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The Wrong Prometheus
By Kenny Yeo - on 06 Dec 2012, 7:30am

Big film studio goes after small Portuguese watch company?

Copyright is essential. It gives creators of an original work exclusive rights to their own work and without it, there would be no incentive for people to create and innovate. Copyright is a much discussed issue in the film industry and in this case, I want to talk about 20th Century Fox, and more specifically, the movie Prometheus.

One of the most eagerly anticipated shows of 2012, the story of Prometheus precedes that of the Alien franchise and tells the story of the origin of mankind - or at least that’s what I understood from watching the movie. The choice of name becomes apparent when you know that the name Prometheus actually originated from Greek mythology.

Prometheus was the Greek titan who created man from clay. More famously, he was the one who stole the gift of fire from the Gods and taught man how to use it. For that he was punished by Zeus, who bound him to a rock and had an eagle eat his liver every day - the liver would regrow each night. For those who have watched Prometheus, I think you can sort of see the allusions here.

Film studios are notorious for protecting their copyright and in this case, 20th Century Fox has recently filed a DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyrights Act) request to Google against a handful of websites that they believe to be infringing on their copyright. They are not suing the sites, not yet, but they are requesting Google to remove these sites from search results. You can see the DMCA request here.

Looking at the list of infringing URLs, we can see that most of them are legit complaints. Many of them are video streaming sites offering visitors the chance to watch the full Prometheus movie for free. Unfortunately, there is one URL which completely misses the mark - http://www.prometheuswatch.com/collection/.

Since I have an interest in horology, I recognized it as the URL of Prometheus Watch Company. They are a small company based in Portugal that makes mechanical watches. The company’s logo is an insignia of a flame, a clear reference to the act of Prometheus the titan. The owner of the company chose the name Prometheus because of developments in horology - specifically the proliferation of affordable Chinese mechanical movements. He likened the Chinese to Prometheus, in that they are bringing affordable mechanical timepieces to a greater mass. In any case, you can read more about the origins of the name here. More importantly, if you were to browse through their collection, you would see that the watch designs do not borrow any cues or inspiration whatsoever from Prometheus the movie.

A screenshot of Prometheus' (the watch company) website. See any references to Prometheus the movie? I don't think the watch looks inspired by the movie either.

It is important for copyright holders to protect their works, but in doing so, they must know where to draw the line. Whether it is because the people at 20th Century Fox failed to investigate thoroughly or if they genuinely believe that Prometheus Watch Company is infringing on their rights, I think it is safe to say that apart from sharing the same name and references to the Greek titan, there’s little else Prometheus the movie and Prometheus the watch company share in common. I also think that it is unlikely anyone would mistake one for the other, or even think that the two are related. It's just a case of sheer coincidence.

That said, 20th Century Fox is not suing Prometheus Watch Company, well not yet at least, but it is requesting Google to remove them from their search results. However, such a move could prove detrimental for a small watch company, who desperately needs exposure more than anything else. How is anyone going to be able to find their website if not for Google, which is undeniably the most widely-used search engine in the world. Furthermore, from what I gather from Facebook, it seems that the company is pretty upset about this and what could be a potential David vs. Goliath lawsuit.

Hopefully the people at Google will have more common sense and will thoroughly vet through the list before taking action, and that 20th Century Fox will also take another look at this matter, because Prometheus Watch Company has obviously nothing to do with Prometheus the movie.

Kenny Yeo

Kenny Yeo / Associate Editor

Specifications are not everything. It's what you do with what you have that matters.