Thumbs Down to Roger Ebert

by Johnny Debacle

Who likes movies and has two thumbsRoger Ebert is having a spat with his employer.

In a statement released Friday, the TV show’s distributor, Disney-ABC Domestic Television, said Ebert had “exercised his right to withhold use of the ‘thumbs’ until a new contract is signed.” Ebert is a copyright holder on the signature “thumbs up, thumbs down” judgment that’s part of each film review.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning critic responded in a statement Saturday on his website, saying he “had made it clear the Thumbs could remain during good-faith negotiations,” contrary to Disney’s press release.

When the founding fathers were drafting the Constitution, the thought that a binary thumbs up or down gesture would be copyrighted never crossed the brains that lay under their ridiculous wigs. This is something that needs to be protected for the author’s lifetime plus 70 years? Otherwise Ebert (and Siskel) would have had no incentive to create have invented it, you know, other than their hugely successful movie review show.

The only upside to this development is knowing that Disney (NYSE: DIS) is the party unable to use the Thumbs. Disney has been the semi-secret driver of the changes in copyright law over the last two decades, greatly extending their control of Mickey Mouse & Co, long after Walt kicked the can. Now, instead of being able for Ebert to have one too many Boston Cremes, they are forced to negotiate.

Recommendation: You have been living off Valley of The Dolls and Gene Siskel’s halo for dozens of years, Roger Ebert, and I am short you and your absurd copyright. Thumbs down, two of them.

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  1. Chris
    August 28th, 2007 | 11:24 am

    Do you have an opinion on the entire movie critic sector, or can you recommend a suitable index?

  2. To The Hilt
    August 28th, 2007 | 1:05 pm

    I would generally recommend shorting anybody whose sole source of revenue is talking-head related. Long those with a diversified revenue stream.

    Bob Costas
    Jimmy Roberts
    Tony Kornheiser

    Madden (Ace Hardware, Tinactin)
    Sir Charles Barkley (Srong Cash Balance)
    Jim Nantz (The Masters, a tradition unlike any other, exempts him from the short thesis)
    Tiki Barber (Cadillac, NFL Football if necessary)
    Ben Stein (supplements CNBC/Fox News income with royalties from Wonder Years, Ferries Bueller’s Day Off, Win Ben Stein’s Money)

  3. August 28th, 2007 | 5:08 pm

    Madden also has the video game. We are very short Gene Shalit. And we shorted Joel Siegel to death.

  4. McDanger
    August 28th, 2007 | 6:16 pm

    Long Charlie Rose, short Tavis Smiley. Except when he laughs at jokes he doesn’t get. I love that.

  5. bfellows
    August 28th, 2007 | 6:20 pm

    short Chris Matthews… in full disclosure: I have leap puts on him just in case the duel will Zell materializes

  6. Wootenany
    August 28th, 2007 | 11:23 pm

    Ebert is one of those few individuals truly worthy of the monniker “Twisted Little Homonculus”

  7. arbman
    August 29th, 2007 | 9:48 pm

    bfellows: wouldnt a better hedge just be a long Sam Zell position? lets face it – selling EOP at the top of the market, the musical christmas cards, the beard, the motorbikes, putting a financing condition in the TRB deal – I am VERY long Sam Zell. In fact, I am pounding the table right here, right now. Get on board before its too late.

  8. bfellows
    August 30th, 2007 | 11:11 am

    arbman – I like the thorough research except that you’re referring to the wrong Zell. I mean Zell Miller, the guy who challeneged Chris Matthews to a duel on that incredibly lame show Hardball. And I would definately not want to be long Zell Miller because with such a short expected maturity and current market conditions I’d be facing high theta and vega.

  9. arbman
    August 30th, 2007 | 4:30 pm

    Touche, bfellows. You have taken advantage of my ignorance of America’s worst “journalists”. Though I wonder whether a Sam Zell position would rise in sympathy with something good happening to a Zell Miller position? Cause people are, of course, idiots, and there aren’t too many “zells” floating around this planet. Maybe I’m overthinking this.

  10. bfellows
    August 31st, 2007 | 1:59 pm

    or, maybe we should look at a Zell ETF. want to be a manager? THEN YOU CAN TYPE IN CAPS ALL THE TIME.