Copyrights don’t last forever. Unless they are properly renewed, they eventually expire. And when they do, the works those copyrights protected fall permanently into the public domain, free for everyone to use without fear of infringement lawsuits.
Is this the case with some of the most beloved creations of the late children’s book author DR. SEUSS? Can you or I use the Sneetches or the Zaks in any way we’d like? If so, the ramifications in the current Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up lawsuit (and beyond) could be staggering!
Okay, a brief recap of where we are. After getting sued for copyright infringement by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) for trying to mash-up Seuss drawings with Star Trek characters and calling their book Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! (or “Boldly,” for short), publisher ComicMix, along with Tribbles creator DAVID GERROLD and artist TY TEMPLETON, appeared to have won. In March of 2019, Ninth Circuit Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO dismissed the case having found that Boldly qualified for protection under the doctrine of Fair Use.
So DSE appealed the ruling, and this past December, a 3-judge appellate panel of the Ninth Circuit unanimously agreed that Boldly was NOT Fair Use and sent the case back to Judge Sammartino’s courtroom with the understanding that Team Mash-up could no longer rely on a Fair Use defense to save their Lorax.
Things looked really bad for Team Mash-up, but just as I and many others were about to count out ComicMix and company, they seem to have pulled an ace from their sleeve. Well, actually, it’s somewhere between an ace and a “Hail Mary” pass late in the fourth quarter, but whatever it is, it could be a total game-changer!
Let’s dive in…
In their latest renwed motion for summary judgement (meaning, “Don’t even waste everyone’s time with a jury trial, Judge, ’cause you know we won, so just give us our money now…”) from this past Friday, DSE is asking for a statutory award of $75,000 per work infringed, and they are claiming that THREE Dr. Seuss books were “slavishly copied”—Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (“Go!”), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (“Grinch”) and The Sneetches and Other Stories (“Sneetches”). Some examples are as follows…
So that’s 3 x $75,000 = $225,000 in potential damages awarded to DSE that ComicMix would have to pay…and possibly attorneys fees, as well. Yeesh!
Now, before I tell you how Team Mash-up is planning to get out of this predicament, we need to go over two VERY important things…Continue reading “Bombshell in the Star Trek/Dr. Seuss MASH-UP infringement lawsuit: are SNEETCHES and ZAKS in the PUBLIC DOMAIN???”