Netflix is facing a lawsuit from the publishers of the Choose Your Own Adventure book series over Black Mirror’s interactive episode, Bandersnatch. The feature-length special, which allows viewers to navigate their way through one young game designer’s descent into paranoid madness, was released at the end of 2018, promptly trending on Twitter as viewers shared their discoveries of different endings.
Now, though, Chooseco, the publishers of the original Choose Your Own Adventure books are suing Netflix for infringing on its trademark. First published in 1979, the series (published by Bantam Books, later acquired by Chooseco) originally ran into the 1990s with 184 titles in total. The “gamebook” genre was born, with other publishers also releasing their own interactive titles.
In the Black Mirror episode, protagonist Stefan Butler, who is making a computer game based on ‘Bandersnatch’, a fictitious book, describes said novel as a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure book’. Chooseco’s claim (which you can read here – via Polygon) argues that makes it sound like it’s an official entry in the series, saying that the dark content within Bandersnatch the episode tarnishes the famous trademark by association.
“Netflix has benefitted from its association with Chooseco’s iconic brand. Bandersnatch has been discussed wildly in the press and many reviews of the movie include the phrase or even reference the book series,” says the complaint. “The association… has been widely discussed on social media. That discussion demonstrates the dilution of the brand.”
The filing also notes that in 2016, Netflix “actively pursued a license to use Choose Your Own Adventure in connect with films and interactive cartoons”. Indeed, Netflix has previously released multiple animated interactive series, for both Puss in Boots and Buddy Thunderstruck. While the two companies engaged in “extensive negotiations” for “a number of years”, Netflix did not receive a licence, with Chooseco subsequently writing a cease-and-desist request to Netflix to stop using the Choose Your Own Adventure trademark when marketing another TV programme.
The lawsuit is asking for damages of at least $25 million. Netflix has not officially commented on the matter at the time of writing. The issue follows similar lawsuit late last year, which saw the Satanic Temple sue Netflix over copying elements of its design a Baphomet statue for a prop in Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. That lawsuit was quickly settled.
You can read our review of Black Mirror: Bandersnatch here.