Ray Bradbury is pissed at Michael Moore for naming his new movie “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

Seems Ray Bradbury is upset with Michael Moore’s new movie title being a twist on the title of one of Bradbury’s most famous novels:

‘Fahrenheit 451’ author Bradbury demands Moore change his film’s title – SFGate.com

Ray Bradbury is demanding an apology from filmmaker Michael Moore for lifting the title from his classic science-fiction novel “Fahrenheit 451” without permission and wants the new documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” to be renamed.

“He didn’t ask my permission,” Bradbury, 83, told The Associated Press on Friday. “That’s not his novel, that’s not his title, so he shouldn’t have done it.”

I love Ray Bradbury’s work as a science fiction author and it was reading his novel Fahrenheit 451 as a child that sparked my interest in gaining knowledge and the issues surrounding the First Amendment. In particular I was heavily influenced by a line of dialogue from Fire Captain Beatty in which he justifies the burning of books because the ideas they hold are harmful to the people’s happiness:

    “Give the people contests they win by remembering the words to more popular songs…. Don’t give them slippery stuff like philosophy or sociology to tie things up with. That way lies melancholy.”

Having said that, this little temper tantrum from Bradbury is very disappointing. Perhaps it’s just him getting crotchety with old age, but there’s a certain irony in Bradbury bitching about Moore’s play on words considering that Bradbury is guilty of it himself. As Silicon Valley.com columnist Dan Gillmor points out, Bradbury borrowed from William Shakespeare for the title of Something Wicked This Way Comes and Walt Whitman for I Sing the Body Electric. Considering Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 and Walt Whitman on March 26, 1892 I would be greatly surprised if Bradbury got the permission of either author before making use of their works as titles for his own projects. At least Moore used a twist on the title instead whereas Bradbury did not. When asked if he planned to sue, Bradbury has the following comment:

Bradbury, who is a registered political independent, said he would rather avoid litigation and is “hoping to settle this as two gentlemen, if he’ll shake hands with me and give me back my book and title.”

It seems senility must also be settling in, otherwise Bradbury would realize he doesn’t have legal grounds to sue. Again as Dan Gilmor points out, you can’t copyright a title and thus Moore could have used the title without modifying it if he really had wanted to regardless of whether Bradbury likes it or not.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised. For being such an intelligent man capable of writing a book as affecting as Fahrenheit 451 and speaking eloquently about the issue of censorship, he’s still managed to say some pretty stupid things over the years in various interviews and the like. For example he’s not real keen on the Internet in general or why anyone would want to talk to “all those morons who are living across the world somewhere”, as he put it. Just goes to show you can be very intelligent and yet very clueless at the same time.

11 thoughts on “Ray Bradbury is pissed at Michael Moore for naming his new movie “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

  1. Bradbury should be thanking Moore for the publicity! Apparently there are new editions of “Fahrenheit 451” due to be released this summer and there are rumors that Mel Gibson may be interested in doing a another “451” movie. Bradbury is obviously not stupid enough to think Moore’s book is damaging his reputation.

  2. I don’t know about publicity. 50% of the country thinks Bush is scum and 50% love him.

    I don’t think Bradbury would be all that upset if this was the first time someone has taken liberty with his work. It’s happened quite often.

    I think he would have been happy to let Moore use the name had he simply asked. The problem is, that he didn’t until after the movie was in distribution.

  3. Indeed, legally there is little Bradbury can do.
    Moore’s producers already approved the title through the MPAA title registration system… where even “Batman 5” is redflagged for being too similar to “Batman 1 – 4”, and paperwork needs to be signed off before the new Batman title can be used.

    That said, I’m sure that at some point the owners of the film rights for “Farenheit 401” either signed off on Moore’s use, or didn’t bother to challenge it. Either way, Bradbury’s handlers (ie lawyers or film reps) are the ones who failed.

    But, indeed, Moore avoided giving Bradbury a courtesty return phone call when the issue first arose. On the bright side, it means more free publicity for both of them.

  4. Bradbury would not need to get permission from William Shakespeare since his works is already in the public domain.

    As from protecting a ‘title’ of a work. I would guess an action based on passing off, which subsists as a independent right in common law apart from copyright could be used. As long as Bradbury’s work is still copyrighted since passing off cannot be used to create a class of perpetual copyright. But since the title of a work cannot be copyrighted, would that perversely improve Bradbury’s position? Must do some digging on passing off.

    No of Times the site claims I did not type in the correct word / No of times Submitted: 6

  5. PT, it seems there are enough people having trouble with the captchas that the folks at pMachine are looking into it. They’ve asked us to try and determine what commonalities might exist between folks who are having issues.

    Would you mind dropping me a note about what ISP you’re using? If you’re using a proxy server? What browswer? Etc? Same for anyone else that’s having troubles with the captchas.

  6. From what I’ve been told (friend of a friend of a friend thing) the real reason for Bradbury’s comments are to distance himself from any political backlash so that it won’t affect the new film version of “451”.

    He has no intention of suing, he just doesn’t want the public to think that the name implies an endorsement of Moore’s film.

  7. No, it doesn’t. If Bradbury wants to distance himself from the backlash, all he has to do is to say so. As is, he comes across as non-comittal on the flick’s subject matter and sour grapes otherwise.

  8. He is non-comittal on the subject matter. Bradbury has maintained a life long dis interest in real world politics, he has no interest in current events and takes no sides politically.

  9. so bradbury thinks he invented the word fahrenheit? i found out it existed before bradbury used it! plus fahrenheit 451 is the temperature that burns paper so bradbury ripped off his title from that. plus, you can’t copyright a title so that’s 3 reasons why bradbury is a whiny crybaby who’s jealous of moore. goto http://mystic_lonewolf.tripod.com for moore bush rock opera that’s better than anything bradbury ever wrote

  10. Bradbury should be thanking Moore for the publicity!

    He is, inwardly. Outwardly, he is harnessing that publicity, and expanding it through crotchetiness. For example, before he complained like that, I would have guessed that he had died.

    No of Times the site claims I did not type in the correct word / No of times Submitted: 6

    Two years later, and they still haven’t fixed it. I don’t think it is the browser or ISP, I think the pictures and text of some words just don’t match up on the server.

    so bradbury thinks he invented the word fahrenheit? i found out it existed before bradbury used it!

    Fahrenheit is someone’s last name. I doubt Bradbury got the guys permission. And of course it existed. Any title with meaning uses pre-existing words.

    Like most whining on the internet, it is completely baseless, hypocritical and silly. Much ado about nothing. Sorry for not getting your permission to use that phrase, Shakespeare.

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