MORE FUR FLIES IN FIERY FEUD OVER THE PHA­NATIC

The Times-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - BY OONA GOODIN-SMITH

When it comes to their rights to the Phillie Pha­natic, the iconic, fuzzy, green-beaked mas­cot’s de­sign­ers aren’t afraid to play a lit­tle hard­ball.

Af­ter be­ing ac­cused by the Phillies in a fed­eral law­suit of try­ing to make the Pha­natic a “free agent,” New York-based pup­pet mak­ers Bonnie Erick­son and Wayde Har­ri­son filed a coun­ter­claim this week that as­serts the base­ball team had no part in cre­at­ing the beloved gy­rat­ing, flight­less Gala­pa­gan bird mas­cot, claim­ing “the Phillies are al­ler­gic to the real facts.”

The pair asks a judge to award them full copy­right rights to the Pha­natic as of June 15, 2020 — when a 1984 agree­ment made be­tween the cre­ators and the Phillies ex­pires.

Fur­ther­more, the fil­ing claims, the Phillies’ Au­gust law­suit against Har­ri­son and Erick­son is an at­tempt to “bully” the pup­pet mak­ers and is be­ing used as a “weapon” to pres­sure them into ac­cept­ing less money from the Phillies for the re­newal of the Pha­natic’s copy­right.

“De­spite the twisted al­lega

tions of the Com­plaint, it is un­de­ni­able that for four decades The Phillies ab­so­lutely knew and re­peat­edly ac­knowl­edged that (Har­ri­son and Erick­son) were the sole au­thors of Pha­natic copy­right,” the coun­ter­claim reads.

In Au­gust, the Phillies sued Har­ri­son and Erick­son, ac­cus­ing them of threat­en­ing to with­draw from a 1984 agree­ment to let the Phillies use the mas­cot “for­ever,” and forc­ing them to ei­ther rene­go­ti­ate the rights to the hot doglaunch­ing menace for “mil­lions of dol­lars” or “make the Pha­natic a free agent.”

The Phillies bought the copy­right rights to the Pha­natic in 1984 for $250,000. Ac­cord­ing to fed­eral copy­right law, af­ter 35 years, artists can rene­go­ti­ate the rights to their cre­ation.

But, the Phillies claim, the base­ball fran­chise is just as re­spon­si­ble for the suc­cess of the Pha­natic as Har­ri­son and Erick­son, giv­ing them the right to use a mas­cot the team says it co-au­thored.

Mean­while, Har­ri­son and Erick­son — who also cre­ated the famed Mup­pet Miss Piggy — say they solely cre­ated the Pha­natic’s char­ac­ter and back­story, from his me­ga­phone-shaped snout (“be­cause the name Pha­natic im­plied a loud and bois­ter­ous char­ac­ter”) to his ver­dant fur (“a green mas­cot would stand out among the multi-col­ored seats”).

The Phillies, who have pre­vi­ously de­clined to com­ment, didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

RICH SCHULTZ / GETTY IMAGES

The Phillie Pha­natic dances with a lo­cal dance team dur­ing a game be­tween the At­lanta Braves and Phillies at Cit­i­zens Bank Park in Philadel­phia.

PHILADEL­PHIA DAILY NEWS FILE

Philadel­phia Phillies out­fielder Bryce Harper is joined by the Phillie Pha­natic.

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