Tag Archives: Fair Use

Are You Sure This Isn’t About Copyright? Chicken Sandwiches, Monkey Selfies and the Boundaries of Copyright Law

CaptureLast week, a wild crested macaque named Naruto (but really People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against photographer David John Slater in the Northern District of California. The suit alleges that Slater infringed Naruto’s copyright in the famous “monkey selfies” (taken by Naruto with Slater’s camera). The complaint requests that the Court order Slater to disgorge any profits he has realized from the distribution of the images and establish a trust, administered by PETA, to “be used solely for the benefit of Naruto, his… More

Copyright Strategies for Start-Up Companies

GyroAs a leader of a start-up company, you are probably aware of the importance of protecting your company’s innovative products, services and technologies through patent filings.  If you are savvy, you are also aware of the importance of having a trademark and branding strategy as well (see our guide entitled “Trademark Strategies for Start-Up Companies”).  Most start-up companies overlook copyright issues, however, and this can create problems down the road.  In this article, we identify the most common traps that we see start-up companies fall into, and provide recommendations for how… More

Harry Potter Lawsuits And Where To Find Them


On July 31, 2015, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling celebrates her 50th birthday, according to muggle sources. The enormous success of Rowling’s literary creation and its associated multimedia empire has spawned countless jealousies, countless imitators, countless parodists and countless pirates. The franchise has kept dozens if not hundreds of lawyers busy with precedent-setting copyright cases, trademark disputes, First Amendment battles over religious expression, and even the occasional breaking and entering. Indeed, it appears that Ms. Rowling and her works pop up in court more than any author since… More

Three’s Company But Two’s a Crowd: Theatrical Parodies of Copyrighted Works


In our Oscar litigation post a few weeks ago, we made a passing reference to MGM v. Showcase Atlanta Coop. Prods., Inc., 479 F.Supp. 351 (N.D. Ga. 1979). In that case, the Northern District Court of Georgia held that the play Scarlett Fever was not a protected parody of Gone with the Wind, but rather an unlicensed derivative remake. When we researched this topic, we were somewhat surprised to discover almost no other published opinions exploring the line between theatrical parodies (which are fair use) and mere theatrical… More

Federal Government Wins Trademark Battle to Shut Down “Voice of America” Website with “Undeniable Governmental Aesthetic”

CaptureSince its first broadcast on February 1, 1942, the Voice of America radio service (VOA) has aired countless hours of programming in dozens of languages to what is currently an estimated global audience of over 100 million people. Although the history of the VOA name is storied and long, VOA’s efforts to protect that name are of a more recent vintage. VOA didn’t apply to register its name as a federal trademark until 2005, and didn’t get around to registering an internet domain name until after sites such as voiceofamerica.com… More

Georgia State Academic Fair Use Decision Vacated by 11th Circuit: A (Relatively) Quick Read for the Busy Practitioner

CaptureLast Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated and remanded the Northern District of Georgia’s 350-page fair use analysis of the electronic reserves practices at Georgia State University (“GSU”). Although this reversal is technically a win for the plaintiff publishers, the 11th Circuit left the most important parts of the lower court’s analysis intact, and essentially affirmed the bulk of its reasoning with respect to the first and fourth fair use factors. We have previously written at length about GSU’s electronic reserves, the District Court’s opinion, and… More

“Textbook Dictionary” Definitions Not Fair Use, Says Mass. Federal Court

DictionaryOn September 26, 2014, the District of Massachusetts shot down a plan to develop a “textbook dictionary.”  James Richards, inspired in part by the Autobiography of Malcolm X, developed a project to convert the dictionary from a reference book into something that looked more like a textbook. Richards felt that this format would be more conducive to helping students and adults improve their reading and listening comprehension skills.

In order to accomplish his plan, Richards borrowed the text from a CD-ROM version of Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. He… More

Fox News v. TVEyes Copyright Fair Use Decision: A Quick Read for the Busy Practitioner

Capture2Last week, Judge Alvin Hellerstein of the Southern District of New York issued his opinion Fox News v. TVEyes. Fox News claimed that TVEyes’ media monitoring service was copyright infringement. TVEyes argued that it was fair use. Here is our summary version of the case:

What is TVEyes?

TVEyes is a media-monitoring service that records content from over 1,400 TV and radio news outlets, and uses speech-to-text technology to create a searchable database of transcripts of that content. TVEyes subscribers include corporations, the U.S. military, the media, the White House… More

Copyright Law Protects Course Syllabi From Disclosure Under Missouri Sunshine Law

CaptureLast month, the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, held that a public university was not required to turn over copies of certain course materials, including course syllabi, in response to a public records request. The syllabi were the type of document that is normally subject to disclosure under Missouri’s “Sunshine Law” (Chapter 610 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri), which allows members of the public to gain access to government records. However, there was one problem: copyright.

The Sunshine Law Request

In 2012, the National Council on Teacher Quality… More

Westlaw and Lexis Finally Agree: Providing Copyrighted Legal Briefs To Customers Is Fair Use

weleEvery attorney in the United States understands that West Publishing Corp. (“Westlaw”) and the LexisNexis Group (“Lexis”) are perennial rivals in the electronic legal research field. As such, they don’t agree on much, but there are some important exceptions.  Earlier this month, one of those exceptions came to a pleasing conclusion for both companies, when Judge Jed Rakoff of the Southern District of New York issued his long-promised opinion in White v. West Publishing Corp.

The case was brought by Edward White, an Oklahoma-based IP attorney. Some of White’s… More

Second Circuit Hints At Possible Google Books Outcome In Finding HathiTrust Digital Library Project Protected As Fair Use

HathiEarlier this week, the Second Circuit issued its ruling in the HathiTrust case, a potential precursor to the long-awaited resolution of the more prominent, and related, Google Books case.  The decision upholds the district court’s finding that the non-profit defendant is protected by the fair use doctrine, but leaves room for a potentially different outcome in the Google Books matter.  As we have reported, the Google Books project aims to scan and digitize all the world’s books and make them full-text searchable.  As part of the “Library Project” arm of… More

Federal Circuit Copyright Decision in Oracle v. Google: A Quick Read for the Busy Practitioner


In its recent opinion in Oracle v. Google, the Federal Circuit reversed the Northern District of California and reinstated a jury’s infringement verdict against Google. The opinion is long and complex, and much ink has already been spilled by its critics. As a service to those of you sitting on the sidelines of this particular debate, here is our summary version of the case:

What’s the case about?

Oracle owns copyrights in software related to Java, a computer platform that allows a programmer to write one code and… More

Fox News Reports Copyright “Attack on Christians” – The Fair and Balanced Use Defense

Fox news recently reported on a dispute between Gulfport, Mississippi resident Kelly Taylor and her local Walgreens pharmacy.  Ms. Taylor, using Walgreens’ online Capturephoto service, attempted to print out a few pages of the Bible to hand out to members of her church. Walgreens refused, citing copyright law. When Walgreens told Taylor that it would require approval from the author, she informed the store that God was the author so “who exactly would I get the approval from?”

Ms. Taylor was “in total shock,” so she contacted Fox News and… More

“Munger Games” Political Copyright Case Fails to Survive Summary Judgment on Fair Use

On February 26, 2014, the Northern District of California issued its opinion in Dhillon v. Does 1-10.  Judge Susan Illston held that the use of a political campaign photograph by one’s political enemies is fair use.

The Munger Games is a political blog run by anonymous California conservatives who are not fans of socially liberal California Republican politics, exemplified in their eyes by businessman Charlie Munger. On February 12, 2013, the blog set its sights on Harmeet Dhillon, Vice Chair of the California Republican Party, by publishing “Meet Harmeet,” an article criticizing Dhillon’s involvement with the… More

A Presidents Day Copyright Story: George Washington And The “First” Fair Use Case

George Washington is responsible for a lot of “firsts.” For example, he was the first President, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army and the first guy to have the George Washington bridge named after him. But President Washington was also indirectly responsible for what is widely regarded as the first American application of the copyright doctrine of fair use.

Jared Sparks, Charles Upham and the Washington Letters

When Washington died in 1799, he left his voluminous correspondence to his nephew, Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington. The rights to these documents were subsequently acquired by Harvard… More