Parody wins - Barbie is art

Mattel has been ordered to pay $1.83 million for a frivilous suit. I'm sure the lawyers of and the photographer Thomas Forsythe are more than pleased.

Mattel sued Thomas Forsythe way back in 1999 for copyright and trademark infringement after he posed and posted (on his website) Barbies doing strange things. Thomas called it "artsurdism", the Barbies were in provocative positions with mixers, blenders, and other household widgets. Back in 2001 a federal District Court judge ruled that the photographs were parodies, and therefore protected under U.S. Copyright Law, the court also added that Mattel's claims were "groundless."

Then last year a federal appeals court said:

"It is not difficult to see the commentary that Forsythe intended or the harm that he perceived in Barbie's influence on gender roles and the position of women in society. However one may feel about his message--whether he is wrong or right, whether his methods are powerful or banal--his photographs parody Barbie and everything Mattel's doll has come to signify."

This June, the District Court granted a request by Forsythe and his attorneys to order Mattel to reimburse defense costs. In that ruling, the judge wrote:

"[Mattel's] conduct...does not appear to be motivated by the protection of a valid interest. [Mattel] had access to sophisticated counsel who could have determined that such a suit was objectively unreasonable and frivolous. Instead, it appears [Mattel] forced [Forsythe] into costly litigation to discourage him from using Barbie's image in his artwork."

Forsythe said to PDN: "I knew that I had every right to critique this overtly consumerist and impossible beauty myth. What I didn't know was how much money it would take to prove it. Federal court is a boxing ring for the rich."
His attorneys who worked on the case on a pro-bono basis, will get the bigger share of the money to cover their costs these past years.

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