Back to the Future and the Law
21 October 2015 by Marketing Team
In case you hadn’t heard, today is Back To The Future Day! That’s right, October 21st 2015 is the exact day that Marty McFly and Doc Brown arrived in the future in ‘Back To The Future II’. They arrive at 4:29pm to be precise so if you’re reading this after then, then you really are in the future!
While there’s been far too many legal landmarks since 1985 to mention in one go, we take a look at some of the legal issues for the film in 1985 and some that’s it created or predicted for today…..
One of the more notable and popular ‘inventions’ of the future that the film showed was the Hoverboard. While they may not be reality yet, they’re probably not as far away as you might think with Lexus and Hendo already having developed working prototypes.
Yes, they may not be ready to roll out tomorrow just yet, but that hasn’t stopped the Austrian Ministry of Transport from being fully prepared. In fact in an announcement today paying homage to the trilogy, they announced that hoverboards can now be treated as “small off-road vehicles” and can be used “anywhere a skateboard is”. They even went so far as to spell out some further details such as that you must not “endanger passers-by or motor traffic” so as to provide people with “Legal Clarity”. Of course if you want to use the rocket powered model from the film, then you need a pilot licence due to the extra power….. Obviously!
This of course differs greatly to the laws here in the UK where hoverboards are illegal to ride in public. When we say hoverboards, we mean the popular ‘self-balancing scooters’ that are now on sale and that have to adhere to the same strict rules as Segways – You can’t ride them on the road, but they’re also not legal on pavements…. South West trains also got in on the hoverboard legal scene today, reminding passengers not to use them on the trains!
Project 42, who manufacture hoverboards have used today to demonstrate their annoyance about the ruling and have parked a DeLorean outside Parliament with a Marty McFly lookalike on a modern day hoverboard. In their press release they said “the dream of hoverboards seems further away than ever despite thousands of British consumers purchasing the self-balancing devices. On Sunday last week the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) outlawed ‘hoverboards’ and other self-balancing vehicles due to a law that was made in the 1835 Highways Act, 180 years ago!”
The film wasn’t all about hoverboards though and one of the other iconic images, if not ‘the’ iconic image from the films, is the Delorean. The Northern Irish-produced car went through huge legal issues along the way and was of course nowhere near as impressive in reality, but today they are collectors items.
Pepsi and Uber made sure the DeLorean was back in action today as they teamed up to offer fans the chance for a free ride in a DeLorean. You simply had to enter a specific promo code into the Uber app and you would be in with a chance of the very car turning up as your Uber ride. Uber of course is another company to run into several legal issues as we commented on recently, although it does have another similarity to the film…..
In one scene in the film, Biff uses his thumbprint to pay for a taxi ride. If you have the Uber app and an iPhone 6, then guess what: cashless payments and apple pay accessible with your fingerprint scanner. The film may have got several things wrong, but that prediction was spot on, whether or not black cabbies are a fan!
To facilitate the time travel in the first place, as we all know, the DeLorean had to hit 88mph (a figure decided by the production team because it looked cool and was easy to remember). As we’ve been reminded by Surrey Police today, the law in the UK is very clear on never doing 88mph, especially around town…. After all, if you did try it, you may end up like the scene depicted by Dublin Fire Brigade today!
Back in 1985 there were almost as many legal hurdles to negotiate just to get Back To The Future to how we know and love it now.
For starters, Michael J Fox nearly didn’t get the iconic movie role in the first place as Eric Stoltz was the original Marty McFly. After realising he wasn’t right for the part, the filmmakers dipped their toes in the world in employment law, paid Stoltz to leave the role and came to an agreement with the producers of Michael J Fox’s TV show to allow time in his schedule for filming the movie.
That wasn’t the end of their legal employment issues though. Crispin Glover (Marty’s father in the film) didn’t feature in the films two and three and to get around this the filmmakers used an actor with a latex mask on to look like Glover. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Glover later sued and was awarded $1 million!
Their third legal payment to get things right was to Chuck Berry as they wrote in the use of his song ‘Johnny B Goode’ without his original permission…. A $50,000 cheque helped get that one over the line!
Finally, one legal prediction they thankfully missed with, was that the legal system would have abolished lawyers by now. While the legal system and the technology it uses have undoubtedly evolved, lawyers are still a key part of the legal process. After all, as www.unlockthelaw.co.uk point out, “Maybe, if Martin McFly Jr. had been afforded a lawyer, Marty and Doc would never have needed to travel back to the future.”
But then again, that would mean USA Today wouldn’t have gone to town with their cover wrap like they did today and we wouldn’t be enjoying Back To The Future Day quite as enthusiastically as we are. Now then, nearly time to go and enjoy the ITV2 Back To The Future marathon; Will you make it till 1am?!