The other day I get a text from Elin. Apparently, a law firm from New York had just contacted her stating that she (Radio Comix) had been named as a defendant in a copyright suit that just hit the public record. Oh, and the property in question was "Bureau of Mana Investigation
At first I was like "Wait. What?!" as panic and dread set in. Baron and I have been living law-drama Hell for the past few months due to family. I *really* did not need another thrust upon me.
Elin quickly assured me that was not the case and nothing needed to be done. Mostly due to a ruling the judge had already handed down. Then she sent me a link to the public court record
"Read it. Preferably with popcorn. It's comedy gold."
Oh, boy. Was she right!
Apparently said Plaintiff, who shall remain nameless*, was trying to sue Radio for (come on, say it with me now in your best Dr. Evil voice) ten miiiiillllion dollars over the fact that, he claimed, I had stolen his character idea of an anthropomorphic unicorn with blonde hair and sun-glasses that he had published in 2007 by FurNation.
Yeah. I'm going to let that horrid run-on sentence sink in for a moment.
She's normally a blonde who dyes her mane before DJ performances, right? That counts! (NOT)
DJ Pon3/Vinyl Scratchtm Hasbro
Animated Gif by FaithBringer
Lets break this down.
You cannot not copyright characters, you trademark them. You can copyright an illustration of a character, or a body of work of a character, but not the 'idea' of a character. Trademarking is a whole other kettle of fish law-wise. Much more expensive to file and much harder to prove in court. His petition for suit was filed under copyright law.
The filed complaint, "anthropomorphic unicorn with blonde hair and sunglasses" is pretty damn nebulous and vague. Judges hate vagueness. Don't even get me on the gambit of what "anthropomorphic" means and the great range of mental convolutions that covers.
The first published instance of Amark, the unicorn in question, is actually back in 1989 when I was in high school, under the stories original name "Demon Hunters". As far as I can tell, that was before this person was even born.
Blonde? Check. Unicorn character? Yup. Sunglasses? Close enough....
Full Frontal (Char Aznable)/Gundam Unicorntm Sunrise
Vetor art by patgarci
As for Radio Comix incarnation, the first issue is dated 2002 and ran like clockwork, bi-monthly, for 8 issues until 2003. Quite a time gap there between when Radio officially published the issues in question and the stated FurNation's date.
Fortunately, it looks as if the Judge found this just as laughable as Elin and I did since the Plaintiff's claim was "dismissed with prejudiced."
It is apparent from these images that "an average lay observer" would not recognize the Radio Comix character "as having been appropriated from [plaintiff's] work." Peter F. Gaito Architecture, 602 F.3d at 66 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). That both characters are unicorns wearing sunglasses is not a sufficient basis for a valid infringement claim. See Mattel, Inc. v. Azrak-Hamway lnat'l, Inc., 724 F.2d 357, 360 (2d Cir. 1983); Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119, 121 (2d Cir. 1930). Put simply, it is clear that the two characters are not "substantial[ly] similar."
The Judge also handed down a "Stop darkening my court room with frivolous lawsuits".
Plaintiff is hereby warned that if he continues to file repeated frivolous complaints he may be subject to a filing injunction or the imposition of monetary sanctions upon notice and opportunity to be heard. See Lau v. Meddaugh, 229 F.3d 121, 123 (2d Cir. 2000).
So, thank you Mr. Judge, for being a sane human being. And for the warm, fuzzy feeling that, at least in this case, the system DOES work.
*Munches popcorn, happy in the knowledge that I did not have to get involved.*
* You can read the court doc yourself if you really want to know.