Dr. Seuss has appealed – they now want a do-over…so we’re at it again, get set for round two-over!

Just when you thought it was time to vamoose
From all of this talk of the law of Fair Use
Regarding the mash-up of Star Trek and Seuss
Here comes the sequel, we’ll call it “Part Deuce!

And with that, I shall stop rhyming…although I can’t say the same for GLENN HAUMAN of ComicMix, the folks who, this past March, won a copyright infringement lawsuit filed against them by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE). You can read more about the judge’s final ruling here.

The case involved an illustrated “mash-up” of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! This proposed book was written by “The Trouble with Tribbles” author DAVID GERROLD and illustrated by award-winning comic book artist TY TEMPLETON…with ComicMix doing the publishing. Back in late 2016, they held a Kickstarter that raised $30,000 but were quickly shut down by DSE, who later sued. The nearly two-year legal battle was a back-and-forth rollercoaster ride, with the lawsuit eventually being dismissed after the judge ruled Boldly to be Fair Use.

As I pointed out at the end of that previous blog, DSE always had the option to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit…something they did just two weeks after I published that blog, on the same day the district court entered Hon. Judge JANIS SAMMARTINO’s ruling officially into the record. The Plaintiff’s notice of appeal also asked for, and was granted, an extension of a few months in order to file their opening appellate brief…all 81 pages of it! (No, you don’t have to read it…although it is pretty interesting and very well-presented.)

DSE also submitted four amicus briefs, which are opinions submitted to the court by non-litigants who, even though they aren’t part of the lawsuit, still have a vested interest in the outcome of the case. In this instance, DSE got help from two professors from the Berkeley School of Law, three members of The Copyright Alliance, the Motion Picture Association of America, and The Sesame Workshop (yep, Big Bird is buddies with The Cat in the Hat!). That’s another 140 pages to add to your summer reading list. They mostly say the same thing…essentially that the judge got it wrong and here’s why they think so (and why the law backs up their belief).

It’s a little early in the process for me to start making predictions. After all, this is only the initial brief (which is anything but brief!), and ComicMix hasn’t had its chance to respond yet. I will try to summarize what arguments are being made in the appeal, however. But before I do, since we now have the opening brief from DSE, I reached out to Glenn Hauman for an initial statement from ComicMix.

As he’s done previously, Glenn responded poetically (with some pretty decent rhymes—including one in Latin!)…

Continue reading “Dr. Seuss has appealed – they now want a do-over…so we’re at it again, get set for round two-over!”

Take that, DR. SEUSS; TREK MASH-UP is legally FAIR USE!

I’ve been watching this case closely for nearly two years, fascinated by the question of whether a”mash-up” of two separate intellectual properties (in this case STAR TREK and DR. SEUSS) could be successfully defended against a copyright infringement lawsuit using a defense of FAIR USE.

And yesterday, we discovered that the answer is officially “YES.”

For a more complete history of this case, check out any of my previous 15 blogs on the subject (I told you I was watching it closely!). In short, DAVID GERROLD (the creator of the tribbles) and TY TEMPLETON (award-winning comic book artist) set out to create a Seuss/Trek mash-up book called Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Together with their publisher ComicMix, they set up a Kickstarter in late 2016 to fund a run of 5,000 printed copies of the book to sell through ThinkGeek. They raised about $30,000 when Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) contacted Kickstarter with a DMCA takedown notice. The money was never collected.

Six weeks later, DSE sued the mash-up team for both copyright and trademark infringement. The case was an emotional rollercoaster ride for both sides, with the judge at one point dismissing the trademark claims and then later (after a re-refiling by DSE) reinstating the trademark claims.

On the copyright complaint side of things (different than trademark), the judge was ready to dismiss the case outright on grounds of Fair Use, but she gave DSE one chance to prove market harm by Team Mash-up. DSE was able to make a strong enough argument for financial damages that the judge allowed the case to move forward. That was 14 months ago.

The case has been complex, to say the least! And it had the potential, according to Ninth Circuit Federal Judge Hon. JANIS SAMMARTINO, to quite literally determine the fate of nearly all mash-ups well into the future. Would this new art form die in its infancy? Was it even a true art form? All of her rulings were carefully considered, and nothing was rushed.

After more than two years of legal wrangling, filings, responses, discovery and evidence and testimony, and motions for summary judgement, it all came down to pre-trial oral arguments made in Judge Sammartino’s San Diego Courtroom five weeks ago on February 7.

So what exactly happened, and is this case finally over…?

Continue reading “Take that, DR. SEUSS; TREK MASH-UP is legally FAIR USE!”

NO TRUCE with DR. SEUSS on FAIR USE! (Part 2)

Yesterday, I updated you that on Thursday at 1:30pm Pacific Time, the two parties in the DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK mash-up lawsuit will meet in Federal Court in San Diego, CA. The original complaint was filed more than two years ago, and after countless motions, discovery, and an emotional rollercoaster of rulings from the judge, this hearing is likely the last time the two parties will appear before the judge until the trial begins.

Assuming there is a trial.

Barring a surprise last-minute settlement (which, I think, is highly unlikely), Thursday’s hearing could very well result in either the case being dismissed by the judge or else sticking a knife into the defense team to make the lawsuit all-but-impossible to win.

But assuming the case goes before a jury, and if I were a a juror, what argument(s) would be most likely to persuade me that Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! deserves the freedom to be published?

For me, there was one thing that was mentioned—only very briefly by the defense attorney in a previous filing—that in my opinion would weigh most strongly on me as a juror. It was a surprisingly simple question:

What exactly should the defendants have licensed?

Think about it. If the book had been The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Star Trek, then the answer is straightforward: they’d license The Cat in the Hat. If their story was Mr. Spock Meets the Grinch, then they’d license the Grinch, Max, and maybe Cindy Loo Who. But which Dr, Seuss character did David Gerrold, Ty Templeton, and ComicMix use without permission?

The best that the plaintiffs could come up with is the “boy” (their word) who appears on the cover and throughout the original Go! book. However, as with other characters in the Boldly book, this “boy” has been transformed. He wears a TOS command tunic and black pants instead of pajamas. Is that still the same character? The two Zaxes were turned into Spocks. The guy with the Sneeches’ star-machine was turned into Scotty with a transporter.

When does a copyrighted character get changed enough that he becomes a new creation? It’s an intriguing question!

Continue reading “NO TRUCE with DR. SEUSS on FAIR USE! (Part 2)”

NO TRUCE with DR. SEUSS on FAIR USE! (Part 1)

This Thursday at 1:30pm Pacific Time, the two sides in the ground-breaking DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK mash-up lawsuit will meet in front of Ninth Circuit Federal Judge HON. JANIS L. SAMMARTINO in courtroom 4D of the Edward J. Schwartz Courthouse in San Diego, California.

Last month, I reported the hearing date as January 31. But the lawyer for the defense caught the flu and requested, and was granted, a one-week delay (which is not all that unusual).

In a previous blog, I discussed the history of the case, and what each side is asking the judge to do. In short, the defense wants the judge to end the case before it begins next month…in favor of the defense, of course. This would mean her ruling that their mash-up Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! should be considered (as a matter of law) to be FAIR USE and therefore protected speech. Therefore, any copyright claims would be nullified, and Team Mash-up (DAVID GERROLD, TY TEMPLETON, and their publisher COMICMIX) would be free to publish their book without legal liability. Also, the defense wants the remaining two claims of trademark infringement (different than copyright) dismissed because it is not reasonable to trademark an artistic “style” nor the look of a typographic font.

The plaintiffs, DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES (DSE), are trying instead to convince the judge in this case to do the same thing that was done in the AXANAR lawsuit: declare that the mash-up is not Fair Use and, therefore, cannot be defended as such. Likewise, they want the judge to rule that, yes, it is reasonable to hold a trademark on an artistic style and a font. This wouldn’t necessarily end the case (unlike the defense motion,) but a favorable summary ruling by the judge would make the lawsuit all but unwinnable for the defense…as happened previously with Axanar.

So why have I given this case so much attention?

Continue reading “NO TRUCE with DR. SEUSS on FAIR USE! (Part 1)”

Major FAIR USE showdown coming in DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK copyright lawsuit! (part 2)

Yesterday, I recounted the two-year history of Star Trek‘s “other” major infringement lawsuit. Back in 2016, tribble creator DAVID GERROLD and comic book artist TY TEMPLETON teamed up to create what they considered to be a parody mash-up of Star Trek and Dr. Seuss, a book they intended to call Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! Along with publisher ComicMix, they launched a Kickstarter which took in about $30,000 before being shut down when Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) sued all three of them for both copyright and trademark infringement. No money was ever collected from the crowd-funding campaign.

It’s just over two years later, and after a roller coaster ride for both plaintiff and defendants (see Part 1), we’re now in the final weeks before the start of the actual trial in early spring.

Or are we?

Following long months of motion-filing, jockeying for position with Judge JANIS SAMMARTINO of the Federal Ninth Circuit, and collecting pre-trial testimony and documents from witnesses during the discovery phase, it’s time for one final “Hail Mary” pass from each side.

Yesterday, I reviewed the defense team’s motion to dismiss the case (read it here in its entirety) on the grounds that DSE didn’t really prove any realistic monetary damages (meaning that the mash-up should be considered as Fair Use and the complaint dismissed) and also that DSE’s remaining two trademark claims from font and art style weren’t valid. The defense arguments were solid and generally convincing…at least to me.

But then I read through the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Like the defense team, DSE would like this case to end before it ever goes to court (and they rack up another six figures in legal bills!). But while Team Mash-up wants the judge to dismiss the lawsuit entirely, DSE would prefer the judge to rule that the defendants are obviously liable for multiple counts of willful copyright and trademark infringement and should be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. And why trouble a jury when the final verdict is so obvious?

Are the plaintiffs as convincing as the defendants? Let’s take a look…

Continue reading “Major FAIR USE showdown coming in DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK copyright lawsuit! (part 2)”

Major FAIR USE showdown coming in DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK copyright lawsuit! (part 1)

Many Fans down in Fanville like mash-ups a lot.
But Dr. Seuss Enterprises, or DSE for short, did not.

DSE owns the rights, it isn’t in question,
to the late Dr. Seuss’ entire literary collection.

So when David Gerrold, the man who created the tribbles,
tried to mix Seuss and Star Trek, DSE had their quibbles.

In fact, they filed a federal suit,
for infringement of copyright…and trademark, to boot!

The defendants were Gerrold and his artist, Ty Templeton.
They also named the publisher, to add to their fun.

The publisher’s name, by the way, was ComicMix,
and if you ask me, DSE is a real bunch of…

Okay, I’m going to stop blogging in rhyme now.  Instead, let me tell you about some major developments in the Dr. Seuss/Star Trek mash-up lawsuit.  On December 11, both the plaintiff and defendants filed 20-page briefs (memoranda) supporting their latest motions before the judge.  A hearing is scheduled for January 31 at 1:30pm in the San Diego courtroom of  Hon. Janis L. Sammaritno, federal judge on the Ninth Circuit (the same circuit that had jurisdiction in the Axanar lawsuit, although a different judge than Axanar had).

Judge Sammartino’s rulings on these pre-trial motions could affect this case in VERY significant ways.  If she grants the defense motion for summary dismissal, the case could be over or potentially cut off at the knees for the plaintiffs.  On the other hand, if she grants the plaintiff’s motion, “Team Mash-up” (as I like to call them) could lose before ever going before a jury.  The stakes are as high as they’ve ever been.

As usual, I’m happy to break this down from legalese to English for those who want to know the score…

Continue reading “Major FAIR USE showdown coming in DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK copyright lawsuit! (part 1)”

AXACON schedule released – and I need YOUR questions for J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, and ALEC PETERS!

The first-ever AXACON is less than three weeks away, and ALEC PETERS has just released the schedule.  It’s a pretty busy weekend, filled with all kinds of activities and panels…most of them focused on AXANAR (both past, present, and future), but also a few opportunities to expand beyond just one fan film.

Here’s a look at some of the things that will be going on:

FRIDAY

  • A set tour of OWC Studios (including photo ops on the USS Ares bridge)
  • A reading from the full 90 minute version of the Axanar movie script (featuring J.G. Hertzler, Gary Graham, Alec Peters, and Steven Jepson)
  • Socialize at the bar with the actors and Axanar team (donor funds will NOT be used to pay the bar tab!)

SATURDAY

  • The Top 10 Star Trek fan films (at least in our opinion…and we don’t all agree!)
  • J.G. and Gary talk about their time on televised Star Trek
  • An Axanar UPDATE with Alec Peters and director/co-writer Paul Jenkins
  • Alec discusses how the Honor Harrington novels influenced Axanar
  • A special Axanar donor lunch with the actors and production team
  • Axanar fan fiction with three people who are writing/drawing/animating it
  • Alec and Paul discuss the evolution of Axanar from story to screenplay
  • The Axanar fleet – designing cool starships from 20 years before TOS
  • A preview of upcoming Star Trek fan films
  • Klingon kostuming…er, costuming
  • The Axanar project from a fan’s perspective
  • Everyone hits the bar again, including J.G. and Gary

SUNDAY

  • Starship combat in the Axaverse (when did we start calling it that?)
  • J.G., Gary, and Alec discuss working on Prelude to Aanar and plans for the remaining two Axanar films
  • When fan films become professional independent films…what does the future hold?
  • Alec discusses James T. Kirk’s hero: Garth of Izar, and Steven Jepson discuss the infamous “Admiral Scaredy”: Conrad Slater
  • Axanar trivia…with PRIZES!

As you can see, a lot of careful consideration went into filling this mini convention with diverse content while still keeping it centered around Axanar.  I think the organizers did an excellent job with that.

They also scheduled me to host five panels and appear on an additional three…for a total of EIGHT panels in THREE days!  Oy.  But in one of those panels, I have to interview J.G. Hertzler, Gary Graham, and Alec Peters about their work on Prelude and plans for the two upcoming Axanar films.  And that’s where I need YOUR help…

Continue reading “AXACON schedule released – and I need YOUR questions for J.G. HERTZLER, GARY GRAHAM, and ALEC PETERS!”

AXACON adds more guests – TICKETS now available!

Things are beginning to get very exciting when it comes to AXACON, the “con-within-a-con” that is happening during the first weekend of November in Atlanta, GA.

In the last few weeks, some major new guests were added, and last week, tickets finally went on sale.  The guest list now includes GARY GRAHAM (who plays Ambassador Soval in AXANAR) and J.G. HERTZLER (who plays the surly Admiral Sam Travis in AXANAR)—both of whom are veteran television Star Trek actors—along with tribbles creator DAVID GERROLD.

Other announced guests include director/co-writer of the upcoming Axanar sequel fan films PAUL JENKINS, editor/sound designer MARK EDWARD LEWIS, art directors LESS QUESSENBERRY and ALEXANDER RICHARDSON, STEVEN JEPSON (Admiral Slater from Prelude to Axanar), and of course, writer/executive producer/Garth of Izar himself ALEC PETERS.  There’s also a growing number of notables from the fan film community including Stalled Trek creator MARK LARGENT, Chasing the Infinite Sky creator ALBERT J. MARTINEZ, Axanar fan artist MARK PAYTON, and your favorite Fan Film Factor blogger JONATHAN LANE.

Also announced is that Axacon ticket holders will be invited for a Friday tour of OWC Studios in Lawrenceville, GA, where the Ares bridge set is located.  Guests need to provide their own transportation to and from the studio, which is about 40 minutes from the hotel.

Tickets for the event can now be purchased.  Note that these are “add-on” tickets, meaning that a ticket for Axacon (either $25 or $50) can only be purchased AFTER you first buy a ticket for SphinxCon (which is a separate $50 ticket).  SphinxCon, a convention celebrating the Honor Harrington book series, is happening at the same location and is acting as the “host” convention (meaning they are paying the main expenses for the hotel facilities).  Axacon is happening in a special area of the convention open only to Axacon ticket holders.

The event will be taking place at the  Crowne Plaza – Atlanta Airport (free shuttle from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) on November 2-4, 2018.

Click here to purchase tickets for Axacon.


And come back tomorrow for a surprisingly candid interview with J.G. Hertzler discussing his recent political campaign, his haircut, and whether or not he’ll be appearing in the Axanar sequel films!

Oh, the answers I boldly got…about the DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK mash-up! (interview with GLENN HAUMAN)

Have you ever given a few bucks to a street performer?  Maybe it was a guy juggling bowling balls while riding a 10-foot high unicycle…or a woman playing seven different musical instruments at the same time.  The reason you might drop a few coins or dollars into their hat is that these folks entertain you.  They’re talented, and they use those skills to bring some fun and joy into your day…and maybe show you something you probably don’t get to see very often (if ever).

What does any of this have to do with the proposed Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! illustrated book mashing up Star Trek with Dr. Seuss?  As you probably know, an infringement lawsuit was filed by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) against creators DAVID GERROLD, TY TEMPLETON, and ComicMix, which intended to publish the book.  (To learn more about the lawsuit, read my latest update from a couple of weeks ago.)  Recently, ComicMix launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to help pay the costs for their legal defense.

Obviously, the goal of Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! is to bring some joy and fun into YOUR day…entertainment for Trek fans that will certainly never happen if the verdict in this lawsuit goes against ComicMix and “Team Mash-up.”  But to make things even more entertaining, ComicMix’s own GLENN HAUMAN wrote the whole GoFundMe description ENTIRELY IN RHYME.  (Seriously, check it out…it’s pretty amazing!)

But Glenn’s not done rhyming yet…!

Continue reading “Oh, the answers I boldly got…about the DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK mash-up! (interview with GLENN HAUMAN)”

Has the STAR TREK/DR. SEUSS mash-up lawsuit become a CHESS GAME? (update)

Last time, I discussed the new GoFundMe campaign implemented by ComicMix, LLC to assist in paying legal fees associated with an infringement lawsuit filed by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) back in late 2016.  The lawsuit has been a very active one, with 13 notices, 14 motions, 7 responses, 6 replies, 28 judicial orders, and 1 amended complaint (so far)…and the date of trial isn’t until next spring!  The lawyers on both sides have been VERY busy…which is mainly why this lawsuit is costing so much.

Things are going well for both sides at the moment, and it’s far from clear how this lawsuit will turn out once it goes in front of a jury (assuming it doesn’t settle, which isn’t looking likely at present…but who knows, right?)

Most recently, Hon. Judge Janis Samartino of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court in San Diego made two very significant rulings that will likely have a major impact on this case.  One was clearly a win for the defense (“Team Mash-up” as I call them) and was actually covered by The Hollywood Reporter (and other media outlets) two months ago with the headline: “‘Star Trek’/Dr. Seuss Mashup Creator Beats Trademark Claims.”  That made it almost sound like the case was over.  Not even close!  The “victory” by Team Mash-up was only partial, albeit important.  I’ll explain that shortly.

Then last month, another ruling came down striking 11 affirmative defense claims that Team Mash-up intended to use to argue their case.  That’s the legal equivalent of taking 11 arrows away from an archer going into battle who only has 37 arrows to begin with.  So this time, it was a victory for the plaintiff…although, again, only a partial one.

This lawsuit—a very important case  that could set a significant precedent in the emerging art form of the “mash-up”—has turned into a fascinating game of chess.  And as I’ve done before on this blog, I’d like to translate all the boring legalese into enjoyable English so you folks who are interested can get a layperson’s update on this fascinating case.

Continue reading “Has the STAR TREK/DR. SEUSS mash-up lawsuit become a CHESS GAME? (update)”