Well, here's an interesting lawsuit. Apparently, Rolling Stone
magazine decided it wanted to try selling t-shirts of some of its covers. Considering the market
for t-shirts, that might not be a bad idea (especially when compared to the market for magazines these days). Obviously, the magazine and its publisher Wenner Media own the copyright on their own covers, so there shouldn't be any problem, right? Not so fast. Since the covers usually include musicians, and those musicians have vast merchandising businesses themselves, some of the companies who handle the merchandising for some top artists have sued, claiming that they have exclusive licensing deals to sell products with those musicians
. Rolling Stone
is arguing both that it has a First Amendment right to do this, and a fair use defense to any intellectual property claim. I'm reminded of a recent case involving magazine covers, where the use of those magazine covers in a book (by someone else) was deemed fair use
, though the details are obviously quite different. Still, it probably won't surprise many people that I tend to think Rolling Stone
should prevail here. The key aspect of what they're selling is that the designs are Rolling Stone
covers -- not specifically which band is on the cover.