It’s a story out of a comic book: two decades after losing a high-profile court battle, a lawyer steps from the shadows to avenge his past failure.
In late August, Los Angeles–based attorney Kenneth Feinswog sent a cease-and-desist letter on behalf of his client, pop star Justin Bieber, to Darren Davis, president of comic-book publisher Bluewater Productions. At issue, the use of Bieber’s image in a biographical comic-book series.
Feinswog has worn this suit before. In 1992, the L.A. lawyer represented boy band New Kids on the Block in a lawsuit against Todd Loren of Revolutionary Comics for distributing a comic book parodying the New Kids. In the case, the presiding judge ruled that biographical comic books are protected by the First Amendment, quashing the cease-and-desist order.
“And while the subjects of such biographies may be offended by the publication of their life stories,” read the ’92 court decision, “they generally have no claim for trademark violation. It is equally clear that parody is a form of artistic expression, protected by the First Amendment.”
Reader contributor Jay Allen Sanford, whose Rock ’n’ Roll Comics series is now getting reprinted by Bluewater, knows Feinswog well. Sanford ran Revolutionary Comics from 1992 to 1994, after founder Todd Loren was found dead in his Hillcrest apartment.
Eighteen years later, just days after Bluewater president Davis received Feinswog’s letter, news organizations contacted Sanford requesting interviews.
Sanford was surprised to hear Feinswog’s name again. “To quote Yogi Berra, ‘It’s deja vu all over again,’” wrote Sanford in a September 1 email.
“Rock ’n’ Roll Comics and publisher Revolutionary Comics established legal precedents that made it possible for a company like Bluewater to pick up the torch with so-called ‘reality comics,’” wrote Sanford. “[Davis and I] talked about how they were bound to be threatened with lawsuits some day. I sure didn’t expect it to be the same lawyer.
“Feinswog is on the shakiest of grounds, and he probably knows this. But when has that ever stopped a lawyer from pursuit of a superstar client paycheck?”
Feinswog declined to comment on the letter or why he has returned to a losing battle.