A Scouter and blog reader saw something familiar in the marketing campaign for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, the fourth and final movie in the popular franchise.
It was a three-finger sign — not unlike the one used by Scouts all over the world.
The reader asked me how Lionsgate, the studio behind the franchise, can use “one of our core symbols” without the BSA getting upset. With Mockingjay, Part 2 releasing on Friday, I went in search of the answer.
I think it’s kind of cool to see giant signs of the three-finger sign all over the world. And if Hunger Games gets more Scouts and Venturers interested in archery, as I discussed in 2012, then I like the franchise even more. But given that BSA is not involved with the film, is the use of the three-finger sign a violation of the BSA’s intellectual property rights?
I asked the BSA’s licensing and contracts attorney, Burgin Hardin, for his take.
“Understandably, there may be some people who view it as a nod to Scouting, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the film has crossed the line in terms of infringing on our rights,” Hardin says. “If movie-goers were led to believe the film was sponsored by or somehow affiliated with BSA, that would cross the line.”
Even still, you might say the odds are in the studio’s favor.
Hardin says a film is a form of speech that is protected by the First Amendment, which, generally speaking, affords filmmakers and other artists a certain degree of latitude to evoke and refer to other organizations in creative works. That freedom, while not absolute, applies to works of almost any shape or size, regardless of a work’s artistic value.
Hardin continues: “It’s inevitable that, from time to time, our culture will reflect themes, attitudes and symbols found in Scouting because Scouting is a prominent and long-standing institution of American life. Scouting references that are largely incidental are typically permissible.”