In the new movie, "Flight," Denzel Washington's character, a pilot, is drinking a Budweiser beer while he lands a plane. Anheuser-Busch doesn't like the publicity and has asked Paramount to omit its logo from digital and future versions of the film.
In a statement to the Associated Press, Rod McCarthy, vice president of Budweiser said, "We would never condone the misuse of our products, and have a long history of promoting responsible drinking and preventing drunk driving. We have asked the studio to obscure the Budweiser trademark in current digital copies of the movie and on all subsequent adaptations of the film, including DVD, On Demand, streaming and additional prints not yet distributed to theaters."
A distributor of Stoli vodka, another alcohol represented in the movie, also is unhappy with the depiction of the brand. A representative of William Grant & Sons told the Associated Press, "Considering the subject matter of this film, it is not something in which we would have participated."
These companies may be out of luck. As the Associated Press explains, courts have ruled that movies can use representations of brands without permission:
"Trademark laws 'don't exist to give companies the right to control and censor movies and TV shows that might happen to include real-world items,' said Daniel Nazer, a resident fellow at Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project. 'It is the case that often filmmakers get paid by companies to include their products. I think that's sort of led to a culture where they expect they'll have control. That's not a right the trademark law gives them.'"
- What's your view of how alcohol is depicted in the movie? Do these companies have a right to try to protect their brand in this way?
- How do you think Paramount decided to use these brands? Did the movie producers not think about the impact on brands, did they consider the consequences and ignore them, or something else?
- How could this type of situation be prevented in the future? What are the responsibilities of filmmakers and brands?