One character in a Dr. Seuss book doesn’t like green eggs and ham – at least according to witness Sam, I Am – but apparently the estate of the late children’s author likes what they believe to be unauthorized uses of their work even less.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the California company that owns the rights to all the works of author and illustrator Theodor S. Geisel – better known as Dr. Seuss – have sued a Connecticut-based comic book company, ComicMix, as well as the company’s president for copyright and trademark infringement, and unfair competition. It’s all over a book called Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! written by classic Star Trek scribe David Gerrold and illustrated by Ty Templeton.
Gerrold, whose real name is David Jerrold Friedman, is best known for writing the popular Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles.” He and Templeton also are defendants in the suit, where the Dr. Seuss estate is demanding up to $150,000 for each copyrighted work infringed, or actual damages. The estate also wants all profits and other revenue earned by the comic book, which according to the lawsuit had raised $30,000 on Kickstarter before the crowdfunding site removed the campaign citing a copyright infringement complaint.
The estate also has asked the Los Angeles federal court for an injunction against ComicMix and the other defendants, preventing them from moving forward with the comic book while the lawsuit is in progress.
The comic, according to reports, was intended to merge the stylings of Dr. Seuss with that of Star Trek. In fact, images shared by the Dr. Seuss estate in the complaint compared illustrations published in the Dr. Seuss books with that promoted by Places You’ll Boldly Go in an effort to demonstrate the similarities between the two.
ComicMix looked to raise enough money to have the book published in time for the holiday shopping season, according to the lawsuit, and already had distributed some materials to various donors. The Dr. Seuss estate also had issues with the name of the book, which they say is closely related to the Dr. Seuss title Oh, the Places You’ll Go! which was first published in 1990, just before Geisel died in 1991.
The estate also had issue with the “stylized font” used by the comic book, which they say is substantially similar to the one used in Dr. Seuss books, as well as “the unique illustration style of the characters and backgrounds.”
The estate claims that ComicMix and the other defendants not only failed to get authorization from the Dr. Seuss side, but also from the owners of Star Trek. However, neither CBS Corp. nor Paramount Pictures – the owners of Star Trek – have filed suit against ComicMix, and there was no indication they had any plan to.
What’s most interesting, of course, is the fact that ComicMix acknowledged there could be legal issues surrounding their comic book plans, according to the suit. The company had reportedly included a disclaimer:
“While we firmly believe that our parody, created with love and affection, fully falls within the boundaries of fair use, 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.”
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.
None of the defendants have appeared to made any public comments on the lawsuit. GeekNation’s requests for comment sent to each of them over the weekend were pending return.
The Dr. Seuss estate said it tried to resolve the problems outside of court on multiple occasions in September and October to no avail.
Only a complaint from the plaintiffs has been filed at this point, and contains only the claims and opinions of that side. The defendants have the opportunity to respond to the lawsuit in court, and the complaint does not reflect their position, or necessarily determine what could be a court’s final judgment.
Read the full complaint, courtesy of Janet Gershen-Siegel, right here.
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