CBLDF defendant Stu Helm has lost the first round in his battle against corporate censorship. Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys handed down a 32 page decision granting Kraft’s request for preliminary injunction against Helm’s use of the nickname “King VelVeeda.” The injunction prohibits Helm from using the name on his Website or in any commercial context. The decision freezes Helm’s ability to sell original art created before the injunction unless he physically removes the nickname from the piece, effectively defacing each original image. It also blocks the sale of “Singles and Seconds,” a collection of single page erotic vignettes.
The Magistrate’s decision further orders Helm to remove the nickname
from all Web pages, metatags, and search engines. Helm has spent the
weeks since the decision painstakingly obliterating all references
to the name from his site. His next court date is July 29 where he
will demonstrate full compliance with the Judge’s orders.
The CBLDF‘s legal team has filed an appeal to the Magistrate’s decision. Presently we are awaiting a decision on the appeal, following which a trial date will be set. However, the decision on the appeal may take months to come through. Meanwhile, the Fund is nearing the five figure mark in case expenses and needs to build funds to fight the next round.
“They already took my name,” Stu Helm says, “and in court I could be
fighting for my life.” Part of the terms of Kraft’s suit is that if
Helm loses he may have to pay Kraft’s legal fees plus punitive damages. The Fund’s legal team estimates Kraft’s expenses are nearing six figures. The longer the case is delayed, the sharper
their fees escalate, and the more urgent Stu’s plight becomes.
CBLDF Director Charles Brownstein explains, “We leapt onto this case
when it was already in motion with all our legal guns. Unfortunately
the judge felt that the balance of harms favored Kraft’s commercial
speech over Helm’s artistic speech, but that doesn’t mean that Stu’s
case has been weakened. The preliminary injunction needed to show
Kraft having a fair shot at prevailing in the trial, it doesn’t mean
that they’re right, and it certainly doesn’t mean that they’ll win.
It’s still early in the process, and we intend to keep fighting.”
“With trademark and copyright laws in a state of flux, it’s important to fight these instances of corporate censorship,”
explains Fund Board Member Louise Nemschoff. “If Kraft prevails, the
precedent could be damaging not only to comic book creators poking
fun at corporate culture, but to musicians, filmmakers, and other
artists making use of puns or homonyms of corporate marks.”
“This case is about what is protected as free speech,” says CBLDF
legal counsel Ken Levinson. “We would be remiss in our duties if we
didn’t protect a comic book artist like Stu while that battle is
being waged in the higher courts. Comics are a place where
precedents are set in entertainment law, and we have to fight to
ensure that a bad precedent isn’t set here.”
To Support the CBLDF’s continuing defense of Stu Helm and other
casework make a donation on CBLDF.com
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