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October 29, 2007
How Much is that Model Airplane in the Window?
Those of us who are of a certain age will recall trips to the hobby store in town in order to purchase the latest plastic model of a famous airplane, or ship, or army vehicle. If you were so inclined, after putting the model together you could paint it and show it off to your awe-struck friends. It was a source of tremendous satisfaction putting those models together not to mention a fun way to learn.
That satisfaction is apparently disappearing thanks to the greed of gigantic military corporations and their lawyers:
In the U.S., Congress is being called on to prevent defense corporations from shutting down production of model kits, films or games that use images of military equipment. Over the last decade, the weapons manufacturers have increasingly demanded payments to allow such depictions. For over half a century, model kits have been sold that enable military history buffs to assemble scale models of military ships, aircraft and vehicles. I can fondly recall putting together the F-86 Korean war jet as well as the most challenging of models - the World War II era ships with their dozens of tiny pieces where you had to be careful to avoid putting excess glue on the parts lest it make it hard to fit pieces next to each other.
But that era is coming to an end, as the manufacturers of the original equipment, especially aircraft, are demanding high royalties (up to $40 per kit) from the kit makers. Since most of these kits sell in small quantities (10-20,000) and are priced at $15-30 (for plastic kits, wooden ones are about twice as much), tacking on the royalty just prices the kit out of the market. Popular land vehicles, which would sell a lot of kits, are targeted as well. The new U.S. Army Stryker armored vehicles were not available for several years because of royalty demands, and this created bad publicity for the vehicle manufacturer.
Even World War II aircraft kits are being hit with royalty lawsuits. Some deals have been made, but the royalty demands are seen as greedy and unreasonable by everyone by the lawyers. These royalty demands grew out of the idea that corporations should maximize “intellectual property” income.
I wouldn't say this is a top priority for Congress but there is something inherently ridiculous about these gigantic defense contractors demanding "royalties" for something being paid for by the American people.