Thumbs Caught In At The Movies Money Wringer
It turns out that when applied to movie reviews, the "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" gesture, which dates back to ancient Rome, is a trademark owned by Roger Ebert and the estate of Gene Siskel. It now figures in a legal battle between Ebert, who has been sidelined from his syndicated movie-review program At the Movies by illness for more than a year, and the Walt Disney Co., which now syndicates the program. On Friday, the Associated Press reported that Ebert had "exercised his right to withhold use of the 'thumbs' until a new contract is signed." Ebert quickly dispatched an email message to the wire service and other news organizations, maintaining that he "did not demand the removal of the THUMBS." (In a parenthetical note, he said that "THUMBS are [sic] capitalized to indicate a registered trademark; lowercase them [sic] if style requires.") Ebert insisted that during renewal negotiations the previous week, Disney made a first offer that "I considered offensively low. I responded with a counteroffer. They did not reply to this and on Monday ordered the THUMBS removed from the show." Disney has not indicated whether the amputation will be made permanent.