ComicMix Loses Seuss/Star Trek Mashup Appeal
In September 2016, ComicMix Kickstarted a Star Trek parody in the style of Dr. Seuss called Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!. The book, written by David Gerrold and illustrated by Ty Templeton, never was published, though, as Dr. Seuss Enterprises sued to stop it.
In March 2019, ComicMix won a court case on fair use grounds.
Now, in a federal appeals court, that victory was overturned, as
judges declared that the publication failed to meet the required standards for fair use, partly because it was not a parody or otherwise transformative.
That seems… wrong. I think drawing science fiction characters in the style of children’s caricatures is pretty transformative. The problem, though, seems to be that Ty Templeton did too good a job copying Seuss’s style, and in various places using the exact same layouts.
ComicMix could not argue the book was a parody since it wasn’t critiquing the original, the judge wrote. ComicMix argued that the book could be considered transformative since it contained “extensive new content,” a claim the judge rejected.
“Although ComicMix’s work need not boldly go where no one has gone before, its repackaging, copying, and lack of critique of Seuss, coupled with its commercial use of Go!, do not result in a transformative use,” Judge McKeown wrote.
The judge also noted that “ComicMix did not consult a lawyer or pursue a license before creating the book.” So if they’d asked Seuss, got a no, and proceeded anyway, that would be preferable? Or spent more money on legal fees?
The lawsuit by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, originally blocked, can now proceed, meaning more money for lawyers. That company said they are “committed to protecting Dr. Seuss’s works to ensure that each generation may experience the amazing stories and worlds he created.” But only if you pay them.