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After vanquishing a rogue’s gallery of dastardly villains — Dr. Evil, Mini-Me, Fat Bastard, Number 2 and Scott Evil — Austin Powers faces the gravest threat to his groovy gig — suits with no sense of humor. Austin Powers may have the mojo, but James Bond has the MPAA. Recently the Motion Picture Association of America axed the title of the third installment of the Austin Powers spy spoof series, “Goldmember,” as being too close to the 1964 Bond classic, “Goldfinger.” This isn’t the first time MGM and Danjaq, the owners of the Bond cash cow, have (union) jacked with the snaggle-toothed spy. MGM and Danjaq tried, but failed, to deep six the title of the second Powers movie, “The Spy Who Shagged Me,” as infringing on the 1977 not-so-classic, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” Evidently the world isn’t enough for the Bond studio, which has milked $2.5 billion from the franchise. The MPAA’s dismemberment of the tongue-in-cheek title “Goldmember” for the upcoming flick, due to be released this summer, has forced New Line (the owner of the Austin Powers cash calf) to scramble. New Line already has killed 11,000 trailers in theatres and recalled posters and other promotional materials, all of which have become valuable collectors’ items. The specter looms of a greater threat to the shagadelic spy if the Bond bullies, emboldened by the MPAA’s ruling, decide to challenge the content of the Powers movie, rather than simply its title. After all, the Bond team announced “a no tolerance policy” toward those tweaking the venerable Brit hit man. That ought to scare the living daylights out of rival studios. A challenge to the body of the movie could cost New Line time and money, especially if it mandates re-shooting scenes. Among the many roles Mike Myers plays in the upcoming movie is the arch-villain, Goldmember. Use your imagination on how the antagonist came by that name. Or, better yet, don’t. Anyway, after erasing the title, what’s to prevent the Bond team from going after the title character? The International Man of Mystery is now the International Man in Misery. He’s in danger of losing his license to kid. Of being shaken, not stirred, like a martini. Of discovering that his movie titles, unlike diamonds, are not forever. Worse still, New Line doesn’t have time to resort to the courts. Because Austin Powers 3 is scheduled for release on July 26, 2002, the studio cannot afford to wade into a legal maze, burning valuable time needed to promote their movie. Thus, the MPAA’s ruling is unlikely to face a legal challenge, even though New Line might well prevail in the courts. SENSE OF HUMOR As parody, the Austin Powers movies are entitled to substantial protection under the First Amendment and should fall within the “fair use” doctrine of copyright law. For starters, the odds against anyone’s confusing “Goldmember” with “Goldfinger” are roughly the same as those of mistaking Mike Myers for Sean Connery. The courts recently affirmed the broad protection accorded parody in the flap over “The Wind Done Gone,” a novel by Alice Randall that includes many of the same characters and scenes in “Gone With the Wind” recounted from the perspective of Cynara, a slave’s daughter who also happens to be Scarlett’s half-sister. The estate of Margaret Mitchell sued Houghton Mifflin, the publishers of the parody, and persuaded a federal judge to bar publication of the book. Faster than Austin Powers can jump into the sack with his leading lady (Foxy Cleopatra in this summer’s outing), an appeals court vacated the injunction, and Randall’s book became a bestseller, due largely to the publicity generated by the court battle. Fortunately, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did give a damn, ensuring that Randall’s book was not for her eyes only. Look, it really shouldn’t take a court of law to remind us that parody must be nurtured, and we don’t need to bone up on con law and copyright doctrine. What are needed are courts, counselors and companies with a sense of humor, applying the universal “chuckle test.” When you first heard the title “The Wind Done Gone,” didn’t it spark an involuntary smile? I thought so. Same thing with “Goldmember.” And if you didn’t smile at those titles, put down your law books and pore over every back issue of Madmagazine you can put your hands on. The pity is that Ian Fleming, the author of the Bond books, and his famous creation had keen senses of humor, even if those churning out the Bond films don’t. I can’t see James Bond feeling threatened by a diminutive wannabe with bad hair, bad eyes, bad teeth and bad threads. Moreover, I can’t see the suave agent with the license to kill running to the MPAA for protection. He would have handled the matter the old-fashioned way — with fists, weapons or one of Q’s inventions — not by hiring a humor-impaired legal hit team. Would James Bond resort to the courts? Say it ain’t so, 007. Paul Coggins is a principal in the Dallas office of Fish & Richardson, http://www.fr.com/, a national intellectual property, complex litigation and technoloty firm. He is a former U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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