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Groundskeeper Willie: [thinking] No, no, go easy on the wee one. His father's going to go crazy and chop 'em all into haggis.Willie: Shh... you wanna get sued?
Bart: What's haggis?
Willie: Boy, you read my thoughts! You've got "the shinning"!
Bart: You mean "shining".
Sometimes, a rather more direct Shout-Out or name dropping is attempted, but to do so would skirt dangerously close to trademark law. While there are plenty of ways to use substitutes or write around the trademarks, another way is to go ahead with the reference, but deliberately not go through with it, just far enough for the audience to know exactly who or what you're talking about.
There are many ways to get around this visually: Censor mosaic, a black bar over the eyes, or pull back and only make a strong resemblance. But with dialogue, a common way is to have a character obliquely reference the Fourth Wall by stopping the mention before it finishes, directly warning the speaker about getting their makers in trouble. In writing, especially for comics and manga, whatever word they want to say will be said by the character, but the text of the name itself will be partially blanked out or substituted with wingdings.
See Also: Writing Around Trademarks.
Anime and Manga
- Mahou Sensei Negima does one of these when some Humongous Mecha emerge during the battle of Mahora: "Is that a Gu_dam? It must be a Gun_am!" Elsewhere in the book, they're refered to as Ky_sh_nhei
- Suzumiya Haruhi in a Shout-Out to the Gundam series. (There were literally Gundams shooting, but heavily censored!)
Haruhi: "Bring out the * beep* dams!"
- Lucky Star: "Don't you have any special talents?" "Talents, hmm... I can name every single Po__mon!"
- They actually took this to the point where it verged on parody in one scene: Konata and her dad were talking about Gundam... while avoiding any names, images blurred, and censor bars over their eyes.
- Another episode censors Code Geass and Lelouch's name. Ironically, Bandai would later get the rights to license both Code Geass and Lucky Star.
- Also, the Image Song "Yuuchou Sentai Dararenjaa" cut short a reference to Kamen Rider Faiz. Also ironically, Bandai has the license to produce Kamen Rider merchandise.
- Thus they can make references to other properties they own. There's several referencess to Kamen Rider Den-O instead throughout, almost all of them being catchphrases of Momotaros. (And obviously Super Sentai as a whole with the name, and a couple veiled referencess to Ninpuu Sentai Hurricanger thrown in.)
- Also, they referenced Dragon Quest V like above. "A childhood friend? Or a rich lady? One has lots of money... and the ability to cast Boho_mi and I___zun." (Bohoimi=Midheal and Ionazun=Kaboom)
- The Hyper Dolls manga has this when the Gratuitous English naming scheme for the Monsters Of The Week runs into an arachnid creature.
- Variations would occasionally be lampshaded by Kawachi in Yakitate!! Japan.
- Happens pretty much every five minutes in Hayate the Combat Butler; Every single trademarked name is bleeped out, which leads to some pretty bleep-heavy sentences where Otaku Nagi is involved.
- A particularly funny example shows up when Hayate is about to use a sword technique whose name starts with "Hiten-". His opponent cuts him off, saying they can't risk that kind of reference, even with bleeps.
- In the manga, this is even lampshaded in the one instance it was actively avoided - when the Sega game Mushiking was mentioned without editing, one character wondered aloud about whether it should be. It was pointed out that they got permission to use it, and thus needed to repeat the game's name as much as possible.
Why don't you rich kids coax your parents to buy one!
- The anime's second season averts all this, with barely any lack of pop culture references.
- In Excel Saga there's a seiyuu joke where Excel is dressed similarly to Sailor Moon and does an In the Name of the Moon speech, and the bad guy says, "Hey, that's that anime from awhile ago, Sailor ****, right? Nah, that one's already over..."
- The first few minutes of Seitokai no Ichizon contain so many blatant Shout Outs the characters themselves start warning each other over the legal trouble they might suffer. This continues throughout the series only less concentrated.
- In Gintama, Katsura once attempted to say "It's not Zura, it's Mario", while donning an appropriate costume. He gets kicked in the face and chewed out before he can utter the last syllable of the phrase, which leads to him saying "It's not Zura, it's Katsuo" shortly after.
- Adam Warren ran this joke into the ground for his Gen 13 limited series Magical Drama Queen Roxy. Usually said by the "fairy god critter" (who also apologizes for saying "bibbity boppity boo" and mentioning the Whitney Houston version of Cinderella). Toward the end he does the death scene from Titanic with a large sign in front of "Jack's" face, saying "not really (a series of increasingly silly misspellings of Leo's name), really!!"
- From an old Wonder Man one-shot that featured Simon Williams ending up in the Mojo verse. Mojo's lackey points out that Marvel owns the Wonder Man copyright:
Mojo: No problem. A quick gender flip and we market him as Wonder Wo...
Lackey: Lawsuit city, dead ahead.
- A similar joke was used/expanded on in a one-panel gag in Marvel's What If, which asked the musical question, “What if Wonder Man was a woman, and Power Man was a girl?” The feminized heroes were clearly posed as if they were holding hands. The romantic gesture in question was covered up by a note from "Your Distinguished Competition" advising against printing the gag.
- From Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, there is a comment from an employ that says she will be punished, and will end up working on Taco Bell. On a little fote note, it says Don't sue me, I'm funny!.
- In Austin Powers in Goldmember, the events during a chase scene set in Japan include a cart carrying a statue of a Godzilla-like monster rolling through the streets. A random person in the street shouts "Run! It's Godzilla!" Another person, standing next to him, mentions that it's clearly not Godzilla, because if it were, it would violate copyright laws.
- In Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, the title characters have a Bongsaber Duel with the Cocknocker in their Bluntcave.
"I think George Lucas gon' sue somebody"
- In Kick-Ass the superhero Big Daddy is described several times as looking like Batman, almost always followed by a panicked "I never said he looked like Batman!!!"
- In Dorkness Rising, after one character produces a lightsaber from "the trunk", he's informed that "he can't use a lightsaber, it's not even the right system!"
Brother Silence: I don't see a lightsaber. That would be copyright infringement. I see a psionic spirit blade.
- Inverted in Blazing Saddles:
Mel Brooks: Thank you, Hedy, thank you.
Hedley Lamarr: It's not Hedy; it's Hedley. Hedley Lamarr.
Mel Brooks: What the hell are you worried about? This is 1874. You'll be able to sue her!
- Funnily enough, Hedy Lamar did end up suing the movie over the use of her name.
Live Action TV
- Done in-universe in ICarly. They start singing "Happy Birthday" on the webshow, only for Freddie to interrupt them and point out that it isn't public domain. They switch to "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow".
- From Mystery Science Theater 3000, we get:
"To infinity and..."
"Umm, Disney? Lawsuit?"
"And, um, other places!"
- The 10th volume of the DVD collections of the series was originally released with Godzilla Vs. Megalon; unfortunately, the rights fell through, and the future releases of volume "10.2" had an extra skit on the replacement The Giant Gila Monster disk where Dr. Forrester scolds TV's Frank for not getting the rights to the "Japanese Giant Monster Movie" (or as Frank and Joel put it, "(Mumble) vs. (Unintelligible)").
- The Muppet Show:
Scooter: The people that published the music from Camelot just called and they won't let you do it.
Kermit: What? I was willing to give them credit! I would've given them a big build up! I would have given anything to do the jousting scene!
Scooter: They want money.
Kermit: Cancel the jousting scene.
- Camelot must be a particularly good target because we get this gag in the Animaniacs episode "Sir Yaksalot":
"In the town of Camelot
"We love to sing all day,
"But we can't sing the movie score
"Or else they'll make us pay!"
- An episode of Stargate SG-1 has O'Neill suggesting that they name a new spaceship the Enterprise. He's quickly told they can't. While the series probably would've gotten away with it (NASA had a shuttle named the Enterprise, so it's likely fair game for spaceships now), having two active warships of the same name is a no-no (especially if you consider the Navy probably lobbied hard to control the spaceship program).
- The Colbert Report's
- Hilariously toyed with by James May on an episode of Top Gear where, while cooking during a camping episode, he spends about 2 minutes trying to describe a particular treat whose name can't be specifically used for legal reasons...but then finishes up with, "but of course you know they're Jaffa Cakes."
- Used in the classic Mad Magazine parody "Bat Boy and Rubin!"
Bat Boy: Now! Onto the window sill! Faster than a speeding bullet, Kapweeng! Up... up... up and away!
Rubin: Wait a minute, Bat Boy! That 'faster than a speeding bullet' is another character's routine!... It may be copyrighted! Want to get us sued?
- This and many other references to the fact that these characters are totally not those other comic book characters are payback for legal threats from DC concerning their previous parody, "Superduperman". Ironically, MAD had predicted they would get sued for their still earlier Dragnet parody, whose opening caption said, "Only the names haven't been changed so as not to protect the writer of this story!"
- In Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, the Indian chief sweetens his offer to sell New York to the Dutch by adding Staten Island to the package, and the real estate agents exclaims, "Is that a generous Indian? You'll have Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island too!" He then gets a phone call with the message that they'll have to pay royalties if they quote any more. The Indian threatens to bring on another phone call by mentioning his wife's preference for "baubles, bangles, bright shiny beads."
- In The Beatles' 1965 Christmas message to their fan club, John starts singing a song by The Four Tops:
John: It's the same old song, but a different meaning since...
George: Copyright, Johnny!
- Curt Henning, at the time formerly Mr. Perfect in the WWF (now WWE), cut off frequent associate Rick Rude from calling him perfect on WCW television so they wouldn't get sued.
Jarrett: James! Be serious for a moment! Their careers are already dead, they don't need another lawsuit!
- This is a frequent joke on Car Talk due to Tom and Ray's unabashed negative opinions of certain companies * coughGMChryslerFordcough* , though there have been several occasions when they've actually gotten in trouble.
- Super Robot Wars W when Lowe from Gundam SEED Astray accidentially re-routes all the Red Frame's power to one of its hand plugs, and attacks an enemy with it. While this attack is known in its original series as the "Thunder Ball", Gai Daigoji is cut off before he can suggest calling it the "Shining Finger" - by a character who shares the same voice actor as Ryusei Date, in a bit of creative irony (Ryusei's own R-1 has the completely original T-Link Knuckle).
- In the Japanese version of Mega Man 7, Mega Man will sometimes converse with Roll or Auto instead of Dr. Light after acquiring a new weapon (screenshots with translations here). One of these is likely meant as a parody of the trope since it references a property jointly-owned by Capcom:
Mega Man: "With this Slash Claw, I can slice through anything."
Auto: "Incredible! It's like SXrXder HiXyuu!"
Mega Man: "Promise you won't say that again."
- Similarly, one episode of "Teach Me, Miss Litchi!" has Litchi comparing Ragna to Chipp Zanuff, prompting the former to yell "Gauntlet Hades!" to "obscure" the meaning.
- In the English dub of that episode, she's just interrupted while mentioning Chipp's name by Taokaka loudly entering Litchi's clinic.
- Lunar, when asked about the birds pulling a wagon. "These? They're Choc....uh....Chuckaboos!"
- In Paper Mario the Thousand Year Door, after the chapter's end, you can still go hide by the birds in Twilight Town and listen to them talk. One of the birds wants to open a pay site for real estate called "Luigi's Mansion". The other bird thinks he's heard the name somewhere before, and warns him against using it, lest he get sued. (They go ahead and say the name, because both are by Nintendo.)
- This exchange from Uncharted 2:
Nathan: I'll go down there and create a distraction, while you take one of those nice-looking Jee--
- The Interactive Fiction game Toonesia, totally not set in the Looney Tunes world (and starring many familiar-looking characters). Should you examine the Tasmanian Devil:
The Tazmanian Devil is a real animal, not a copyright of a certain large corporation with lots of legal muscle. I can therefore mention it by name in this game. Unfortunately, if I were to describe a real-life Tazmanian Devil, you'd only be disappointed--they don't look like much. So, I won't describe the slavering beast before you. And if you assume that it has a boxy body attached to short thin legs, two large maniacal eyes set above a wide, drooling, sharp-fanged mouth, and brown fur all over, then YOU'RE violating copyright, not me.
- Coga Suro has Steve announcing that he's found a name for his Ridiculously Human Robot -as it changes into a costume resembling that of Marvel's The Vision, Steve has just about enough time to announce it as 'The Vis-' before Jerry interrupts him by smiting him with an object.
- In The Wotch, Anne attempts to make Jason's comics into moving pictures, but instead brings them to life... as obvious Expy clones. When Jason suggests that magic has to obey copyright laws, Robin points out that even he, a non-comic fan, can tell which character is which, and starts to name them, to be quickly interrupted with:
Jason: Shut up! Do you want to invoke the wrath of the Lawsuit Gods?!
- Mister Mighty's battle cry has to be approved by his team's lawyers.
- In this early Order of the Stick strip, lawyers from Wizards of the Coast intervene in a battle to remove their intellectual property.
- This is later used to Vaarsuvius's advantage when he ends up in a fight with a Drizzt knock-off.
- Later we discover that he's protected by parody clause and allowed to return.
- This is later used to Vaarsuvius's advantage when he ends up in a fight with a Drizzt knock-off.
- ...It's a keybla- NO, IT'S NOT, SHUT UP.
- Eight Bit Theater uses this quite a bit with characters like "The Sulk" or "Arachna-dude" and a few others throughout.
- Nearly every episode of The Allen and Craig Show involves a scheme that revolves around Allen copying a popular television show, movie, or internet meme/trend in his attempts to gain notoriety, including but not limited to House, Hells Kitchen, and the popular Diet Coke and Mentos YouTube video.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh Cr@psule Monsters when Tristan finds a Pikachu-like mon:
- Another Yugioh Abridged Example was, strangely enough, an inversion of this trope. Tea said "It is on in a matter similar to that of Donkey Kong." Shortly afterwards, Nintendo filed a trademark on the real phrase, "It's on like Donkey Kong."
- Hogan vs. Flair bills a number of WWE and TNA wrestlers under other names, ostensibly for just this reason. . For example The Dudley Boyz/Team 3D are called "Team 3rd Dimension", with Bubba Ray billed as "Bowling Shirt" and D-Von called "Camo Pants".
- The Trope Namer is a line from one of The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror segments, as seen in the page quote.
- In another Simpson episode, Lisa tells the story of Snow White. The blue-haired lawyer guy tells her she can't because the tale belongs to Disney, but Lisa counters this by claiming the tale has been out forever and isn't owned by anyone. Plus the dwarves were her own creation.
"Ho hi, ho hi, it's time to say goodbye. If Disney sues, we'll claim fair use, ho hi ho hi!"
- In one episode, "Sherri Bobbins" is immediately recognized to be an obvious Expy of Mary Poppins, but she explains that she's a wholly original character, like "Ricky Rouse" or "Monald Muck".
- Also, in the comic, everyone is about to sing Happy Birthday to You, until the blue-haired lawyer advises them against it.
- Notably averted in Family Guy's Stephen King parody, which ends with this incredibly and hilariously nonchalant line:
Peter: Thank you, Stephen King; we'll see you in court.
- In an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, the Plutonians use a device called a Fargate to cross time and space.
Emory: "I think he went through the Starg-"
Oglethorpe: "IT IS A FARGATE! F! Goes far, get it? From the makers of Findependence Day! We're NOT getting sued!"
- And the not-Powerpuff Girls (honest!) with a mohawk and in a wheelchair on their T-shirt.
- This from "2-and-a-Half-Star Wars Out Of Five".
Master Shake: Whoa! Where in the hell did you get a lightsa...
Frylock: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! Waver, lightwaver! Very different from what you are about to say.
- On Celebrity Deathmatch, Tobey Maguire battles Jake Gyllenhaal with a box from which spring forth giant metal tentacles which are clearly NOT Doctor Octopus's arms from Spider-Man 2 because that, points out the announcer, would be copyright infringement.
- In Yin Yang Yo, there's a minor villain named The Puffin. Like The Penguin, he has an umbrella and a top hat, but as Yang points out: As long as they specify that he is a puffin, they can't be sued.
- Tiny Toon Adventures has done this quite a few times.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic once made an appearance in an episode of Eek the Cat. When Eek starts gushing about Al's music, Al shushes him with "You sing one note, and you'll be paying some goofball's publishing company from now 'til the end of forever. Do you want that? Huh? Do you?!"
- One South Park ends with a fourth-wall lean about how the characters (i.e. creators) are free to exercise their freedom of speech regarding Scientology being a scam and are not afraid of being sued. Cue a credits roll entirely consisting of John and Jane Smiths.
- Clerks the Animated Series dealt with this a few times. During Episode 3's spoof of Outbreak, the show stops to explain that all references to Dustin Hoffman will be replaced with Al Pacino (due to a recent lawsuit by Hoffman).
- In Episode 5, Randall's high school yearbook photo has his head placed over the famous photo of General Nguyen. For reasons that eluded the writers, adding a fictional character to a cartoon version of a copyrighted photo didn't legally constitute parody - until they added a caption..
- Subverted in Hey Arnold episode "False Alarm". Helga talks about going to Wrestlemania to see Haystacks Calhoun and there isn't even a single wink or nudge at the camera.