cell recently negotiated proper rights for several Nintendo characters for their games. Just because popularity with millions of fans has caused Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat to become famous by virtue of their viral or meme nature, doesn’t give these companies a right to take our work for free in order to make profits for themselves, especially considering too that they would be the first to file lawsuits against people who misappropriate their copyrights and trademarks. It just isnt fair.

I’ve been working alongside with the creator of the music and the lady who uploaded it to YouTube since the start. There are many reputable companies that have respected our rights and negotiated fees to use our characters commercially. Warner Bros. and 5th Cell should have done the same.

Since Warner Bros. and 5th Cell chose to act as if we had no rights in characters we created, filing a lawsuit was the only way we had to protect our intellectual property rights from being used for others’ commercial profit without our consent. Too often normal artists like us don’t have the means and resources to protect our rights against big media corporations who use our work for their own profit without permission. We are looking here just to be treated fairly and to be fairly compensated for our creative work."

Thanks to EZK for the link. Nyan Cat image Christopher Orlando Torres' Tumblr page

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  1. 0
    Neeneko says:

    It is true they probably did not, but tracking down every seller of unlicensed nyancat imagery would probably be cost prohibitive for the copyright holder and so he does not bother.

    What an individual is capable of is somewhat less then companies that have dedicated IP departments sitting around looking for things to do.

  2. 0
    hellfire7885 says:

    And what about those who make and sell said items on sites like Etsy? I have a hard time believing all of them went an got permission first.

  3. 0
    Neeneko says:

    I suspect much of the attitude comes from confusion over copyright and the idea of having right of control vs exercising that right.

    Memes tend to be what they are because of derivative works the community produces.  People can reason that if not for such works, which the author has the right to disallow under copyright, the original work would not have become as widely known as it is.

    Where it tends to break down is people have trouble with the idea of having copyright over something and not using those rights to their fullest, so when they hear 'meme xyz is copyrighted' they jump to the image of the creator cracking down rather then the creator saying 'yes, I have the right to stop you, and I choose not to exercise that right while still retaining the copyright'.

  4. 0
    SeanB says:

    Interesting thoughts from the community here. Lets see if I can accurately sum them up.

    If someone creates a character which becomes so popular that it gains "meme" status, then the character is no longer owned by the creator, but by the people who shared it?

    I really hope you make something so popular some day.

  5. 0
    GrimCW says:

    So if a musician posts their music video on Youtube and it becomes popular, your saying they no longer own the video or its content?


  6. 0
    Yuuri says:

    If you record something, it's your copyright. Even if you go on to sharing it on Youtube, it's still your recording, your copyright.

  7. 0
    faefrost says:

    Keyboard Cat may be on shaky ground as it is principally a publicly shared you tube video of a cat, so I am not sure that the mem has much relationship to actual intelectual property or images created by the originator.

    But Nyan Cat is a piece of distinct art. It is a graphic image that was specifically created by a professional graphic artist. It is part of his body of work. It is something that he has licensed out and clearly has a mechanism for doing so. It's appearance as a meme no more diminishes his rights to commercial use of his artwork  than say Hello Kitty's worldwide popularity diminshes Sanrio's.  

  8. 0
    GrimCW says:

    Usually the origin of a meme isn't so simple though. Things aren't usually created to BE a meme, they just become one.

    This seems to be one of those instances where the creator just made these things for fun, and they gained popularity until they became memes.

    So much like a person using quotes or such from a movie, its alright as long as no ones making money off it commercially. but use those commercially for profit, and watch how fast one of these big companies jump on you for "lost profit"… oh i'm sorry.. i meant "Copyright protection"

  9. 0
    Scott1701c says:

    If I had too guess, they did not have too because those companies respected the rights of the copyright owner and worked A Fair deal for the use.


    The article says it all (towards the end) that other people had come to them and negotiated proper deals and paid fair fees too use the Copyright owners work.

  10. 0
    Sajomir says:

    I get that about owning a meme, but this wasn't made with the intent of being a meme. It's just a video whose character got ripped off commercially.

    It'd be no different if a character I drew somehow became a meme picture and someone put them in a game commercially. I still own the character, regardless of the public meme use.

  11. 0
    Truec says:

    The very concept of physically owning a meme bugs me for some reason.  That said, it seems a bit hypocritical for Big Media to ignore others IP rights while they whine about how pirates keep violating their IP rights.

  12. 0
    GrimCW says:

    Not really, because poptarts aren't the only ones in that style of pastry anymore.

    Otherwise they've a LOT of lawsuits to be filing.

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