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 nicknamefrom all Web pages, metatags, and search engines. Helm has spent theweeks since the decision painstakingly obliterating all referencesto the name from his site. His next court date is July 29 where hewill 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 befighting for my life." Part of the terms of Kraft's suit is that ifHelm 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 sharpertheir fees escalate, and the more urgent Stu's plight becomes.
CBLDF Director Charles Brownstein explains, "We leapt onto this casewhen it was already in motion with all our legal guns. Unfortunatelythe judge felt that the balance of harms favored Kraft's commercialspeech over Helm's artistic speech, but that doesn't mean that Stu'scase has been weakened. The preliminary injunction needed to showKraft having a fair shot at prevailing in the trial, it doesn't meanthat 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, theprecedent could be damaging not only to comic book creators pokingfun at corporate culture, but to musicians, filmmakers, and otherartists making use of puns or homonyms of corporate marks."
"This case is about what is protected as free speech," says CBLDFlegal counsel Ken Levinson. "We would be remiss in our duties if wedidn't protect a comic book artist like Stu while that battle isbeing waged in the higher courts. Comics are a place whereprecedents are set in entertainment law, and we have to fight toensure that a bad precedent isn't set here."
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