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Ready Player One is a recent book and upcoming movie that makes heavy usage of famous (and less famous) characters from video games (also movies and shows). Did the book have to get permissions and license from the copyright holders of all those creators? Would the upcoming movie have had to get fresh licenses for its usage? This sounds like it would be prohibitively expensive since they use many extremely popular characters.

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    Why do you think a multimillion dollar budget would find licensing to be prohibitively expensive? – Nij Mar 11 '18 at 5:55
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    @Nij Because I would speculate that the licenses for extensive usage of extremely famous characters would be very expensive. And they still need to pay for all the CGI, salaries, etc that a normal movie needs. – David says Reinstate Monica Mar 11 '18 at 7:31
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    Very expensive is not prohibitively expensive. – Nij Mar 11 '18 at 7:37
  • @Nij If you can post an answer showing the details of how you arrived at 'very expensive' instead of 'prohibitively' expensive, I would gladly accept it :). – David says Reinstate Monica Mar 11 '18 at 15:00
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    @Nij justification: licenses are expensive. Licenses for big names are very expensive. Very many licenses for very many big names will very very expensive. Doing it twice for a book and a movie is very very very expensive. Can we move on to more interesting things now? – David says Reinstate Monica Mar 12 '18 at 18:01
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Did the book have to get permissions and license from the copyright holders of all those creators?

Probably not. This probably wouldn't have counted as a covered derivative work entitled to copyright protection and might have amounted to fair use with just mention in the text of a book

Would the upcoming movie have had to get fresh licenses for its usage?

Yes. It almost certainly did, probably at some considerable expense (although the producers may have already owned the rights to many of them) and there were probably some editorial changes in the characters made as a result of the negotiations to replace expensive licensor demands with less expensive characters.

Also, keep in mind that contracts can be creative and often are in the financing of movies. The license was likely for a percentage of profits rather than a flat dollar amount, which was budgeted to be reasonable. No license means no inclusion in the movie and the loss of exposure if not included is an incentive to deal in addition to the license fee as exposure may increase the value of the licensed property if the movie is good.

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