Legal Question in Intellectual Property in New York

Can I illustrate a book in the style of Dr. Seuss? What makes a book like "The Kid in the Crib" legal?

I am looking to write a rhyming picture book with a title beginning with "Oh, the _____ !" and Dr. Seuss-style illustrations, but nothing else similar to his work. Would this be a problem??

Asked on 10/18/14, 7:02 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Frank Natoli Natoli-Legal, LLC

This is a fact intensive scenario and no one could offer anything actionable without knowing exactly what you propose. That said, no one can lay claim over a "style" of writing or illustration. The test under copyright law is called "the substantial similarity test." So how much of what you use is substantially similar to the works of Dr. Seuss? Will your product be considered a derivative work and thus infringing?

If you, however, present to your market that you are somehow endorsed, sponsored by or otherwise affiliated with that enterprise this can be actionable misrepresentation and trademark infringement.

Further, parody is widely misunderstood and is under the realm of fair use. Fair use is a legal defense and the copyright holder is always free to drag you into court and force you to prove out your use as fair. So if you plan on relying on that defense you better be right and that rightness better be obvious.

I would, at a minimum, consult with counsel before making any investment just so you know that you are not investing in a potential legal problem.

If you would like to discuss further over a free phone consult, feel free to contact me anytime that is convenient.

Our firm is now referred by the American Bar Association (see under the New York section):

Kind regards,



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DISCLAIMER: this is not intended to be specific legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. No attorney-client relationship is formed on the basis of this posting.

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Answered on 10/20/14, 6:52 am

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