Santa Monica City Hall is looking into whether a popular shark-heavy movie owes it money for use of the iconic Santa Monica Pier.
While receiving an update on the world-famous structure during the City Council meeting last week, Councilmember Gleam Davis mentioned how the pier, which she said was the “calling card” for Santa Monica, was destroyed in the recent “Sharknado” movie.
Syfy Channel’s “Sharknado,” an absurd TV movie where sharks fly in the sky thanks to super tornadoes and then terrorize people, debuted earlier this month, amid a social media frenzy. There is a scene in the movie where the Ferris wheel comes unhinged and rolls down the pier.
Councilmembers joked amongst each other, asking whether or not the producers paid City Hall for use of the pier.
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said City Hall is looking into the matter.
“We’ve got a trademark of the pier [sign] so, generally speaking, to use it in a commercial venture they have to pay us,” Moutrie said last week.
“Here’s my understanding so far: to try and determine whether the use of the pier sign in conjunction with a movie was a copyright violation, we would need to look at how they used it,” Moutrie wrote in an e-mail to the Daily Press. “So, for instance, if the sign is in ads about the movie, maybe it is. If the sign merely appears in the movie, maybe not.”
Turns out, “Sharknado” doesn’t need permission or need to pay City Hall any money, Scott Meehan, attorney for The Asylum, the sales agent for “Sharknado,” said. The Asylum is a motion picture production, financing, and worldwide distribution studio, its website states.
“We didn’t have to pay the city for two reasons. One, we have First Amendment protection and we have protection under the doctrine for nominative fair use,” Meehan said. “The second part would mean if as long as you depict something in its actual state in order to refer to it or comment upon it, that is not a trademark violation. As long as we don’t sell T-shirts or coffee mugs with it, we’re fine.”
If you missed the shark infested movie, it will be shown in various theaters in Los Angeles for a special midnight showing Friday, Aug. 2.
This article originally appeared in the Santa Monica Daily Press.