Lawyer power! Viacom has commenced a lawsuit for copyright and trademark infringement over an unauthorized Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle’s live action show.
The Turtles are far past the teenage points in their life cycles by now. They first appeared in comic books way back in 1984 and three years later the first, and best, animated television show started airing. In 2009, Viacom purchased all rights to the Turtles which was originally owned by Mirage Comics.
Defendant Michael Anthony Baca is a New Mexico based individual that runs the Guardian Anti-Bullying Campaign Inc. Since 2015, Baca has been putting on shows that feature the Turtles and their villains such as Shredder and his Foot Clan in full costume and all without permission. Baca bills these shows as the “Turtles Live Action Parody” and you can see an advertisement from the show to the right. Over the years, Viacom has sent numerous cease and desist letters to Baca over the shows and Baca repeatedly admitted his wrongful conduct and said he would stop. But, I guess, the show had to go on.
Viacom had enough of the promises and were seemingly very patient. Some three years after first discovering the infringement, Viacom sued Baca and his non-for-profit for copyright and trademark infringement. Viacom seeks damages, its attorneys’ fees, and a permanent injunction banning Baca from ever putting on a show again.
So what about parody as a defense you may ask, parody is right there in the name of the show. Viacom claims the show is not a parody as it contains no meaningful commentary upon, or criticism of, the Turtles. Despite the fact that the show is billed as having an anti-bullying message, bullying is not the focus of the show. The show is just a Turtles show with meet and greets for kids and entertainment for all.
Baca is in a very bad place. Not only has he infringed Viacom’s intellectual property but he has admitted to it and never stopped. This is the definition of willful conduct which leads to enhanced damages. Baca better hope a couple of pizzas is a fair settlement offer.