‘Cat in the Hat’ comes back to enjoin O.J. parody
CALIFORNIA–In late March, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena (9th Cir.) unanimously upheld a lower court’s decision to prohibit the distribution of a book that parodied the O.J. Simpson double murder trial, titled “The Cat NOT in the Hat!”
The book’s central character was “Dr. Juice,” and the book was written in a style similar to that of the 1957 original, “The Cat in the Hat,” by Theodore Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss. Although the language in the parody did not exactly copy the words from the famous publication, the intent to copy the material was clear, the court ruled, especially since a picture of the well-known cat with his distinctive lopsided top-hat was displayed on the back cover of the 1995 book.
The court held that a “parody needs to mimic an original to make its point, and so has claim to use the creation of its victim’s imagination.” A parody of the trial does not allow the authors to use Dr. Seuss’ copyrighted material, while a parody of the Seuss book would, the court said.
The Dr. Seuss estate had tried to halt the publication of the books by obtaining a temporary restraining order, but the District Court in San Diego had denied the request, scheduling a hearing for a preliminary injunction instead. In late March 1996, the court issued an injunction to stop the production of the books. However, approximately 12,000 books had already been printed.
The publishers appealed, claiming that they did not violate copyright laws because their book parodied the Dr. Seuss style.
Published by Penguin Books and Dove Audio, “The Cat NOT in the Hat!” was written in 1995 by Alan Katz and illustrated by Chris Wrinn. (Dr. Seuss Enterprises v. Penguin Books USA; Media Counsel: Vincent Cox, Los Angeles)