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Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Kraft Wins Preliminary Injunction Against Helm

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


Sigh...

Please go and at least poke around the CBLDF commercial site. There may be something you want (a special signed first edition of American Gods for less than you'll pay on Ebay? The Babylon 5 script I did? A new James Kochalka tee shirt? All About P'Gell hardback, signed and numbered by Will Eisner?) Or just take out a CBLDF membership.

This case is going to take money. Consider this post an unashamed begging letter.

And tell them you're doing it for King Velveeda. Er, better make that Stuart Helm.

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