8
Aug/02

Spawn Defeats Tony Twist in Theory of Publicity/Defamation Case


Todd McFarlane created the Spawn comic book, movie, tv show, etc.  A hockey fan, McFarlane admittedly named a character, a bad guy, Anthony ‘Tony Twist’ Twistelli, after a real-life hockey player.  Merely the name was used, not likeness or biographical data. In other words, other than the fact that both are violent, the character was perhaps inspired but not ‘based’ on the hockey player. The real Tony Twist sued on misappropriation of name, defamation and other torts.  At trial Twist argued that the use of his name made him entitled to 15% of the combined revenues of all Spawn products plus another 5% for the negative impact due to the nature of the use (this from a hockey goon).  The jury agreed and awarded him $24 million.  Insert your own thoughts about the jury system here.  The trial court granted a judgment notwithstanding the verdict.

If I were putting together a case book for First Amendment, Theory of Publicity or Entertainment law issues, I would include this Missouri Court of Appeals decision throwing out the verdict on First Amendment grounds.  

BTW: Those of you keeping track of the workers taking control of the means of production, may be interested to study the career of McFarlane.  He walked away from the Spiderman gig at Marvel to found his own comic book company, and now has enough money to have purchased one of McGwire’s record-setting homerun balls.

 

 

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