YouTube star has dream Mustang build taken away after copyright battle
What do you get when you graft a 1967 'Eleanor' body kit onto a 2015 Ford Mustang? Probably a cease and desist followed by a court ordered seizure.
For many people 2020 seems to get worse by the week. For Chris Steinbacher from 'B for Build' it got a lot worse. His documentation of transforming a 2015 Ford Mustang GT into the classic 'Eleanor' shape from the 2000 movie 'Gone in 60 Seconds' has been tossed into the rubbish bin. Chris updated his channel and talked about how the Mustang has been seized and all videos of the build are gone.
I doubt many people would recognize this as a Mustang.
Chris states his lack of a license to the copyright and trademark for the 'Eleanor' is where he ran into issues. The car itself is now property of the company Gone in 60 Seconds. The owner of the company, Denice Shakarian Halicki, is known for enforcing the trademark to 'Eleanor' star car with such fervor that she even went after Carroll Shelby in the mid-2000s and won.
You might be wondering, how did Denice Halicki come to own the rights to Eleanor? Denice is the widow of Toby Halicki who directed, produced, and acted in the original 'Gone in 60 Seconds' movie. The original movie, of course, had a copyright and stared a 1971 Mustang Fastback that was uniquely modified to have the appearance of a Mach 1. After Toby's death in 1989 his rights fell to his beneficiary, Denice and she has owned them ever since.
Where this gets strange is that it appears the car Chris was trying to emulate wasn't originally subject to a copyright and trademark. The second 'Gone in 60 Seconds' movie was released in 2000 and produced by Disney. The 'Eleanor' from this second movie is stark in contrast to the yellow pony from the first film. Disney and Denice struck a deal where the company stated that it does not own any rights to 'Eleanor'.
The body panels actually fit quite well after Chris got his hands on it.
Denice was not the first to apply for a trademark for the second silver 'Eleanor'. That trophy goes to Carroll Shelby. He applied for it first and only after filing suit against Shelby, did Denice apply for her own trademark for the silver 'Stang. Ultimately, Denice was vindicated in court and confirmed to own the rights to any Mustang named 'Eleanor' or tied to the 'Gone in 60 Seconds' movie.
Now that's out of the way, it brings us back to Chris and his 2015 Mustang / 'Eleanor' hybrid. I was passively watching this build and noticed he recently got it running and driving. I hadn't seen any updates since - until I saw everything implode.
There are plenty of instances of companies viciously protecting their intellectual property. We as a people should support intellectual rights, as anyone should get credit for the things they create. Where I think this particular case strikes a cord is going after the little guy. There could have been so much more possible had the company been able to strike a deal with Chris and let him continue his build. Publicity for all is a win for all.
A horse by any other name could have flown under the wire.
Due to the current legal status Chris isn't able to elaborate about details of the chain of events. In an interview with TheDrive, Chris stated, "I do know that I can give my opinion on the team at gonein60seconds.com and tell you they are terrible people, parading around as car people, [with] a history of being lawsuit-happy dickheads. Just the most unpleasant, terrible people I've ever had the misfortune to have to deal with in my life," he said. "And that's not just me being mad about what happened, it's just the way these people decided to handle themselves."
Companies that enforce their trademark and copyrights to seemingly fanatical levels aren't able to pick and choose who they go after as, in my opinion, it could be seen as a defense for the defendant. 'Why are you going after me, when you didn't go after him?' It seems like a valid excuse - cherry picking intellectual lawsuits to go after the low hanging fruit. In this case, Chris was low hanging fruit, but he was also fruit, and they want all the fruit for themselves, because they can.