Spoiler Alert: if you haven’t seen the new James Bond film “No Time To Die” or have no idea of its content,

watch the film first, and read this later.*

I love the whole cinema experience sometimes even more than the movies themselves. The comfy chairs, the popcorn, the wide screen and the sound system – all meant to enhance your experience.

So when I got to do some professional thinking after watching the new James Bond film (those three hours were a bit rough) it was a nice additional extra.

Here is your spoiler: James Bond (“double-O-seven”) dies. James Bond was killed in action. No more James Bond unless risen from the dead. You got the idea.

I was asking myself, who gets to decide such a dramatic decision when a fictional character that’s been around for nearly 70 years (and never got older btw) is involved?

The James Bond series is based on a fictional British secret service agent that was created in 1953 by Ian Fleming. The character was the basis for twelve novels, two short-story collections all written by Fleming and other authorized Bond novels. The character has also been adapted for television, radio, comic strip, video games and films.

Each of these works stand on its own but the leading character is always the same: His name – James Bond, title – 007 and main characteristics, mainly being a fearless, ladies’ guy (and I’m being gentle) spy with cool gadgets.

A fictional character is an intellectual property right in itself. In Israel only, there are several court judgments on this topic, even one with regard to which I had the pleasure of litigating. From Charlie Chaplin’s “The Tramp”[1], through Walt Disney’s “Donald Duck”[2] and the Israeli Hasamba books[3], all protagonists are fictional characters that supposedly can live forever.

So, who gets the right to “kill” them??

From a legal point of view, whoever owns the rights in this work (the character) also “owns” their lives. From a philosophical point of view, the answer is not so simple. Courts don’t deal with philosophical questions, though.  Still, it would be interesting to try to build such an argument should someone else ever attempt to revive James Bond. Further, can “killing” James Bond be considered as changing the character and creating a new one? And what about the fact that a new 007 was created in the new film? Is it an independent “work”, different from “James Bond”?

Just to add to the complexity, I should note that in some countries (Canada for example) the character of James Bond is no longer copyrighted due to the Berne Convention’s rules that determine that works enter into the public domain 50 years after the death of the author. “James Bond” entered into the public domain in 2015 in those countries, while in Israel, he did not.

RIP James Bond.

[1] Civil Appeal 8393-96 Mif’al Ha’payis v. The Roy Export Establishment Company.

[2] Civil Appeal 2678-92 Dudu Geva v. Walt Disney Co.

[3]  Civil Case 1437-02 Hana Mosinzon v. Shifra Ha’efrati.

*All information presented in the article is general information only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion.

Adi Barkan-Lev

About Adi Barkan-Lev

An experienced attorney specializing in Intellectual Property matters. Providing consulting, prosecution and legal services in all areas of Intellectual Property, including copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, patents, commercial wrongs, counterfeit goods and imitations.