Case On Point
In this month's case, the court considers the legal consequences of a literary mash up.
Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix LLC,
(U.S. Court of App. for the 9th Cir. 2020)
Copyright law prohibits the unauthorized copying of a copyrighted work. The fair use defense applies in limited circumstances to foster creativity and expression. The factors governing the applicability of the defense are:
- the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
- the nature of the copyrighted work;
- the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
- the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.
In Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. ComicMix LLC, the trial court found that the fair use defense applied to a literary work mash up in which characters from Star Trek were transported to an imaginary world portrayed in a Dr. Seuss book, making liberal use of the original text and illustrations. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that all four factors favored plaintiff. The Court rejected the contention that the accused work was either a parody, commenting on the original work, or transformative, creating a work with a new purpose or meaning.