Nope, you can’t sue for being “Simpsonized.”

Yellow skin, a large overbite, no chin - but Goodfellas actor loses last shot at suing for 'stealing' his likeness.

He was given yellow skin, a large overbite, no chin, no eyebrows, and a high-pitched voice -and that was enough for a US appeals court to rule that actor Frank Sivero could not continue his lawsuit against FOX Television.

Sivero, who played Frankie Carbone in Goodfellas, claimed Springfield’s mobster Louie, was based on Frankie Carbone from the 1989 movie. His lawsuit had stated that he lived in the same apartment building at the writers of The Simpsons in 1989.

But the studio argued Sivero had brought a frivolous lawsuit that impinged free speech rights. In August 2015, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge rejected the lawsuit along with Sivero’s $250 million demand.

Justice Kerry Bensinger said, “Even if Louie resembles Sivero, the Louie character contains significant transformative content other than Sivero’s likeness. Louie is not a literal likeness of Sivero as were the images of The Three Stooges in Comedy III and the depictions of rock band members in No Doubt, and college football players in NCAA. Instead, Louie is a cartoon character with yellow skin, a large overbite, no chin, and no eyebrows. Louie has a distinctive high-pitched voice which, as the trial court pointed out, has ‘no points of resemblance to [Sivero].’

“Sivero acknowledges his likeness has been ‘Simpsonized,'” states the opinion. “To be ‘Simpsonized’ is to be transformed by the creative and artistic expressions distinctive to The Simpsons. This is precisely what the California Supreme Court meant in Comedy III when it said: ‘an artist depicting a celebrity must contribute something more than a merely trivial variation, [but must create] something recognizably his own, in order to qualify for legal protection.’ Contrary to Sivero’s argument, the fact other cartoon characters in The Simpsons share some of the same physical characteristics does not detract from the point these physical characteristics are transformative. Indeed, Sivero’s observation highlights the very point that the creative elements predominate in the work.”

Source: Hollywood Reporter

One Response

  1. I know this has nothing to do with the article, however:

    Imagine if they could sue for a voice sounding alike, the estates of James Cagney and Peter Lorre would have a field day, those two would have to be the most copied voices ever, with Vincent Price coming in to it as well.

    I mean it did work for both Bette Midler (Ford 1988) and Tom Waits (Doritos 1988) who successfully sued for voices used in ads, however that was for singing and they used songs that artist was famous for. The courts decided a singer with a distinct and well known voice owned its likeness, Midler won $400,000 and Tom Waits $2.6 million in damages.

    Of course animations usually get away with it because of the First Amendment: When reproducing a person’s identity, the use will be immune from First Amendment claims if the purpose is informative or cultural. However, if the purpose of reproducing is only to…

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