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 Mash-up takes a HIT in its INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT! (part 2)

Yesterday in part 1, we discussed the copyright side of the infringement lawsuit that was filed by Dr. Seuss Enterprises (DSE) against Star Trek “Tribbles” creator DAVID GERROLD and comic book artist TY TEMPLETON for their proposed “mash-up” book Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!  The project generated $30,000 in a Kickstarter that was promptly shut down (and the donations frozen) when DSE asserted their ownership of the Dr. Seuss property.  A lawsuit quickly followed in late 2016 accusing the mash-up creators and their publisher ComicMix of both copyright AND trademark infringement (two different things, as I’ll explain shortly).

It’s now a year later, and a whole flurry of legal posturing has been going on back and forth…before the trial even gets started!  During the summer, Judge JANIS L. SAMMARTINO of the Ninth Circuit Federal Court in San Diego dismissed the trademark complaint portion of the lawsuit, leaving only the copyright claim to adjudicate.  And even there, it looked like the judge was leaning strongly in favor of accepting a fair use defense from “Team Mash-up” (as I like to call them) and dismissing the rest of the case, as well.

But DSE was not about to go gently into that good night!  And after pulling out all the legal stops, and after a court hearing at the end of last month, Judge Sammartino just issued an Order Denying Motion to Dismiss that not only allowed the copyright portion of the lawsuit to continue and go to trial, but DSE lawyers also convinced her to CHANGE HER MIND and reinstate the trademark complaint!

How the heck did that happen???

Yesterday, I explained the reasons that the judge didn’t grant a fair use defense on the question of copyright infringement.  Today, we’ll take a look at the trademark side of things and discover why we can blame Godzilla for the judge’s decision to resurrect the trademark question…

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS / STAR TREK Mash-up takes a HIT in its INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT! (part 2)”

DR. SEUSS / STAR TREK Mash-up takes a HIT in its INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT! (part 1)

If you’re Star Trek “Tribbles” creator DAVID GERROLD and comic book artist TY TEMPLETON, one of the places you’ll boldly go next year will be to the Ninth Circuit federal courtroom!

Actually, they and their lawyers have already been spending a good deal of time in front of Judge JANIS L. SAMMARTINO… defending themselves from a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit filed by DR. SEUSS ENTERPRISES (DSE) against them and publisher ComicMix in late 2016.

At issue was a “mash-up” project combining elements of Star Trek with the whimsical rhyming and artistic styles of the late Dr. Seuss into a book titled Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!  In September of 2016, a Kickstarter for the project took in $30,000.  However, DSE quickly asserted their intellectual property rights, and Kickstarter promptly shut down the campaign and froze the pledged donations.  Then things went to court.

Earlier this year, the situation looked somewhat hopeful for “Team Mash-up,” as I like to call them.  The judge in the lawsuit dismissed the trademark claim entirely (it would no longer be a part of the lawsuit), and she said that the fair use aspect of the remaining copyright infringement complaint was “evenly balanced” between the plaintiff and the defendants.  And even better than that, if DSE couldn’t prove to the judge’s satisfaction that there were real financial damages at stake (at that point, she was simply giving them the benefit of the doubt), then this lawsuit might be dismissed entirely before it ever saw a jury, and fans would likely be reading a Star Trek/Dr. Seuss mash-up book by next Christmas.

What a difference six months make!  This infringement lawsuit suddenly reminds me of a famous football game from 1993 between the Houston Oilers and the Buffalo Bills that has become known as “The Comeback.”  Houston was leading by a massive score of 28-3 at halftime.  But by the end of the game, Buffalo had won in overtime 41-38.

And while the “game” in this mash-up lawsuit isn’t over just yet, if you’re a fan of David Gerrold and Ty Templeton (as I am), it’s suddenly nail-biting time.

Here’s the latest…

Continue reading “DR. SEUSS / STAR TREK Mash-up takes a HIT in its INFRINGEMENT LAWSUIT! (part 1)”

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)”

Star Trek/Dr. Seuss “Mash-Up” creators received a CEASE & DESIST letter from CBS!

Is CBS switching back from copyright infringement lawsuits to cease & desist letters?  It’s hard to read the tea leaves when it comes to a multi-billion dollar corporation, but we may have just gotten a clue.

The year 2016 was a turbulent and uncertain time for the world of Star Trek fan films.  It began with a copyright infringement lawsuit against Alec Peters and AXANAR, and then by the summer, fans were presented with a series of fan film guidelines listing the things fans were and were not allowed to do if they wanted to avoid legal action on the part of CBS and Paramount.

But were lawsuits now the “new normal”?  Would fan films that violated the guidelines find themselves dragged into court for expensive litigation?  The studios weren’t saying.  For many years, most fan film producers had (perhaps naively) assumed that the worst that would happen would be they’d get a call (or letter or e-mail) from the studios saying, “Stop what you’re doing.”  Even Alec Peters himself figured he’d probably get a call long before ever being served with a multi-million dollar lawsuit.  Man, was he wrong!

Ironically, had the studios simply sent Alec a cease & desist letter instead of suing, they could have saved themselves nearly a million dollars in attorneys fees and 12 months of polarizing publicity with likely a similar result of a scaled-down Axanar.  But that’s a “what if” scenario that we’ll never see played out in this universe.

But here’s a question: did CBS’s and Paramount’s experience with the year-long Axanar lawsuit leave a bad enough taste in the studio execs’ mouths that they’ve decided to dial things back from battlestations to just yellow alert?  Are the studios ready to return to good ol’ fashioned cease & desist letters to get the job done?

The answer to this question might come from another copyright infringement lawsuit going on right now involving Star Trek…and Dr. Seuss!

Continue reading “Star Trek/Dr. Seuss “Mash-Up” creators received a CEASE & DESIST letter from CBS!”

“OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL BOLDLY GO!” wins a key FAIR USE victory in court!

Last November, a crowd-funded Star Trek project got sued for copyright and trademark infringement by a major rights holder.

No, not Axanar!  That was the previous year, silly (although the Axanar lawsuit was still going on when this other lawsuit was filed).  In this new case, however, the defendant was none other that renown Star Trek screenwriter/author DAVID GERROLD  (the man who gave us tribbles!) along with Marvel/DC (and others) comic book artist TY TEMPLETON and their publisher ComicMix, LLC.

Gerrold and Templeton had created a parody mash-up book based on Dr. Seuss’s beloved classic Oh, The Places You’ll Go!  In their new book, Dr. Seuss was mashed-up with Star Trek to create Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go! with pages that that adapted the originals on the left to look like the ones on the right:

The accompanying rhymes were obviously Seussian, as well…things like.

You can get out of trouble, any that’s knotty, because in a pinch you’ll be beamed out by Scotty.

Weird things will happen, and they usually do, to starship explorers and their marvelous crew.

They launched a Kickstarter in late 2106 and took in $30,000 before the rights owners of Dr. Seuss’ collected works had the campaign shut down for an alleged copyright violation.  The following month, a full infringement lawsuit was filed on behalf of Dr. Seuss Enterprises by law firm DLA PIPER, LLP.  Here is the 19-page Seuss Complaint if you’re interested in reading it.  It’s very similar to CBS and Paramount’s initial filing against Axanar, citing the same demands for $150,000 in statutory damages per violation PLUS attorneys fees.

The Axanar detractors were quick to pounce.  SHAWN P. O’HALLORAN, one of the most prolific posters of petulance and profanity, had this to say:

You believe its fair use? You would be mistaken. It’s intellectual property theft and they came right out in their campaign and acknowledged that they were poking the bear to get sued.  David Gerrold is a blatant IP theft [sic] who supports other blatant IP thieves such as Alec Peters…

O’Halloran was referring to the following message included in the “Risks and Challenges” section on their original Kickstarter page:

While we firmly believe that our parody, created with love and affection, fully falls within the boundary 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.

But it’s looking like they might actually have a chance to win…

Continue reading ““OH, THE PLACES YOU’LL BOLDLY GO!” wins a key FAIR USE victory in court!”