Bluewater Productions, the publisher of biographical comics starring political figures like Barack Obama and pop culture icons like Oprah Winfrey, has found itself in a spot of trouble after attorney Kenneth Feinswog has issued them cease-and-desist letters on behalf of his clients Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. The charge? That they infringe on intellectual property and likeness rights.
Back in the ’90s Feinswog sued Revolutionary Comics over their New Kids on the Block and Mötley Crüe biographical comics but lost on the grounds that like unauthorized biographies in prose form, biographical comics were protected by the first amendment. That’s the reason Feinswog has chosen to go after them on likeness rights. However, Bluewater publisher Darren G. Davis told MTV News:
“We are 100% within our First Amendment rights. [...] We knew our rights on this before we jumped into the biography world. These are 100% biographies on their lives.”
Though I am not myself a lawyer, I did attend a intellectual property panel at New York Comic Con in 2006 and I remember one of the panelists, a lawyer specializing in IP, making that part clear: as long as you create (or license) the images yourself, you can use celebrity images as part of a biography on them. Of course, that might be another issue that comes up, given that Bluewater likes to license art from outside artists, art that may or may not be original in itself, as in the case of this drawing that may have been based on another artist’s photo.
Despite the legal problems, Bluewater is not deterred from publishing more comics in their “FAME” line; they’re doing a comic about the cast of Glee, the Kirsten Stewart comic sold out in one day, and FAME: Lady Gaga is going to a third printing with a new cover, in addition to a sequel on the way.
(via Bleeding Cool)