When a judge calls an accused infringing work “highly creative”, you have to know a loss is coming. A court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the estate of Dr. Seuss claiming ComicMix’s Dr. Seuss / Star Trek mash up book, “Oh, the Places You’ll Boldly Go!” is protected by fair use and therefore not copyright infringement.
We all know the Dr. Seuss style of writing and look of his books. This is very clear. The Seuss estate has been very protective of this style and routinely files lawsuits over things they consider infringement even if they are parodies. From just looking at the photo above, you can get the gist of ComicMix’s crowded funded parody book that smashed Dr. Seuss with Star Trek. The estate for Dr. Seuss filed a lawsuit against ComicMix for both trademark and copyright infringement.
The court already dismissed the trademark claims and made a similar ruling when it came to the copyright. The court examined the four fair use factors and determined that the book was highly creative and most importantly, this was geared towards an adult market (including some sexual innuendo, saucy) and that the Dr. Seuss would not lose sales from its children’s market.
Fair use is one of those things that is ultimately decided by a judge but a good rule of thumb is that of first instinct. If you look at a work does it look like it is stealing from another work or just trying to parody it. Here, seems pretty clear that this was just a cleaver parody for all the Grinch / Captain Kirk fans. This is a big win for creators but should not embolden them to steal other people’s work. Be creative, be original, and take as little as possible from the original work to stay within the bounds of fair use.