Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
american lawyer media news service San francisco-Although aging rockers Edgar and Johnny Winter didn’t like being portrayed as lecherous half-human, half-worm monsters in a popular comic book series, there’s little they can do about it. In one of its shortest rulings in memory, a unanimous California Supreme Court recently held that DC Comics’ outlandish portrayal of the Winters brothers in 1995′s Jonah Hex: Riders of the Worm and Such is protected by the First Amendment. The depictions of the Winters as the evil “Johnny and Edgar Autumn” brothers, the court ruled, contain “significant creative elements” that transform them into more than mere celebrity likenesses. The ruling could make it tougher for celebrities to sue over unflattering portrayals. That comes as a relief to the Motion Picture Association of America and a host of publishing-industry groups that weighed in on the side of the comic book company. “To the extent the drawings of the Autumn brothers resemble plaintiffs at all, they are distorted for purposes of lampoon, parody or caricature,” Justice Ming Chin wrote in an 11-page opinion. “And the Autumn brothers are but cartoon characters-half-human and half-worm-in a larger story, which is itself quite expressive.” The Autumns appeared in the final two editions of the five-book Jonah Hex series that had them fighting singing cowboys in the Old West. The spawn of a giant subterranean worm creature who had raped their mother, the Autumns-who, like the Winters, have long hair and are albinos-sprouted green tentacles from their chests, ripped the heads off livestock and ate the brains of pigs with which they fornicated. ‘Creative elements’ suffice The Winters sued, claiming that the depictions violated their rights to publicity under California law. In disagreeing, the high court said the depictions met the test it laid out in 2001 in Comedy III Productions Inc. v. Gary Saderup Inc., 25 Cal. 4th 387, which held that unauthorized celebrity likenesses are protected by the First Amendment as long as sufficient creative elements have been added to transform them into more than an imitation. “Application of the test to this case is not difficult,” Chin wrote in Winter v. DC Comics, No. 03 C.D.O.S. 4586. The justices reviewed the comic book, and “we can readily ascertain that they are not just conventional depictions of plaintiffs, but contain significant expressive content other than plaintiffs’ mere likenesses.” The Winters had also argued that the comic book characters did not technically qualify as parodies, but Chin said that did not matter. “What matters,” he wrote, “is whether the work is transformative, not whether it is parody or satire or caricature or serious social commentary or any other specific form of expression.”

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.