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Phillies can continue using altered Phillie Phanatic as team mascot, federal judge rules

USATSI

A judge has ruled that the Philadelphia Phillies can continue to use the Phillie Phanatic as their mascot, a decision that comes amid legal battles due to changes that were made to the mascot last year by the franchise.

In her decision, United States Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburin in Manhattan wrote that the original creators of the Phillie Phanatic, Wayde Harrison and Bonnie Erickson, “demonstrated” that the mascot had been registered as an artistic sculpture under copyright law, according to the Associated Press.

“H/E argue that P2 is not original because it is the ‘same old Phanatic’ or a ‘slavish copy’ of P1,” Netburn wrote. “If the Phillies had designed something so dissimilar from the Phanatic that it would no longer be recognizable as the Phanatic, then, by extension, it would not be a derivative of the Phanatic, and instead would be a completely different mascot.”

In 2019, the Phillies attempted to sue the original creators of the Phanatic. The team filed a federal complaint accusing Harrison/Erickson of going back on an agreement from 1984 to let the Phillies use the mascot “forever.” The team then decided in February 2020 to alter the appearance of the Phanatic, which included changes to the mascot’s feathers, as well as a few other tweaks.

While the Phillies are still legally allowed to use their new version of the mascot, Netburn recommended that Harrison/Erickson be recognized as the original creators of the Phanatic. She also noted that Harrison/Erickson had the right to end the Phillies’ 1984 agreement to acquire the rights of the Phanatic, which they did in 2020 after the team made the mascot changes.

“If left uncorrected this low bar for a derivative work will thwart the very purpose and intent of the copyright termination provisions established by Congress to fairly compensate original creators for their works 35 years after they have licensed or granted rights in their creations, as Bonnie and Wayde did in 1984. The fight of the original creators for their just due will continue,” lawyers for Harrison and Erickson said in a statement.

The Phillies did not release a statement on the decision.




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