'Family Circus' creator tries to stop Web site parodyThe Arizona Republic
Sept. 22, 1999
Bil Keane, creator of The Family Circus syndicated comic strip, wants to put a stop to a Web site that pokes fun at his depiction of a 1950s-vintage American nuclear family, Wired News reports.
Greg Galcik, creator of the Dysfunctional Family Circus site, may pull the plug on parody after receiving a cease-and-desist order Friday from King Features Syndicate, which distributes The Family Circus.
"I haven't had a drop of saliva in my mouth all day," Galcik told Wired News. He posted a note on the site saying that he has stopped adding new cartoons.
Dysfunctional Family Circus allows readers to submit their own captions for Family Circus cartoon drawings and attracts 50,000 to 70,000 page views per day.
The Family Circus runs in The Arizona Republic and more than 1,500 other newspapers.
Parody is protected speech under the First Amendment. But what the syndicate and Keane, a Paradise Valley resident, are complaining about is Galcik posting copyrighted Family Circus panels on his site and using the trademarked words Family Circus.
The order brought criticism from the site's visitors as well as from Editor & Publisher Interactive columnist Steve Outing.
Outing wrote in a column posted today: "Family Circus is ripe for parody. A 40-year-old comic panel about a 1950s-vintage 'normal' American family (mom, dad, four kids, dog, cat, grandma, and grandpa in heaven), the humor and illustration style has varied little over the decades. Its humor is best described as 'saccharine,' and is terribly dated."
Outing criticized the syndicate for trying to stop the 5-year-old Web site and suggested instead that it start a parody site of its own.
Wired News reported that King Features could not be reached for comment but said on its Web site that Family Circus fans consider Daddy, Mommy, Billy, Dolly, Jeffy and PJ to be a "truly believable cartoon family."
Paul Riddell, a fan of the online parody site, put it this way in an email to Wired News: "What's really pathetic is not just the fact that so many people over the past five years responded to the idea of tormenting Bil Keane's dopey characters -- seeing as how The Family Circus is blight upon the newspaper comics page comparable to Garfield or The Quigmans -- but that King Features Syndicate let this slide for nearly five years and only now issued its cease-and desist order."
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