It’s blatantly a parody, coupled with social criticism of the world’s largest retailer, but Wal-Mart had its lawyers fire off nastygrams to computer store owner Charles Smith and, perhaps more effectively, to CafePress. Now things have proceeded to court. Smith’s website is here. (Abigail Goldman,”Wal-Mart Parodist Sues to Sell Products”, L.A. Times/Chicago Tribune, Mar. 7)(via Housing Panic).
The comedian’s attorneys have sent nastygrams demanding that “House of Cosby” be removed. (Lea Miller, “Cosby’s Lawyers See No Flattery in an Imitation”, New York Times, Mar. 6).
On his popular HBO show, comedian Sacha Baron Cohen portrays various outrageous characters among them “Borat”, supposedly a TV personality from the (real) former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Now “Kazakhstan’s Foreign Ministry is threatening to sue him for portraying the central Asian state in a ‘derogatory way.'” (Buck Wolf, “Kazakhstan Not Laughing at ‘Ali G'”, ABCNews, Nov. 15).
Yes, it’s the Scientologists again (see Apr. 16, 2004; Mar. 25-26, 2002; Mar. 19-20, 2001; May 3, 2000). This time they’re threatening a New Zealand parody site named ScienTOMogy.info, which is thus named in honor of Scientology adherent Tom Cruise (via Matt Welch, Reason “Hit and Run”, Oct. 19, headline and all). More: Ron Coleman, Likelihood of Confusion, Oct. 22.
Continuing juvenile humor litigation day at Overlawyered: “We were very nearly sued out of existence by Janet Jackson,” said former Onion editor-in-chief Robert Siegel, thanks to a story headlined “Dying 13-Year-Old Gets His Wish, Will Pork Janet Jackson.” (Samara Kalk Derby, “Jackson almost killed Onion, editor reveals”, The Capital Times, Apr. 12) (via Romenesko).
The latest installment in the beloved musical spoof series sending up Broadway shows opened this month at the Douglas Fairbanks Theater in New York. As founder Gerald Alessandrini makes clear in his liner notes to vol. II, the series is made possible by the good-natured forbearance of many in the theater community: “Also special thanks to the real composers and lyricists and writers (alive and past) who have let us make mince meat out of their beautiful and well-crafted work. Without their reluctance toward lawsuits there would certainly be no Forbidden Broadway.”
In 1999, 13-year old Christopher Beamon of Denton County’s Ponder, Texas, was assigned to write a Halloween story, but when he wrote a horror tale of accidentally shooting a teacher, he earned more than an A+: the local district attorney, Bruce Isaacks, prosecuted him, and Judge Darlene Whitten ordered him detained for a week at a juvenile center.
Already one for the overlawyered files, but then the Dallas Observer printed a parody having Isaacks and Whitten go after Cindy Bradley, a fictional six-year-old girl who read Where the Wild Things Are for first-grade story time. Isaacks and Whitten sued for libel, under the theory that because the story wasn’t labeled satire, some readers might think it’s the real thing. Amazingly, a lower court was ready for this to go to a jury trial before the Texas Supreme Court stepped in Friday and unanimously voted to throw out the case. The Court noted, among other things, that the Beijing Evening News took seriously an Onion story about Congress requesting a dome with a retractable roof and that another Onion story titled “Al-Qaida Allegedly Engaging in Telemarketing” provoked a Michigan sheriff to issue a warning in a press release. (AP, “Court rules for Dallas Observer in libel suit”, Sep. 3; Jesse Walker, “Where the Wild Suits Are”, Reason, Feb.; New Times Inc. v. Isaacks opinion; Daniel Terdiman, “Onion Taken Seriously, Film at 11”, Wired, Apr. 14) (via Hit & Run).