By Darren Coyne
It would be an epic battle indeed. The Phantom vs The Plantem, squaring off in a court of law.
The Australian publisher of the iconic Phantom comics has sent a letter to the Nimbin HEMP Embassy threatening legal action unless the HEMP Party stops using its Plantem character in political advertisements, and at Mardi Grass.
The Plantem is a Nimbin street theatre character created by former Nimbin resident Bob Hopkins more than 20 years ago, and later revived by the late Chicken George.
The character was modelled on American cartoonist Lee Falk’s Phantom comic book character and campaigns against cannabis prohibition. The image most recently appeared in political adverstising for the HEMP Party.
In the letter, Frew Publications publisher Dudley Hogarth wrote that ‘the use of the Phantom’s image in green costume as a means of promoting your political aspirations’ is ‘offensive to the Phan base’.
Mr Hogarth said he had been receiving calls of complaint from Western Australia, where HEMP Party advertising has appeared in the West Australian newspaper.
‘The Phantom was and never has been in favour of or a promoter of drugs medicinal or recreational,’ Mr Hogarth wrote.
‘Firstly you use the image illegally, secondly by inference you tarnish his iconic image.’
‘Frew Publications hold the licence for the Phantom in Australia and New Zealand under rights paid for and granted to us by King Feature Inc TM Hearst Holding, Inc New York.
‘Unless you are willing to go to court I must ask and insist that you cease and desist using the Ghost who walks to promote your ideology.
‘The same applies to the use of Phantom for the festival.’
HEMP party president Michael Balderstone, who is running as a Senate candidate in Western Australia, responded saying it was never the intention of the party to upset the ‘Phan base’.
‘In fact the opposite, we were sure the Phantom would love the Plantem’s work in exposing Big Pharma’s greedy monopoly over global pain relief and the outlawing of nature’s best pain relieving plants,’ Mr Balderstone said.
‘In NSW alone the Premier plans to spend $3.8 billion dollars on new jails, maybe privatised jails, for 7000 extra prisoners.
‘Surely the Phantom does not support this?
‘The advertisement today in WA was a one off and will not be run again and I will forward your letter to other followers of the Plantem so they know their position, but would you please reconsider.
‘I am sure the Phantom and the Plantem would be best of allies and certainly not enemies.’
Mr Balderstone told Echonetdaily that he was surprised by the letter of demand.
‘The Plantem has been a mascot of Nimbin for more than two decades but I guess the people in the west are a bit isolated and may not have been aware of him,’ he said.
The HEMP Party has pointed out that the law of fair dealing for the purpose of parody or satire was introduced as a defence to copyright infringement by Australian Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) almost five years ago.