10 March 2020CopyrightRory O'Neill

The Misfits sue art publisher over signature skull design

Punk band The Misfits have sued the publisher Abrams, alleging misappropriation of the group’s signature artwork for a coffee-table book.

The complaint was filed by Misfits AD, a company established by founding members of the band Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only to manage activities related to their reformed version of the band, yesterday, March 9.

Danzig and Only, who currently perform as The Original Misfits, accused Abrams of reproducing the band’s “Fiend Skull” design, registered with the US Copyright Office, without authorisation.

In July 2019, Abrams, which specialises in publishing illustrated books, released “ Scream With Me: The Enduring Legacy of The Misfits”.

The book is a coffee-table book advertised on the publisher’s website as the “ultimate visual history paying tribute to one of punk’s most iconic bands”.

According to the suit, the “Fiend Skull” design is displayed prominently on the front cover and repeatedly throughout the book.

“Abrams' unauthorised copying of the ‘Fiend Skull’ mark as the main image on the cover of the book is likely to cause confusion and lead consumers to mistakenly believe that Abrams and the book are endorsed, approved, or sponsored by, or affiliated, connected, or associated with Misfits AD,” the complaint said.

The band has accused Abrams of both copyright and trademark infringement, as well as false designation of origin.

n a statement sent to WIPR, lawyers for Abrams said the publisher will "vigorously defend" the Misfits' lawsuit.

"As the plaintiff admits, the parties corresponded about this matter last July through their counsel. At that time, Abrams pointed out to the Misfits’ counsel that the book’s publication was permissible under well-established trademark and copyright precedent," the statement said.

"We are surprised to now see this baseless lawsuit nearly eight months later.

"We are confident that the limited use of content that is alleged to be original to the Misfits in the Scream With Me book is well within the parameters of fair use. This same issue has been litigated in the recent past and courts have consistently held that such works are permissible, including in a well-known New York federal court case concerning a Grateful Dead visual book that documented the history of that band.

"In that 2006 case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the pictorial history of the Grateful Dead was a permissible fair use. Rather than having a sound legal basis, this lawsuit against Abrams seems to be mostly about the Misfits’ desire to publish their own book. Just as there can be multiple books about the Grateful Dead, there can be multiple books about the Misfits," the statement concluded.

The current incarnation of the band reunited in 2016, as The Original Misfits, following the group’s breakup in 1983, and several subsequent reunion shows.

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