“Warner Bros is being sued for the alleged unauthorized use of two cats that have achieved internet fame,” reports the BBC.
Nyan Cat and Keyboard Cat, the two characters that have been illegally used by Warner Bros, are quirky memes: Nyan Cat has a Pop-Tart body, and Keyboard Cat, well, plays a keyboard.
The characters appear in several Scribblenauts games, describes The Verge, and “both memes have registered copyrights, with trademark applications pending.”
Charles Schmidt and Christopher Orlando Torres, the cats’ original creators, express their beef with Warner Brothers, noting that stealing their characters is the same as stealing any other, like using the likeness of any Warner Brothers character for another game.
"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,” says Torres, “doesn't give these companies a right to take our work for free in order to make profits for themselves, especially considering too that [Warner Brothers] would be the first to file lawsuits against people who misappropriate their copyrights and trademarks."
A question in this regard is to the difference between creating a spin-off and downright copying. “People built their own alternate Nyan Cats or spliced Keyboard Cat into videos to ‘play them off,’ drawing attention to the original,” writes The Verge, which is what helped to propel the characters’ popularity to such great heights in the first place. For example, “a YouTube video combining the cat animation with a Japanese pop song was the fifth most-viewed YouTube clip in 2011,” explains the BBC.
The official complaint illicits that Warner Bros and 5th Cell "knowingly and intentionally infringed" both claimant's ownership rights. However, both Warner Brothers and 5th Cell, the game’s developer, have yet to comment on the case.