THE ARTICLE THAT MATTEL FORBID BARBIE BAZAAR TO PUBLISH
"Forbid the publication"...or censored?
In April 2001, I was informed that this article featuring Barbie doll clothing prototypes designed by BillyBoy* in the mid-1980s, along with the text I had written, both to be published in the summer issue of the Barbie doll collector’s magazine, BARBIE BAZAAR, was canceled because “Mattel forbid the publication.”
BARBIE BAZAAR was a magazine which depended on a license agreement with Mattel for the use of the trademark ©Barbie. They were not able to give, at first, an explanation about this extremely abrupt decision. They had been thrilled with the subject and had prepared eight full pages for it. I wrote to Karen Caviale, editor of the magazine, to ask for further information about this cancellation which I finally received: Mattel had refused to let this article be published on the pretext that “BillyBoy* was claiming copyrights on the Barbie dolls, and that these dolls are not his”. They also said that according to Mattel that there are “legal disputes” with BillyBoy* and therefore Barbie Bazaar could not feature these dolls in the magazine. The editors were greatly disappointed not to run this article but were powerless, according to themselves....
First, I would just like to point out that there is absolutely no claim of copyright - ever!! - by BillyBoy* on the Barbie doll itself. BillyBoy* is a professional artist and designer of world-acclaim and he is perfectly aware of copyright matters. Particularly so since he has been confronted with many abusive uses of his name, trademarks as well as to many copies of his own creations. In the past years he has had to confront and deal with over-zealous Mdvanii collectors who have abusively used the name and image of Mdvanii to sell their own products. Defending your own rights and the intellectual property of your creations is legitimate but this should not be confused with Mattel’s apparent policy to censor historic facts, notably the work of BillyBoy* for Barbie.
The copyrights claims in question are only on the artistic photographic works he did himself with the dolls from his own collection and, in the present case, of the dolls wearing exclusively his own hand-made artistic styling of the haute couture fashions he did starting in the early 1980s, which obviously are his sole copyright. At the time he was under contractual agreement with Mattel and in was asked to submit “designs and concepts” for Barbie costumes for possible manufacture. Two of these designs and concepts were indeed used as all collectors know. The rest of these concepts and samples of clothing, hair and make-up designs on the Barbie dolls, remained entirely in his possession along with all creative rights on the designs. It was clearly expressed in several contracts between Mattel and BillyBoy* - stating that ALL photos created personally by BillyBoy* are exclusively copyrighted by BillyBoy* and cannot be used by Mattel without his express written permission along with other incontestable specificities.
These so-called “legal disputes” that were evoked by Mattel refer, infact, to some very legitimate claims BillyBoy* has concerning the unauthorized use of some of his original photos by Mattel for their purely commercial purposes as well as certain other unfair and arbitrary decisions from Mattel in the past years (of which the unauthorisation of reprinting his Barbie book is not the least). Legal representatives of Mr. BillyBoy* were in discussion with Mattel at the time, expressing BillyBoy*’s dissatisfaction over Mattel’s unauthorized usage of his work in direct violation of their written agreements.
It was a pure waste of time, of course. While Mattel may be a large and powerful corporation with certainly a one-track-mind policy concerning the respect of THEIR copyright matters, BillyBoy* is just an individual, who, I may add also, has other more important things in mind than wasting his time, energy and money with obviously bad-willed corporations. Mattel does not seem to have overcome their annoyance of BillyBoy*’s undeniable contribution to the Barbie phenomena in the 1980s, notably the tremendous success initiated by the "BillyBoy* New Theater of Fashion" Exhibition Tour, which they immensely profited from, though they try very hard to deny it, in spite of its evidence as a historic fact.
Freedom of speech
There is no misunderstanding that cannot be resolved with good will and honesty. In the case of the Barbie Bazaar article, a couple of e-mails certainly could have solved the matter at hand. If it was a problem concerning the photos, the article could even have been published with BillyBoy*’s sketches, for which, at least, no copyright can be disputed. Can Andy Warhol’s copyrights on the Barbie portrait he executed be disputed by Mattel? I would think not. Unfortunately, there was no attempt from Mattel to find a positive solution, just a final NO, which has all the appearances of a blatant censorship disguised with poor excuses. Odd from a country which has a First Amendment defending people's freedom of speech.
Since I believe there is nothing slanderous against Barbie or Mattel in this article, far from it, it is my own right and freedom to present it on the Fondation Tanagra’s website. On a purely information basis, this insight into BillyBoy*’s 1984-85 fashion prototypes for Barbie doll will certainly interest all those who have appreciated his original approach on Barbie as well as his humorous and highly innovative ideas on fashion dolls which has thrilled vast audiences and influenced a generation of doll admirers. Mattel still does not get it. This is certainly significant of Mattel ’s policy, as it has been particularly witnessed in the past ten years years, to many honest and sincere Barbie collectors, clubs, magazines and dealers, which all have also greatly and massively contributed to the popularity of Barbie. The censorship of Joe Blitman’s photographs in his books, the impossibility for clubs to use the name Barbie without a specific contractual agreement, the scandalous MILLER’S Magazine affair etc etc.. notably come to mind. As Karen Caviale admitted to me in her answer, “While Mattel is busy policing their trademarks and copyrights and over-producing their fantasy dolls, the hobby is going down the tube”.
On a last note, I feel it is the right of all collectors everywhere who admire the rich and interesting history of dolls in general to know this aspect of the Barbie doll history for which BillyBoy* is an indisssociable part....he contributed, whole-heartedly his talent and knowledge for which his goal was to make future collectors happy....I believe he has achieved this and hope that readers will appreciate this historic information. Let’s not forget, this should be fun after all, as it surely was....then!
Jean Pierre L. Lestrade, 2001.
President Fondation TANAGRA.
Barbie© doll and the name are copyright MATTEL.
Barbie Bazaar, the magazine exclusively built upon the success of the work of BillyBoy* in the domaine of the Barbie doll, as well as the influence of Mdvanii which inspired many a commercially-made look-a-like fashion dolls for collectors, went bankrupt in 2006 (1988 until the April/May 2006 issue).
The follow-up doll collector's magazine, called "Haute Doll" (incorrectly using the French word "haute") also largely based on the creative ideas and works of BillyBoy*, went bankrupt and was absorbed by a larger doll publishing group in 2010 (last issue July/August, 2010).
The current Barbie doll has retained all the attributes of BillyBoy*'s ideas as well as Mdvanii: The closed mouth, Mdvanii's make-up, the dark hair, a svelte new body which is asymmetric, and of course, many named designer clothes with higher attention to detail in these clothes, (Barbie had very adult-looking lingerie like Mdvanii after Mdvanii had such a success with hers), retro revisionism with a doll made from a resin-like substance like Mdvanii's resin which they imitatively called "Silkstone" and reproductions of nearly all of the early dolls and clothes from the entire 60s to even the 70s and early 80s (which BillyBoy* tried desperately to get Mattel to do), and many other things.
Market reality oblige, Barbie nevertheless also returned to being a fairy tale princess for little girls with unprecedented kitsch concepts. Contemporary Barbie (wearing trends of day fashion) looks, for all intents and purposes, like a trendy prostitute.
Recently, Mattel was condemned by a court in the United States to pay $310 million dollars to the makers of Bratz dolls for a variety of illegalities and the fact Mattel tried unsuccessfully to sabotage Bratz by claiming the concept belonged to them, which apparently it did not.
The irony of it all.
When Mattel in the late-1990s published thousands of catalogues in Japan using BillyBoy*'s Barbie book photos without authorization and did not give their approval for the reprint of 30 000 copies of his Japanese edition of Barbie, Her Life and Times, BillyBoy* could not claim his rights and received no compensation whatsoever. In fact, he'd moved on.
Karma, did you say karma?