The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has taken the case of a U.S. Custom Service seizure of comics consigned to Top Shelf Comics. The comics involved are two issues of Stripburger, the flagship title of an Eastern European publisher of the same name. Top Shelf represents Stripburger titles in the U.S.; the issues that were seized were sent as samples.
U.S. Customs seized fourteen copies of Stripburger (Vol. 12) #37, which contained a four-page parody of Richie Rich, titled 'Richie Bush,' by award-winner Peter Kuper (see 'Sticks and Stones Gets Gold') in which the personalities of Bush cabinet members were superimposed on the comic characters.
U.S. Customs also seized five copies of Stripburger (Vol. 3) #4-5, which contained an eight-page ecology parable in Slovenian, titled 'My Pole,' by Bojan Redzic, in which representations of three Peanuts characters (Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and Woodstock) appear in three panels.
No graphics from either story appeared on the covers of the respective issues. The materials in question are clearly parody, which is protected free speech.
U.S. Customs informed Top Shelf of the seizures in a letter dated October 27th, calling the comics 'clearly piratical copies' of registered and recorded copyrights. CBLDF counsel Burton Joseph advised the Fund that Customs had unlawfully seized constitutionally protected free speech. The CBLDF board of directors voted 8-0 to take the case. Chris Staros, President of Top Shelf, who also is President of the CBLDF and serves on the board, recused himself from the vote.
On November 24th, counsel for the Fund notified Customs that if the books were not released, legal action would be initiated.