Tag Archive: Copyright infringement

Mitt Romney Campaign Ad, Tom Brokaw, and Fair Use

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has generated some controversy in recent days over a campaign attack ad against rival Newt Gingrich. The ad features old footage of Tom Brokaw reporting on the Newt Gingrich ethics scandal in 1997.  In the ad, Brokaw reports that Gingrich was found guilty by the House ethics committee. Brokaw said in a statement that he is “extremely uncomfortable with the extended use of my personal image in this political ad.” He also said, “I do not want my role as a journalist compromised for political gain by any campaign.” NBC lawyers have asked the Romney campaign to remove the ad and any reference to the network in future campaign ads. However, it is likely that the use of the Tom Brokaw footage by the Romney campaign is permissible under the fair use doctrine.  Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law allows the reproduction of a particular work if it is considered a “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.” At the end of the day, it is likely that the Romney campaign will just pull the ad but the genie has already been let out of the bottle. The most significant impact of this controversy is that it has greatly increased circulation and discussion of a negative ad. It thus will probably hurt Gingrich in the polls by reminding voters of his ethical baggage.

Blurred Vision

On the September 21 episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians,  “Kourt Goes A.W.O.L”, Kourtney decides she cannot handle her family’s rejection of her baby’s daddy, Scott. Sick and tired of how the Kardashian Klan treats Scott, Kourtney and Scott decide to go house hunting in New York City.

A real estate agent shows a posh NYC apartment to the couple. As the couple walks throughout the lovely residence, the artwork hanging in the apartment is blurred so that viewers cannot see the images.  This practice raises an interesting question. What legal problems might producers face when artwork inadvertently appears in background shots?

Literary works which include paintings such as the one in this episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, must be licensed for use from the people or institutions who own the rights. This is because the Copyright Act gives creators of artwork the exclusive right to sell and make money from their creations for the period of the copyright (if the creators haven’t transferred the right). Www.creativeclearance.com reminds us the Copyright Act provides substantial penalties for copyright infringement. Damages for accidental infringement are usually around $10,000 and willful infringement can cost the infringer up to $250,000.

Www.artbusiness.com tells us, “[w]hether the art appears in print, on television, in film, or on the internet, issues of copyright infringement are more prevalent than ever. Artists who realize that their art is being used without their permission almost always assume that their artistic copyright has been violated and that they must take corrective action, legal or otherwise.” This wave of suits has caused producers to err on the side of caution. Www.artbusiness.com points out a problem this has caused. “Now, less art by fewer artists is seen in high-profile circumstances due to fears that the artists may take legal action. The ripple effect here is that when people don’t get exposed to original art, they’re not inclined to buy it.”

However, legal issues aren’t the only reason artwork may be blurred. Artists may blur their work because they do not want others mimicking their styles or simply because they do not wish to receive thousands of calls requesting a copy of a work they no longer produce. Another reason artwork might be blurred may be because the network producing the show does not wish to have the artwork associated with its show.

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