Attorneys representing a publishing company that wanted to create a mash-up book of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss have asked a Los Angeles federal judge to dismiss a copyright and trademark infringement suit, calling its book – Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! – a parody.
Dan Booth and Michael Licari, attorneys representing Connecticut-based ComicMix, filed the request Monday. While they admit the book – written by Star Trek‘s “Trouble With Tribbles” episode writer David Gerrold and illustrated by Ty Templeton – borrows from both worlds of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss, they also maintain that they’re protected by legal “fair use” of copyrighted materials and the suit itself is a waste of time.
“This case presents a simple question: May an author’s estate use the courts to stymie publication of a book that makes critical, parodic use of the author’s books? On the facts alleged, the answer must be no.
“The Copyright Act, the Lanham Act and the First Amendment fully protect ComicMix’s right to comment and build on Dr. Seuss’ works. The law does not place his beloved works above parody, beyond critical commentary, or past the reach of cultural transformation and nominative use.”
The project launched earlier this year by ComicMix, Gerrold and Templeton, through a Kickstarter campaign that would produce a book that, according to the publishers, would parody the popular Dr. Seuss book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! which was first published in 1990.
Even at the start of the campaign, ComicMix acknowledged there could be problems moving forward with the book project, telling potential donors “there may be some people who believe that this might be in violation of their intellectual property rights. And we may have to spend time and money proving it to people in black robes. And we may even lose that.”
Just before the crowdfunding campaign was completed, raising nearly $30,000, Dr. Seuss Enterprises made a copyright claim to Kickstarter, forcing the company to remove the campaign and freeze the funds. That prompted an angry letter from ComicMix attorney Booth just before Halloween.
In that letter, Booth demanded the Seuss people to reinstate the campaign, especially since Kansas City-based Andrews McMeel Publishing had agreed to publish the book, and rush it for a Christmas release.
“Also anticipating Christmas sales, one vendor ordered 5,000 copies of the book as long as printing and shipping are completed by Nov. 11, but ComicMix expects to lose that order because, thanks to your notice, Kickstarter is withholding all $29,575 that the campaign raised, so ComicMix cannot use that money to cover the printing costs as intended.”
The Seuss estate responded to that letter with the lawsuit, pointing out what it said were a number of major similarities between its Seuss book and the proposed ComicMix book.
A hearing on the motion to dismiss is set for March, although the Seuss estate will have a chance to respond in writing before then.
Fair use is part of copyright law that allows for some specific usages of copyrighted material without permission from the owner. It’s typically reserved for journalists, research and parody.
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