A Stunning Confession Potentially Destroys Fairey's Fair Use Defense

By Dave Rein

Source of Poster:  Stephen Fairey; Source of Photograph:  Mannie GarciaDespite depictions in TV shows and the movies, most court cases do not involve dramatic confessions, cover ups and Presidential politics.  Of course, most court cases don't involve Stephen Fairey.  From pasting the Obey Giant (now his Twitter name) and other "Obey" posters on public property (much to the ire of city officials around the country) to talking smack with the Associated Press over the Presidential candidate Obama Hope poster, he seems to seek and thrive on controversey.

But the controversey with the AP over the Obama Hope poster may have seriously backfired on Fairey.  On February 9, 2009, Fairey filed a Complaint in the Southern District of New York saying that his use of a photograph claimed by the AP fell within the fair use defense and therefore, he owed the AP nothing for using the photograph to create the Obama poster.  One former blogger on this site thought that if Fairey's inspiration for the poster did come from the picture of Obama and George Clooney at a press conference as Fairey claimed, then Fairey might succeed.  It is unlikely that we will find out if he was right. 

On October 16, 2009, Fairey confessed that he used a different picture from the same press conference, one that more closely resembles the Obama poster.  A number of bloggers including Tom GralishPhoto District News and others had suspected as much, but Fairey had denied their claims until now.

An AP article appearing in the New York Times could barely conceal its delight of the confession and the news that Fairey's legal defense team from the Stanford Fair Use Project intend to withdrawal their representation because Fairey lied to them and tried to cover it all up. 

Fairey can likely afford to hire other legal counsel, but the legal arguments for his new defense team just got a lot more difficult.  One of the four fair use factors analyzes the amount of copyrighted work taken.  When the Obama Hope poster is compared to the picture that Fairey now confesses to using, this prong may now weigh against him where it may have helped in in the other picture.  

But beyond the simple analysis of the factors, it should be remembered that the fair use defense is an equitable rule.  Fairey's confessed dishonesty undercuts his ability to ask for equity, i.e. fairness.  In other cases, the courts have not looked kindly on those accursed of infringing a work who denied that he or she used the accuser's work and then later tried to invoke the fair use defense.  Further, should this case go to trial, the AP will likely be able to tell the jury that Fairey initially lied about the picture and that he lied because he thought that he would lose if the actual photograph was known.  Much of the jury sympathy that Fairey might have had has likely been lost.

While Fairey's case against the AP still raises interesting questions such as whether the AP or Mannie Garcia, the photographer, own the copyright to the photograph, it now looks like a much anticipated case analyzing the fair use defense will disappoint many.

Judge Posner's Copyright Proposal To Save Newspapers -- A Cosmic Paperboy?

By Dave Rein

I still turn to newspapers, whether on paper or on the Internet for my primary source of news, but it is no secret that newspapers are fighting for their lives -- not unlike Bruce Willis in pretty much any Die Hard movie.  Newspapers, rallying around AP, blame Google for their troubles.  Mike Masnick of techdirt, points to the staggering amounts of debt that the newspapers took on and there are probably a dozen other ailments giving newspapers the blues.

Many have suggested cures for the newspapers' ailments, including, as R. David Donoghue of the Chicago IP Law blog points out, the esteemed Judge Posner who hails from the Seventh Circuit in Chicago.  Judge Posner wrote in the Becker-Posner blog that we should ban online access to articles and bar anyone from paraphrasing or linking to a newspaper article without the newspaper's consent.  Otherwise, Judge Posner argues, free-loaders will run newspapers out of business. 

The commentary in response to Judge Posner's proposal focuses on skepticism that the proposal is workable, that he has become too sentimental for printed newspapers and that he is out of touch with social media.  But, what troubles me about the proposal is it appears to  venture awfully close to allowing newspapers to copyright facts.

The proposal to bar online access to copyrighted material without the copyright holder's consent is something the WSJ and a few other newspapers do already.  For example, to get full access to the WSJ's article about the AP creating an association to license and monitor who is republishing newspaper articles, you would need to subscribe to the WSJ.

Judge Posner's second suggestion, i.e. bar linking to or paraphrasing news articles, potentially could have greater implications.  Currently, copyright allows all of us to repeat facts found in books, newspapers and on the Internet if we do not copy the way those facts were repeated.  Copyright will protect how historical facts are expressed and not the facts themselves. 

To be fair, Judge Posner proposes a ban on paraphrasing newspaper articles or linking to the article.  He doesn't propose that newspapers should be able to copyright facts, but if nobody can paraphrase the article or link to it, does it effectively do the same thing?  Is there an argument that repeating a key fact or facts in an article is paraphrasing the article?  It strikes me that from a copyright perspective, Judge Posner's proposal has even wider implications than just for newspapers.

With that said, count me among the people who still subscribe to a printed newspaper and wouldn't mind having it stick around for a little longer.  If only the newspapers could create a real-life Early Edition where the hero received the Chicago Sun-Times the day before the news actually occurred:

[Discussing the mysterious newspaper]
Gary Hobson: Where is it coming from?
Marissa Clark: The hallway.
Gary Hobson: That's not what I meant.
Marissa Clark: Maybe it comes from God.
Gary Hobson: Yeah, God's a cosmic paperboy. 
 

We Are Now On Twitter!

By Dave Rein

For those of you who read the last post closely, yes it is true.  Owners, Borrowers & Thieves 2.0 has jumped into Twitter and you can now access the posts through Twitter by following me @daverein. 

Because these are uncharted waters for me, I am hoping that the Twitter veterans among you will lend a guiding hand until the Twitter for Dummies book is released next month!  

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Fair Use or Copyright Infringement? Iconic Obama Poster Sparks Debate

By Pete Salsich III

Whether you view it as an iconic image for a hopeful progressive nation or nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt at Soviet-style propaganda, you've almost certainly seen one of the now-famous Obama posters created by artist Shephard Fairey.  (above right)

Two weeks ago, the Associated Press accused Fairey of copyright infringement because the poster was based on a photograph taken in April 2006 by Mannie Garcia while on assignment for AP.  (above left)

Last week, Fairey countered by filing a declaratory judgment action in the Southern District of New York, claiming that his use of the original photograph is protected by the Fair Use Doctrine.  According to his Complaint (.PDF here), "Fairey used the Garcia Photograph as a visual reference for a highly transformative purpose; Fairey altered the original with new meaning, new expression, and new messages; and Fairey did not create any of the Obama Works for the sake of commercial gain."   

I think he's right.  Fair Use can be a notoriously slippery concept to apply, but in this case I think the transformative nature of Fairey's posters tips the case in his favor.  Moreover, he used only a portion of the original photograph--only as much as necessary to achieve his expressive purpose--and I think it unlikely that the AP could prove Fairey's posters have had a negative impact on the commercial market for the photograph.

In an added wrinkle, apparently the AP's claims of copyright ownership in the photograph are being questioned by Garcia himself.  This looks more like a PR blunder for the AP than anything else, but at least Garcia's work as a photographer is getting noticed along with Fairey's ubiquitous poster.

Owners, Borrowers & Thieves 2.0

By Pete Salsich III

Coming soon to a blogoshpere near you . . .

As regular readers of this blog know, we have often used this space as a means to follow and comment on the continuing tension that results from trying to fit new technologies, new types of content and new content delivery systems into old paradigms of intellectual property law.  Sometimes it's copyright -- for example, YouTube's assault on (or defense behind) the DMCA;  sometimes its trademark -- for example, whether Google Keyword ads constitute trademark use for purposes of an infringement claim; sometimes it's even Comics!

Recently we've realized that our mutual interest in emerging technologies and how the law practice can adapt to a changing IP environment has been prompting us to adapt our blogging to fit our own new paradigm.  We're very excited about some changes that will be coming shortly, including adding a fresh new voice or two.

We hope we've been "fairly useful" (to borrow Professor Sag's great blog title) so far, and hope you'll check in regularly as we go forward.

Stay tuned . . .  

Fair Use In a Realm of New Use: User-Generated Videos

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The new year opened with an intriguing study by two American University professors that concludes that many online videos which use copyrighted materials do so in ways that are eligible for fair use consideration under copyright law.  These are, of course, the very same uses of copyrighted material under siege by a variety of "anti-piracy" measures online.

The study--Recut, Reframe, Recycle: Quoting Copyrighted Material in User-Generated Video--identifies nine kinds of uses of copyrighted material that are eligible for fair use consideration. They range from the incidental (such as a video maker’s family singing “Happy Birthday”) to parody (a Christian takeoff on the song “Baby Got Back”) to pastiche and collage (finger-dancing to “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger”).

Better yet, the study contains links to dozens and dozens of videos--many of which are brilliant and hilarious--that demonstrate these various kinds of uses. WARNING: For those of you who've lost an hour or so of office time to the lure of the Sirens of the Island of the YouTube Concert Videos, prepare to land on Calypso's Island of Transformative Use, where you will be tempted by the vicious satire of George Bush Don't Like Black People and the astounding tour de force of History of Dance and the marvelously clever Ten Things I Hate About Commandments. And many, many more.

Kudos to the study's authors, Pat Aufderheide and Peter Jaszi, for shedding some coherent light on this vital new realm of fair use.  Pat Aufderheide is a professor in American University’s School of Communication and the director of the school's Center for Social Media.  Peter Jaszi is a professor in American University’s Washington College of Law and co-director of the law school’s Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property.

Fantasy Baseball 2, Real Baseball Zero

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The Eighth Circuit handed down its much awaited fantasy baseball decision in CBC Distribution & Marketing, Inc. v. Major League Baseball Advanced Media, L.P., the appeal of the district court's summary judgment in favor of CBC.  CBC had brought a declaratory judgment case in St. Louis to establish its right to use -- without license or compensation -- the names and statistical information of real major league baseball players in its fantasy baseball products.  The players had counterclaimed, maintaining that CBC's fantasy baseball products violated their rights of publicity.

Although the Eighth Circuit concluded that use by CBC of the names and statistics of the players in its commercial fantasy baseball operations satisfied all three elements of the Missouri tort -- namely, (1) use of the player's name as a symbol of his identify, (2) without his consent, and (3) with the intent to obtain a commercial advantage -- it held that this use was nevertheless a "fair use" under the First Amendment.

But of more interest to me -- and to those concerned that right-of-publicity has become the tort of choice for celebrities seeking to avoid the First Amendment barriers to libel and privacy claims -- is the Eighth Circuit's treatment of the controversial  First Amendment test created by the Missouri Supreme Court in the Tony Twist case, which is also the same case that articulated the three elements of the tort claim set forth in the preceding paragraph.

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Contracting Away Fair Use Rights: Amazon's MP3 Store, Lucasfilms and Blanket Licensing

By Pete Salsich III

It used to be pretty simple.  You went to a record store (or mailed in your record-club form), bought an album or CD, and you owned it.  As the owner, you had certain rights--under the First Sale and Fair Use doctrines, you could make a copy for your own personal use, give it away,  share it, even sell it.  Easy, right?

Well, the times they are a'changin'.  Like many people, I haven't bought a new CD in a long time -- I have all my music on my iPod and download it from iTunes (legally, of course).  Now I'm excited about Amazon.com's new MP3 Store, which promises cheaper music downloads, better sound, and--most importantly--the music is DRM-free, meaning I can play it on any device.  Great! 

But not so fast . . .

 

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Empire Declares Truce with Rebel Alliance

By Geoffrey Gerber

Sunday night, my multiverse collapsed upon itself. The Season Six premiere of Family Guy: Blue Harvest has been stalking me all summer.

At Comic-Con International in San Diego, Friday was Star Wars Day and Seth MacFarlane discussed the premiere episode during the Family Guy panel. You may have noticed sketches of Yoda and an Imperial Stormtrooper (along with tagline “May the Force be With You”) on the menu I used to discuss enforcement practices. Two weeks later, I was at the ABA Annual Meeting in San Francisco attending the Intellectual Property Law Section’s activities. While there, I had the opportunity to hear David Anderman Senior Director of Business Affairs (and lead attorney) for Lucasfilm Ltd. speak on a panel entitled “‘The Whole World is Watching!’ Privacy, Copyright and Parental Control in the Age of YouTube, MySpace and Beyond,” sponsored by the Forum on Entertainment and Sports Industries. During Anderman’s portion of the panel he discussed the Lucasfilm approach to enforcement and the Family Guy premier. Anderman explained how Lucasfilm’s relationship with Family Guy exemplifies a realistic approach to enforcement that understands branding and that has evolved with technological changes in content creation and distribution.

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James Brown "Live": Papa's Got a Brand New Claim

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While death has ended James Brown's reign as Hardest Working Man in Show Business, his post-mortem litigation may yet snatch from Elvis the title Hardest Work Corpse in Lawsuits.  His latest appearance was in the Illinois Appellate Court, where he was the headliner in the appeal of a right-of-publicity claim against a company that licenses copyrights for stock photographs.  The case presents an intriguing and somewhat confusing fair-use struggle along the border between right of publicity and copyright law.

The basic facts are straightforward: The main defendant, Corbis Corp., licenses the use of stock photographs and images. Its customers range from newspapers and magazines to advertising agencies.  It had, for example, given Rolling Stone Magazine a license to use certain photographs of James Brown in a profile the magazine published under the title Being James Brown.

So far, so good.  Entirely proper, no cause of action.

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Go, Shorty, It's Your Copyright -- Not

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"The law is a seamless web."  Whether Oliver Wendel Holmes or Frederick Maitland first made that enigmatic claim, one way to put it to the test is to set aside the familiar cubbyholes we use to sort out legal issues -- antitrust, copyright, UCC, trusts & estates -- and instead pick a theme.  My fellow blogger Geoff Gerber has picked comic books as his theme.  Study the law of comic books, O Spidey, and you may indeed find yourself in a seamless web.  My current seamless -- or perhaps seamy -- web is the realm of dirty words and dirty pictures, a/k/a, "Censorship & the First Amendment," a course I teach at Washington University School of Law.

But if you'd prefer to earn a Juris Doctor Dre or would rather be sippin' on Gin & Jurisprudence, try the Law of Hip Hop, which traces its origins to the Mack Daddy of "fair use" cases, Campbell v. Acuff-RoseHow can you not love a U.S. Supreme Court decision that quotes these timeless lyrics from Luther "Luke" Campbell's version of the Roy Orbison classic, "Pretty Woman":

Big hairy woman, you need to shave that stuff
Big hairy woman, you know I bet it's tough
Big hairy woman, all that hair it ain't legit
Cause you look like "Cousin It"
Big hairy woman

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Valerie Plame Redux, Southwest Style

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While all versions of "fair use" share some of the same 1st Amendment genetic code, the doctrine has one meaning in copyright law, other meanings under trademark law (such as 15 U.S.C. Sections 1115(b)(4) & 1125(c)(4)), and yet other meanings in the field of right of publicity

But for those of us who toil in the journalism vineyards -- where the purest and oldest of those DNA strands are found -- the fair use defense actually travels, at least in invasion of privacy lawsuits, under the alias of "newsworthiness."  The scope of that doctrine took center stage in Alvarado v. KOB-TV, a recent 10th Circuit decision affirming a district court's dismissal of a lawsuit filed by two undercover cops against an Albuquerque TV station that broadcast their identities. The  plaintiffs were Albuquerque cops who were named on the news show as suspects in a sexual assault case; in addition, the station aired video footage of each man opening the door to his home after the reporter rang the doorbell.  The cops were eventually cleared of the sexual assault charge, although they continued to receive threats as a result of the broadcast. There was no defamation claim because the station's broadcast was entirely true: they had indeed been charged with a crime.  So instead, they (and their wives) sued the station for invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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Beckham Beckons: Using Real People's Names In Movie Titles

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The recent explosion of media coverage over the California arrival of David Beckham got me thinking about the use -- or more precisely, the "fair use" -- of his name in the title of the motion picture Bend It Like Beckham.  When I first heard that title back at the time of the movie's release in 2002, I had only the vaguest knowledge of David Beckham and made no connection between him and the rest of the title.  Indeed, to this ignorant American the title had mysterious and vaguely erotic connotations, as if it referred to a position in the Kama Sutra.  But the rest of the world, of course, knew immediately that the Beckham in the title was THE most famous athlete on the planet and that the title itself referred to Beckham's amazing skill at scoring on free kicks by “bending" (curving) the ball, which makes it veer out of the goalie's reach.

Knowing Hollywood, we can assume that all of the necessary permissions were signed in triplicate long before the first scene was shot.  But what if Beckham had refused to give permission?  Could you still include the name of the most famous athlete on the planet in the title of your motion picture?  Could you use for free a name that had a commercial endorsement value worth tens of millions of dollars?

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Carol Burnett and Fox TV: Who's Fair and Balanced Now?

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The rulings contained within District Judge Dean Pregerson's opinion dismissing Carol Burnett's lawsuit against Twentieth Century Fox could have been predicted the moment we heard about the case. If ever there were a textbook example of the "fair use" doctrine in copyright law and the "parody" exception in trademark and dilution law, this was it.

Burnett had sued over a short clip from Fox's animated television show, Family Guy. In the scene, Griffin family patriarch Peter Griffin and his pals visit a porn shop. Upon entering the store, Peter remarks that it is cleaner than he expected. One of his friends explains that "Carol Burnett works part time as a janitor."  The scene shifts to an animated figure resembling the Charwoman character from the Carol Burnett Show mopping the floor next to bin of life-size blow-up dolls and  a rack of XXX movies.  Judge Pregerson explains:

"As the 'Charwoman' mops, a slightly altered version of Carol's Theme from The Carol Burnett Show is playing.  The scene switches back to Peter and his friends.  One of the friends remarks, 'You know, when she tugged her ear at the end of that show, she was really saying goodnight to her mom.'  Another friend responds, 'I wonder what she tugged to say goodnight to her dad,' finishing with a comic's explanation, 'Oh!'"

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Son of Tasini -- or Desperately Seeking Analogies

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Books published before tape recorders were invented are now on CD, movies made before television was invented are now on DVD, and newspapers--that most venerable of media formats--are now online.  Each new technology creates the same old headache for the courts, especially in copyright infringement cases: the need to find the appropriate analogy. We've seen it before as courts try to determine whether the contractual right to publish a book also includes the right to publish an ebook or, as in last month's ruling, whether the 1939 grant of "motion picture and television rights" to the distributor of Citizen Kane includes the right to make and distribute the movie in home video form.

And now the latest round in freelance photographer Jerry Greenburg's copyright battle with the National Geographic Society, which has taken an ominous turn for him in this, its tenth year in the federal courts.  His lawsuit is the latest skirmish along the borders of  Section 201(c) of the Copyright Act, which governs the allocation of copyrights in "collective works" such as magazines, anthologies and encyclopedias. His lawsuit--and especially this week's decision by the 11th Circuit in Greenburg v. National Geographic Society vacating his $400,000 judgment--is an excellent example of the judiciary's ongoing struggle to apply to new technology the legal principles that were forged on old technology.

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Naked Women, Farting Dolls and Fair Use, Oh My

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Some days, keeping watch along the fair use border makes you feel like Paris Hilton inside the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.  Other days you feel like a pledge at a wild Delta House frat party in Animal House.  Today is a Delta day, brought to you by the good jurists of the Seventh and Ninth Circuit.  To paraphrase Herman Melville, Call me Flounder.

We begin with the magical opening paragraph of Circuit Judge Diane Woods' opinion in the Seventh Circuit's recent copyright decision in JCW Investments, Inc. v. Novelty, Inc.:

Meet Pull My Finger Fred.  He is a white, middle-aged, overweight man with black hair and a receding hairline, sitting in an armchair wearing a white tank top and blue pants.  Fred is a plush doll and when one squeezes Fred's extended finger on his right hand, he farts.  He also makes somewhat crude, somewhat funny statements about the bodily noises he emits, such as "Did somebody step in a duck?" or "Silent but deadly."

And we continue with a bevvy of beautiful babes in the buff, delivered compliments of a Google "Image Search" for the phrase "Perfect 10" that is the subject of the Ninth Circuit's recent copyright opinion in Perfect 10 v. Amazon.com.  These two cases -- whose fact patterns could have been selected by the cast of Porky's -- shed important light on two fair use issues.

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