Star Trek and Dr. Seuss parody “Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!” is no more.
For the last five years, a court battle has been playing out between ComicMix and Dr. Seuss Enterprises over a book project called “Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!” which is of course a take on the Dr. Seuss book “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” with a Star Trek twist. Dr. Seuss Enterprises sued ComicMix originally in 2016, claiming that the book was not a parody and instead blatantly infringed on their copyrights.
ComicMix won a big ruling when a district court judge ruled in their favor, claiming the mashup was highly transformative, and as The Hollywood Reporter put it, “.. unlikely to usurp its predecessor’s position in the children’s book market with a work that included some Captain Kirk-ish sexual innuendo.”
Yet, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled that judgment and claimed that the parody lacked one major component for it to be such; a lack of critique on Suess and his work. Yet, the case wasn’t as over as first reported. The appellate court remanded the case (sent it back to the district court) and the district court denied summary judgment setting up a long shot for ComicMix to continue their legal case.
Yet, it was ComicMix who finally had enough and made a deal with Dr. Seuss Enterprises that they would no longer pursue the book, and in turn, Dr. Seuss Enterprises would not pursue damages.
The Star Trek and Dr. Seuss parody barely qualified as fair use
It’s one thing to sell a parody but if you saw the image of the book, the drawings, and the character designs, it is certainly borderline fair use at best. The ruling that the book didn’t critique the work of Seuss all but killed any chance the book had to get made.
The book looked brilliant and while only seen limited pages, it sure seemed like something any Trek fan would enjoy. That said, you can’t fault someone for wanting to protect what’s is there’s and ComicMix did step dangerously close to violating copyright laws.
ComicMix likely pulled their case due to the money being wasted on a long-shot and were likely advised by their lawyers that should they lose, Dr. Seuss Enterprises would probably come for them to collect damages. Though that’s merely speculation.
Either way, this is a clear sign to be careful out there if you’re working on something that may violate someone else’s copyright claim.