One of the last books written by Dr. Seuss, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” is one of the bestselling books during graduation season each year.  The copyright for this book, like all of the works of Dr. Seuss, belongs to Dr. Seuss Enterprises, LP, which issues licenses for the creation of new works under the Dr. Seuss brand.  It also works closely to oversee licenses of its work, which it carefully vets.  As any parent (and even non-parent) knows, there are tons of Dr. Seuss-licensed works such as toys, video games and books.

In 2016, a group attempted to produce and market a book that would be a “mash up” of Dr. Seuss’ “Oh, The Places” and Star Trek, in which the crew of the USS Enterprise would be sent through the world inhabited by the characters of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!”  A “mash up” is essentially a work that is created by combining “elements from two or more sources,” such as having specific movie characters inhabit a literary world, etc.

The plan was to create a new work called, “Oh The Places You’ll Boldly Go,” a play on words from the old Star Trek series that the crew was “boldly going where no man had gone before.”
Continue Reading It’s No “Fair Use” Trying to Parody Dr. Seuss

In the past few years there has been a number of libel claims based on an unfavorable portrayal of a real person in either a television program or motion picture that is based on real life events.  To name a few, there is the currently pending Mossack Fonseca & Co., S.A. et al v. Netflix Inc., which is based on the streamer’s portrayal of Panamanian lawyers in the feature The Laundromat which was about the “Panama Papers” leaked documents scandal, and there is also the currently pending  Fairstein v. Netflix, Ava Duvernay and Attica Lock involving a defamation claim over the portrayal of Linda Fairstein, a former NYC prosecutor, in the Netflix series, When They See Us which was about the trial of the Central Park Five.  There was also the now resolved Green v. Paramount Pictures that was discussed in a previous article, and there was the false light claim made in Olivia De Havilland v. FX Networks LLC over De Havilland’s portrayal in the FX docudrama Feud: Bette and Joan.

These cases are primarily based on a claim of defamation, usually liable which is a written defamation.  In California, libel is defined by Civil Code Section 45 as “a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye, which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.”  In most states, libel is defined similarly.  In order to establish libel, a plaintiff will have to establish: that the statements were defamatory; that the statements were published to third parties; that the statements were false; and that it was reasonably understood by the third parties that the statements were about the plaintiff.
Continue Reading “Inspired By” Characters in Movies and TV – Defamation Lawsuit As a Spinoff

When it comes to football, I am a huge fan and love watching games on TV.  However, I do not typically pay attention to the commercials during games, with one major exception:  the Super Bowl.  Like most everyone, I am always curious to see which company will have the best and the worst Super Bowl commercials.  We always expect Anheuser-Busch (maker of Bud Light) and Molson Coors (maker of Miller Lite and Coors Lite) to bring out big gun ads.  After all, for many football fans, a game day means grabbing a beer (or several), so companies spend a lot of money to convince fans to grab their brands over others.  The competition rose to a new level in Super Bowl LIII when Anheuser-Busch introduced its ad campaign mocking Molson Coors’ use of corn syrup in brewing Miller Lite and Coors Lite.  These ads not only triggered a social media battle but also a battle in the courtroom over whether the Bud Lite ads constituted false or misleading advertising.

During the 2019 Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch started its “corn syrup” ad campaign with an ad featuring the Bud Light King and his subjects trying to return a barrel of corn syrup, which they had received by mistake, to the Miller Light and Coors Light castles.  The ad effectively told a story that Anheuser-Busch does not use corn syrup to make Bud Light, but Molson Coors uses it to make Miller Lite and Coors Lite.
Continue Reading Football, Beer, and Court Fights

The motion picture Wolf of Wall Street was based on a book of the same title written by Jordan Belmont.  In the book, Andrew Greene, who was director, general counsel, and head of the corporate finance department at Stratton Oakmont between 1993 and 1996, was discussed extensively.  In the book, Greene is referred to by his nickname “Wigwam” (a reference to his toupee) and described as engaging in criminal conduct.  In the motion picture, Wolf of Wall Street a minor character named Nicky Koskoff, who wears a toupee and went by the nickname “Rugrat” is depicted as engaging in unsavory and illegal behavior.  This includes engaging in adulterous/sexual acts at work and participating in criminal money laundering schemes orchestrated by one of the founders of Stratton Oakmont, Jordan Belmont (played by Leonardo DiCaprio).  Greene sued Paramount Pictures and the film’s producers on the grounds that the Koskoff character presented a defaming portrayal of himself.
Continue Reading The “Wolf of Wall Street” Defamation Suit – The Risk of an “Inspired By” Character in Movies and TV