Nic Wright

British podcasters in Serial legal wrangle

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Two British podcasters faced a legal tussle this week after the makers of global hit Serial threatened them with a lawsuit over their use of the letter S.

Award winning writers Simeon Courtie and Hal Stewart were promoting their parody podcast Serial Box – in which they investigate the disappearance of an American student – on social media when they were hit with the threat of legal action from Serial creators This American Life.

Stand-up comic Stewart said: “As comedy writers we were proud of what we’d created and confident it would be popular worldwide.

“But even we were surprised to hear from the makers of Serial so quickly. The first episode of Serial Box hadn’t even been released!”

The threat of legal action came from Serial’s Community Editor Kristen Taylor, who took exception to the satirists’ reworking of the famous card stack logo.

BBC broadcaster and former children’s TV presenter Courtie said: “We’d made it very clear that ours was a parody by putting the word ‘box’ under the letter S and adding the tagline – “one story investigated badly”.

“So when they complained, we looked at what other parodies had done and almost all of them used the original logo! So we said “Forget it. You can’t seriously claim to own the letter S”.

“Imagine our surprise when they said they did.”

Under US law This American Life, the makers of Serial, have trademarked the letter S used on their logo.

The New York Festival Award-winning writers were forced to back down, and changed their podcast logo from an S to a backwards question mark.

Courtie added: “We had flights to Chicago on hold, and an army of lawyers chomping at the bit, but reluctantly we were forced to agree – they do in fact own the letter S and we should all be very grateful when we use it.”