Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Copyright Law - Ninth Circuit: Can Celebrities Buy Secrecy?

Celebrity Wedding Photos,  Right of First Publication, Right of Publicity, Fair Use Defense, News Reporting, Motion for Summary Judgment

Monge v. Maya Magazines, Inc., 688 F.3d 1164 (9th Circuit August 14, 2012).   Latin celebrities get married in secret at Little White House Wedding Chapel in Los Vegas, Nevada.  They manage to keep the wedding secret for three years.  Disgruntled driver/bodyguard takes disk with 400 personal photos including wedding photos to celebrity magazine Maya.  Maya pays driver/bodyguard $1,500.   Maya publishes photos without celebrity permission.  Celebrities register copyrights in photographs.  District court grants summary judgment in favor of Maya based on fair use defense as news reporting.  On appeal, Ninth Circuit reverses in spirited decision analyzing the four fair use factors.  Spirited dissent.  The case is an interesting exploration of the line between permissible use of copyrighted images in news reporting and the rights of copyright holders.  Given the clear newsworthiness of the photographs and the fact that the celebs had misled the public about their marital status, this decision should be troubling to news organizations.
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