Judge Posner takes broad view of “fair use” doctrine

All bloggers (and even some blawgers) struggle with what one can post on their blog without fear of  violating copyright law.  What is fair use?  The always awesome Marc Randazza of the Legal Satyricon breaks it down:

The bargain we make with copyright owners is this: Creators of content get a monopoly over the commercial exploitation of their works. In exchange, we all get to engage in creative or transformative expression using those works, as long as we don’t go too far.

Got it.  You may wonder what exactly is a creative or transformative expression?  Or, how far is too far?  As of now, it looks like judges can lift copyrighted images for use in their opinions.

This week, Professor Althouse reports that Judge Posner used a copyrighted photograph of Bob Marley without giving credit or getting permission  in a judicial opinion and that Judge Posner reasons that his use of the photo falls within the parameters of the “fair use” doctrine.  Judge Posner explained to a reporter, “[i]t’s not as if we’re selling our opinions in competition with a photographer . . . .Using the photo in a judicial opinion couldn’t conceivably be hurting the copyright holder.”  [source]

The case, by the way, involved an Illinois inmate who claimed that prison officials violated his free exercise rights by requiring him to cut his dreadlocks.  The prisoner complained that officials allowed Rastafarians to wear long hair, but not members of the his religion, the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem.  The appellate court ruled that the prison could not favor one religion over another in its grooming policy.


~ by siouxsielaw on January 22, 2012.

2 Responses to “Judge Posner takes broad view of “fair use” doctrine”

  1. I don’t always agree with Posner, but this is a great stance. Judicial opinions should have pictures, and YouTube clips and, mp3s, and so on.

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