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)”

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)”

Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly GoFundMe!

Mash-up mess-up!  Seuss sues!  Tricky Trekkies find fans to fund!

…or at least that’s the short form of the story so far.  As I’ve covered in a series of blogs over the past year, copyright and trademark precedent is being made right under our very noses, and Star Trek is right smack dab in the middle of it!  But this time, it’s not a fan film in the thick of things but an unpublished attempt to mash-up Star Trek and Dr. Seuss into a fun (but allegedly not entirely allowable) illustrated book intended to be titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!

Written by Star Trek‘s own DAVID GERROLD (creator of the tribbles) and illustrated by TY TEMPLETON (Eisner award-winning mainstream comic book artist), this project was going to be crowd-funded through Kickstarter and managed to raise $30,000 in September of 2016.  But Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) asserted their intellectual property rights, and Kickstarter elected to shut down the campaign.  On November 10, DSE sued Gerrold, Templeton, and ComicMix (the company running the campaign) for both copyright and trademark infringement.

It’s now nearly two years later, and this case is nowhere near done.  In fact, the trial isn’t scheduled to begin until next spring, and the lawyers on both sides have been VERY busy (more on that tomorrow)!  But in the meantime, the legal bills are piling up.  This isn’t as much of a problem for DSE, which makes money every time someone buys Green Eggs and Ham or The Lorax, not to mention royalties on all the movie remakes of classic Seuss stories.  ComicMix, on the other hand, is a much smaller company…and apparently, their cash bucket isn’t nearly as deep.  And unfortunately, unlike a certain fan production we all remember, ComicMix didn’t find attorneys willing to work for free.

And so ComicMix has launched a GoFundMe campaign with a $25,000 goal.  So far, they’ve managed to get about 9% of the way there.

“Why is this worth donating to?” you ask.  I’ll tell you…

Continue reading “Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly GoFundMe!”

DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: What happens next? (Part 3)

Feel free to read Part 1 and Part 2 if you haven’t already.  This time, we’re going to look at is the state of the Dr. Seuss/Star Trek “mash-up” lawsuit as it stands right now.

Initially , there were three legal complaints filed by the plaintiffs, Dr. Seuss Enterprises:

  1. Copyright infringement
  2. Trademark infringement
  3. Unfair competition

Judge Janis L. Sammartino of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court dismissed the second and third complaints, leaving only the copyright infringement claim as the lawsuit…and that one was “nearly perfectly balanced” based on the “fair use” defense.

But the judge did give the plaintiff a “second chance” to get those two dismissed claims back.  She gave them two weeks to file an amended complaint that might change her mind about dismissing trademark infringement and unfair competition.

The plaintiff did, indeed, re-file an Amended Complaint.  Not surprisingly, the defendants then filed a new Motion to Dismiss.

The plaintiff wants their two dismissed claims back.  The defendant would like to keep those two claims dismissed and, if possible, dismiss the final copyright claim and end the lawsuit completely.

Will either side succeed?  Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: What happens next? (Part 3)”

DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: A “near-perfect balancing” of FAIR USE factors! (Part 2)

Last time, we began looking at the intriguing case of the Dr. Seuss/Star Trek “mash-up” book Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go! by DAVID GERROLD and TY TEMPLETON.  Last November, they got sued by Dr. Seuss Enterprises for copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition.  The defense quickly filed a motion to dismiss the case.  After a brief extension, the judge issued a ruling last month.  (For more details, read yesterday’s blog.)

The motion to dismiss centered around the “mash-up” being protected as “fair use.”  And while judges do not usually rule on fair use this early in a case, the Honorable Janis L. Sammartino of the 9th Circuit Federal Court did (again for reasons explained in yesterday’s blog).

So did the fair use defense work or not?  What did the judge say???

In short, it’s a tie.  She called it a “near-perfect balancing of the factors” of fair use.  And what does that mean?  Get comfy, folks, ’cause Jonny’s gonna do his best to break this down into layperson’s English for you all…

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK: A “near-perfect balancing” of FAIR USE factors! (Part 2)”

DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK “Mash-Up” files new MOTION TO DISMISS! (Part 1)

Last week, I wrote a blog about what is rapidly becoming the second biggest copyright infringement lawsuit involving Star Trek in the last year.  But this time it isn’t CBS and Paramount doing the suing, it’s Dr. Seuss Enterprises.  And the target isn’t a fan film but rather a “mash-up” book that takes the characters, settings, and concepts of Star Trek and presents them in a style inspired by (the plaintiffs say “slavishly copied from”) the classics of Dr. Seuss.

The authors of the mash-up, entitled Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!, include Star Trek “The Trouble with Tribbles” writer DAVID GERROLD and award-winning comic book artist TY TEMPLETON.  Together with their publisher, ComicMix, they were sued last November for both copyright and trademark infringement, along with unfair competition, by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the owners of all the works of Dr. Seuss.  This lawsuit is seeking $150,000 in damages per infringement (of which there were multiple instances provided in the filing), for a potential judgment in the MILLIONS!  And all of this for a small, grass-roots book project that took in only $30,000 in a Kickstarter last September (pledged money that is now being held by Kickstarter pending the outcome of this case) and has never been published.

(If you’re wondering how the non-publication of a book could cost the copyright owners millions of dollars in damages, well, sit tight.  We’ll get to that in part 2.)

Anyway, last month, the judge in the case, the Honorable Janis L. Sammartino of the 9th Circuit Federal Court (yeah, the same court where the Axanar case was filed—but a totally different judge), made a series of significant pre-trial rulings.  Among these were the dismissal of the trademark infringement and unfair competition portions of the complaint and declaring that the fair use defense was valid but still “too close to call” (my words, not hers) due to a lack of evidence of financial harm.

Many thought the case was pretty much over, but it wasn’t.  So what happens now?

If you’re thinking this is gonna be another one of Jonathan’s long legal blogs, you’re probably right.  But I’ll be walking you through it in helpful layperson’s English…and I guarantee you’ll come out of it much better informed.  Ready?

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS/STAR TREK “Mash-Up” files new MOTION TO DISMISS! (Part 1)”