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Fave Cases

Detective Comics, Inc., v. Bruns Publications, Inc., et al.,111 F.2d 432 (1940): In this case, the Second Circuit held that Superman embodied “an arrangement of incidents and literary expressions” original to his creator, and was copyrightable.  Although Superman’s copyright holder could not have a monopoly over all “Herculean characters,” defendant’s ‘Wonderman’ comic was held to infringe upon “Superman.”  The defendant did little more than change Superman’s “skintight acrobatic costume” from blue to red for their Wonderman character without providing sufficient differentiation in his personality.  The court issued an order to prevent defendants from “closely imitating (Superman’s) costume or appearance in any feat whatever” in their publications.

DC Comics Inc., v. Unlimited Monkey Business, Inc., et al., 598 F. Supp. 110, 118 (N.D. GA 1984): In this copyright infringement case, the district court rejected the fair use defense of a singing telegram company heavily relying on the commercial nature of the enterprise. One of the skits featured ‘Super Stud’ and ‘Wonder Wench,’ costumed in articles designed to evoke the image of Superman and Wonderwoman.

Francis v. Simkin, Case No. BC 442226, Cal. Sup. Ct. Los Angeles, September 7, 2010. Ok, so this entry doesn’t involve video games, comics, or other nerd culture, but it is one of the most hilarious legal documents we’ve ever read. In response to a Complaint filed by ‘Girls Gone Wild’ owner Joe Francis for a “tell all” book written by his former camera man, Simkin’s attorneys filed the greatest anti-SLAPP (See CCP 425.16(a)) motion of all time: “The Complaint describes plaintiff Joe Francis as a “businessman and philanthropist.” Here are some other terms used to describe him: convicted felon; child molester; jail-baiting pervert; pimp; sick bastard; sleaze-peddler; tax cheat; rapist; sleazehole; the epitome of a true misogynist, coked-out amoral direct marketer; violent thug; juvenile smut-peddler; sexual predator; one of the 50 most loathsome people in America; and the Douche of the Decade.” Classic. Read the entire motion at JDSupra.

Lyons Partnership, L.P. v. Giannoulas, 14 F. Supp. 2d 947, 949 (N.D. Tex. 1998): The transformation test was illustrated in Lyons v. Giannoulas, which involved a suit for copyright infringement concerning a skit in which the “San Diego Chicken” fought a character resembling “Barney the Dinosaur” at various sporting events. The court held that the defendant’s use was sufficiently transformative to satisfy the first factor because the skit “poked fun at Barney’s pervasive commercial presence” in an unexpected arena changing Barney from a “loveable sissy” into a violent “egotistical urban rapper.” However, the Barney costume was also slightly modified and the court indicated the outcome might have been different if it was identical. Ultimately, the skit was deemed a fair use of plaintiff’s copyright.

This segment will be continually updated.

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