Is Printing Call Girl Photos Fair Use?
from the transformative-use dept
Last week, Mike noted the controversy over whether printing racy photos of Ashley Alexandra Dupre, the prostitute at the center of the Eliot Spitzer scandal, was fair use. He thought it was, and William Patry has an interesting post exploring one precedent that might support a fair use finding. He describes a 2000 case in which a Puerto Rican model's nude photographs were the subject of a copyright dispute. The model had been crowned Miss Puerto Rico Universe 1997, and some people thought that she had set a bad example by posing nude. Newspapers began printing the photos as part of their coverage of the dispute, and the holder of the copyright in that case sued the newspaper for copyright infringement. The US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled in 2000 that the use of the photos were fair use because the photos were integral to the scandal the newspaper was reporting on, and that the use was "transformative" because the news-reporting function the newspaper was making of the photos was significantly different than the portfolio-building purposes for which the photos were originally taken. Patry suggests that similar reasoning might apply in this case. However, one of Patry's commenters points out an important consideration on the other side: in the Puerto Rico case, the photographs were at the center of the scandal. Pictures of Ms. Dupre are not central to the Eliot Spitzer scandal in a way that's remotely analogous. So it might be harder to make a fair use argument in this case. The key question, I think, is whether the judge felt that the photos were integral to the reporting of the story, or whether the story was just an excuse to increase circulation by printing some racy photos. That seems like a close call to me.