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The Air Pirates were a group of counterculture cartoonists working out of San Francisco who published a comic book depicting Mickey Mouse and other popular Disney cartoon characters as being involved in sexual situations, taking illegal drugs, and using bad language.�� The group claimed that its purpose was to parody and criticize the Disney image of family-values squeaky-clean wholesomeness, happy endings, and smiling faces.� The Disney organization was not amused, and in 1971 filed a lawsuit against Air Pirates, alleging copyright infringement, trademark infringement, and unfair competition.� Air Pirates claimed that their parody was protected speech under the First Amendment, and that it was also protected under the fair use laws.� In addition, they maintained that the parody had done no economic damage to Disney�s original works.� In mid-1972, the court issued an injunction against the Air Pirates, barring them from publishing any more Disney cartoons until the case was resolved.� The initial decision in the California District Court went against the Air Pirates, the judge rejecting the parody defense, and ruling that a parody could not consist of a substantial taking or outright copying of a copyrighted work.� The First Amendment claim also failed, with the court ruling that a free speech defense for the use of copyrighted material would only be valid if the use of the copyrighted material had been fair.� The judge also found Air Pirates guilty of trademark infringement and trade disparagement.� The defendants appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.� In 1978, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed the Circuit Court�s original ruling against the Air Pirates, although they dismissed the trademark infringement claim because there had been no public confusion between the Air Pirates and the Disney comics and that no one could have reasonably concluded that the Disney organization was the creator of the Air Pirates� comics.�� The fair use defense was rejected because the defendants had copied the substance of the Disney products, not just small parts.� The court held that the First Amendment did not prevent the court from blocking the distribution of the comic, because the defendants could have expressed their theme without copying any of Disney�s protected expression.� The fact that the cartoon figures were used in different plots and portrayed with altered personalities was ruled to be immaterial.� The Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal.
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