- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Here is a case of dolly folly, to be sure.
It is now legal to wrap naked Barbie dolls in tortillas, pose them in martini glasses or present them in compromising positions with one another — for one obsessed artiste, at least.
In the name of the First Amendment, U.S. District Judge Ronald Lewis ruled in a Los Angeles court Monday that photographer Tom Forsythe can continue making "Food Chain Barbie" images that combine nude Barbies, dinnerware and countertop appliances in unusual positions.
Mr. Forsythe — who turned the color photos into postcards, prints and a traveling exhibit — argued that his work was art with esthetic value. He accused the little doll of being a "beauty myth who destroys many a woman who can't measure up," and part of the "commodity machine."
Mattel, the toymaker that has produced Barbies in infinite varieties for 42 years, sued Mr. Forsythe for copyright infringement, just as it has sued dozens of other creative poachers who sought to sully the Barbie name.
With vigorous cease-and-desist orders, Mattel defeated the musical group Naked Barbies, a Web site called "Distorted Barbies" and a collector's magazine that showed her with cigarettes and champagne.
But Barbie abuse is rampant among those who cannot resist the cheap shot. The doll has been shown pregnant, battered, addicted and in a whole spectrum of pornographic incarnations in film, videos, books and on the Internet.
Mattel's Barbie protection machine is so active, however, that one former company CEO said her job consisted of guarding the doll's welfare with a whole stable of lawyers, but not without repercussions.
When Mattel prevented collector's clubs from using the Barbie name and went after a children's charity for the same crime four years ago, a consumer backlash erupted. Under the name "Pink Rage," offended aficionados worldwide organized boycotts and letter writing campaigns on pink stationary.
"Take a stand, girls," one organizer advised. "This is just like communism."
Save for a 1999 suit against MCA Records for unauthorized Barbie-themed lyrics, Mattel has won most of its court cases.
Mr. Forsythe, however, had the American Civil Liberties Union and a team of volunteer lawyers who claimed the images of a Barbie in a wok or cozied up to another naked Barbie were "parodies" rather than trademark infringement.
Judge Lew agreed.
"This is a slam-dunk," said Peter Eliasberg of the ACLU. "We couldn't have asked for more. This is a ringing victory for artists' rights and the First Amendment. The court has made it clear Mattel cannot use the legal system to silence artists who want to comment on and parody Mattel's products."
Mattel is already planning its appeal.
"We are disappointed that the judge failed to take into consideration that there are a lot of consumers who do not view Mr. Forsythe's material as art or parody," said a Mattel spokeswoman. "There are a substantial number of people who may be confused, thinking this is a Mattel-sponsored product."
The approved Barbie universe, meanwhile, is alive and well. Since January, Mattel has introduced "N'Sync," Burberry raincoat, McDonald's, "I Dream of Jeanie" and Hispanic Barbies. Sales of the doll are up 2 percent this year — to the tune of $379 million in more than 150 countries.

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