I have never hidden my concerns over the expanding claims of trademark and copyright protections over common names, symbols, and parodies (here and here and here and here). Now, Lady Gaga has sent in the lawyers to stomp on Lady Goo Goo, a cartoon character on Moshi Monsters, a website on which children adopt and name characters. Lady Goo Goo sings a popular parody called “Petty-razzi” below — a youtube hit.
Despite the obvious parody, Lady Gaga won an injunction banning the release of the new song by Lady Goo Goo called the Moshi Dance — defeating Moshi creators Mind Candy and 50 million users worldwide.
The Moshi Dance racked up millions of hits as a funny parody. As in the United Stats, parody is a defense under trademark laws in England. Yet, Lady Gaga was able to get a temporary injunction.
Once again, I am astonished at artists like Lady Gaga fighting such parodies and even more surprised that a court would go along. Yet our courts have reached similarly bizarre results in some cases. Past tort cases have generally favored celebrities and resulted in rulings like White v. Samsung, a perfectly ludicrous ruling where Vanna White successfully sued over the use of a robot with a blond wig turning cards as the appropriation of her name or likeness. The estate of Humphrey Bogart sued last year for over a couch simply named Bogart. California-retailer Plummers settled the lawsuit this week.
Part of the problem is that we have a large number of law firms on retainer to bring these actions and artists and companies that do little to limit them. The greatest problem is the success of this lobby in getting Congress and the Obama Administration to push through virtually any legislation that they demand — criminalizing violations, approving warrantless searches, and allowing for obscene awards.