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Kardashians Allegedly Arguing Copyright Gives Them Rights To Get Their Father's Diary

from the general-ownership-of-anything-statute dept

We've seen copyright law abused and misused so many times that it's rarely a surprise anymore to hear of some wacky story. But this one's new. Kenichi Tanaka points us to an article about how the Kardashian kids -- Kourtney, Kim, Khloe and Rob Kardashian -- are apparently suing their stepmother over their father's personal belongings.
The family's power attorney Marty Singer released a statement regarding the situation, telling omg! Yahoo, "The Kardashians and Kris Jenner have filed a suit against Ellen Pearson for taking personal property belonging to them by virtue of Robert Kardashian’s will and by virtue of copyright protection. Today's filing should serve as notice that they will vigorously defend their rights when forced to do so."
Apparently, in his will, he left "his personal tangible and intangible property" to his children. Yet, they claim, Pearson (whom father Kardashian married just two months before his death) has held onto some of his things, including (most importantly) his diary. Why is that so important? It appears that Pearson has been revealing things from the diary which is somewhat embarrassing to the Kardashian clan.
Pearson has been in the news lately, recently claiming that Khloe is not Robert's biological daughter and that Kris Jenner is an abusive mother. Pearson shared excerpts from Robert's diaries with In Touch Weekly, telling the magazine, "I am simply stating the facts and the truth -- their father’s truth. I simply delivered hand-written diaries from their father. They are my property at the disposal of whatever I so choose. Robert would have no problem with that.”
This is interesting on a variety of levels, and I imagine might make for an interesting law school exam question. By my read (and I'll let the decent number of law school professors who read this site correct my errors), the copyright claim here is highly questionable on a variety of fronts. First off, the lawsuit has been filed in California state court, but copyright is a federal issue. So while I have not seen the actual lawsuit, the claim by their lawyers that this is a copyright issue seems suspect off the bat. As was pointed out, contrary to the original article that said otherwise, this was filed in federal court... so this doesn't directly apply.

Even if there was a copyright issue (and, yes, there likely is a copyright over the diary thanks to our silly automatic copyright on everything policy), it seems like they're confusing the copyright in the content with the physical work itself, which are two different things. Owning the physical book is different from owning the copyright. So, even if they do have some rights to the copyright in the book, the copyright claim alone would not be enough to get the physical copy from Pearson. Nor would it likely be enough to silence her from revealing statements from the diary, which likely qualify under fair use (though, certainly, arguments to the contrary could be made).

It is, of course, entirely possible that there is some legitimate claim over the tangible property based on the will, but my knowledge of estate law is pretty limited. I just find it bizarre that they're even bringing copyright into this at all. It just seems like yet another case where people think copyright is something it's not -- and they're looking to use it to try to make an additional claim of ownership where it really doesn't fit or make sense. To some extent, this is yet another example of the problem of what's become of copyright law today. It's so widely abused that so many people seem to think that it's a tool to get whatever they want. Copyright is not a "general ownership of anything I want" statute, but many seem to treat it that way.


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  1.  
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    GMacGuffin (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:04pm

    IANALP but I understand that if the sole question is who owns the copyright in a work (rather than infringement issues), then that does not confer Federal jurisdiction. Pretty much everything else related to copyright is exclusively fed.

     

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  2.  
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    tomxp411 (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:39pm

    Not exactly a model case....

    I am sure that the lawyers in this case are simply using every argument they can to try to win this case. Unless I miss my guess, the Copyright claim isn't the only claim that won't hold up under scrutiny.

    I do find this to be an interesting question, though: if the stepmother illegally has possession of the diary, can the rightful owners prevent her from disclosing what she's read in the book? When you go to a sporting event, the fine print on the ticket prohibits you from disclosing the score or otherwise transmitting information about the event. Can a similar injunction apply to a diary, which everyone knows is considered private?

     

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  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    First off, the lawsuit has been filed in California state court, but copyright is a federal issue. So while I have not seen the actual lawsuit, the claim by their lawyers that this is a copyright issue seems suspect off the bat.

    Of course, you didn't bother to read the actual complaint to see if they are in fact making a federal copyright claim in state court (which is unlikely for obvious reasons).

    Even if there was a copyright issue (and, yes, there likely is a copyright over the diary thanks to our silly automatic copyright on everything policy), it seems like they're confusing the copyright in the content with the physical work itself, which are two different things.

    And you based this on the complaint? Of course not.

    I just find it bizarre that they're even bringing copyright into this at all. It just seems like yet another case where people think copyright is something it's not -- and they're looking to use it to try to make an additional claim of ownership where it really doesn't fit or make sense.

    Or you're just revealing how much you hate copyright by assuming without doing any actual homework that they're in fact making a federal copyright claim in state court.

    o some extent, this is yet another example of the problem of what's become of copyright law today. It's so widely abused that so many people seem to think that it's a tool to get whatever they want. Copyright is not a "general ownership of anything I want" statute, but many seem to treat it that way.

    Get up on that soapbox, Mikey! Don't let facts or reality or journalism get in your way. So boring! Someone may have possibly, but probably didn't, tried to abuse copyright! OMG! Copyright is so freaking terrible! OMG! OMG!

    Snorezville, dude. Wouldn't you rather discuss your beliefs on the merits than waste time with completely empty (like the Kardashians!) posts such as this? No. Of course not. You don't do merits. You do posts like this.

     

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  4.  
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    cpt kangarooski, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Not exactly a model case....

    Well, the closest case would likely be Harper & Row v. The Nation, in which The Nation magazine got a copy of Gerald Ford's autobiography before it was published and scooped it with an article that had excerpts of the good bits. It was found not to be fair use.

    But I'm more inclined to think that a case here would come out differently, based solely on the original post here.

    First, there's less of a problem on the fourth factor, as the people besmirched by the revelations are unlikely to publish the diary themselves or license it to be published. Similar thinking applies for parodies (victims of parodies don't license parodies as a rule, so there's lenient fair use analyses for parodies).

    Second, to the extent that the widow is publishing the raw information rather than the precise wording, it sounds more like she's only revealing the facts or opinions presented as facts (see e.g. Nash v CBS in which a hypothesis that Dillinger was not killed in the 30s was not copyrightable) and is therefore okay.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:53pm

    Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    Where's your post on the merits?

    Oh wait, this isn't your blog.

    Guess you'll have to just live with that.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 1:00pm

     

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  7. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Rapnel (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 1:03pm

    84bkfast

    OMG! OMG! You can totally tonsil your own penis! OMG!

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 1:09pm

    Re:

    Say what you wrote out loud. You come off like a whiny overweight Cleveland bitch. We all know you're crushing heavies on whats-his-name, why don't you just admit it? There's no shame.

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 1:19pm

    Down to tainting copyright with Kardashians, eh?

    Look, yet again, it's RICH KIDS mis-using it. No bigger meaning. Doesn't at all affect the everyday good of copyright which reliably directs the rewards to those who created. -- It's the current stupid out-of-proportion and non-sensical rewards system which empowers the Kardashians. Rail against that instead.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 1:39pm

    They have to claim copyright to get what they want: no further publication of its contents. Without the copyright claim, the stepmom could run off a copy, hand over the diary, and keep on releasing excerpts.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 1:40pm

    The Kunts may not know law

    but their lawyers should

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Down to tainting copyright with Kardashians, eh?

    Down to tainting copyright with Kardashians, eh?
    It doesn't need any help from them.

     

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  13.  
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    gorehound (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:00pm

    Kardashians make me sick to my stomach.At least I did not have to look at any pictures of them here.

    To Stepmom.........just scan the diary and release it on the Net.It will be seen by Billions within a week.

    Case Closed !

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:32pm

    Re: Re:

    Classic AJ.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Why spend 10 seconds on Google finding the actual complaint when you can just write a hit piece wherein you just guess what the complaint says? Yeah, journalism!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 2:49pm

    Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    I didn't write this article, purporting to discuss the merits of a complaint I couldn't even be bothered to spend 10 seconds locating. I'm responding to Mike's claims. Why would I have to have my own post on the merits to address the lack of merits in Mike's post? You make no sense. Great feedback though. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

     

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  17.  
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    GeneralEmergency, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 3:54pm

    Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    .

    Excuse me, but -why- are you here?

    Are you being paid to do this? If so, -who- is employing you?

    .

     

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  18.  
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    Malsperanza, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 4:14pm

    Re: Not exactly a model case....

    I don't see how the copyright holders can prevent the stepmother from speaking about what she has read. They could prevent excerpts from being published by her or by others (aside from a likely fair use assertion). The fact that the text is an unpublished diary doesn't affect its copyright, which is automatic.

     

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  19.  
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    Malsperanza, Apr 24th, 2013 @ 4:19pm

    Copyright as a "general ownership of anything I want" statute

    Copyright gets used rampantly by artists and their estates to control or censor what is written about them. Publishers need copyright permission in order to reproduce an artwork. Nowadays it's routine for the rights holder to condition permission on seeing and approving the accompanying text. I can't imagine that the Founders intended this to be the outcome of the notion of "securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

    It's particularly obnoxious in the case of dead artists whose copyrights have, thanks to Disney Sonny Bono, been given a life longer than that of most of the artists themselves.

     

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  20.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Apr 24th, 2013 @ 5:32pm

    Copyright, it can do anything... except make the world better.

     

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  21.  
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    fenixbrood (profile), Apr 25th, 2013 @ 3:16am

    Light

    The sunlight that reflects upon the letters in the diary will create a copy of the words. That is copyright infrigment. They can argue that copies of the words within the diary are not to be copied to a human eye or brain.

     

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    horse with no name, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 3:16am

    it is about property and copyright

    Let's see. The diary is personal and tangible property, which should have been turned over as part of the will. Legally, the ownership of the diary is with the children. The writings in it are copyright, and the copyright is part of the tangible property.

    It's a no brainer. The diary belongs to the kids, and the material is copyright. It isn't one or the other, it is both.

    Is this another Techdirt miss?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 4:24am

    Re: it is about property and copyright

    Swing and a miss! Mike didn't care about the details, he just wanted to show another example of somebody abusing copyright. OMG! And it turns out it's not even an abuse. Classic.

     

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  24.  
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    bikey, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 6:48am

    I totally fail to understand this debate. If a person writes something, i.e. as soon as it is in fixed form, they own the copyright, automatically. That is not only in the US but throughout the world. Copyright extends, whether we like it or not from that point until 70 years after the death of the author, which means, it passes to the heirs for seventy years (Remember Hugh Grant's leisurely lifestyle in 'About a Boy' based on his father having written a popular Christmas carol?). So of course it passes to the Kardashian children if they are named heirs to his property. I am no fan of censorship-prone, corporate-enriching, lazy-children-supporting copyright, but to deny that this is the way it works seems to obfuscate the issue unnecessarily.

     

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  25.  
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    Travis, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 8:59am

    The real news is...

    Why does anyone care what these freaks do? I mean seriously, who the frack are these people? A decade ago no one knew who were the Kardashians and overnight they're a household name? They're not in a sitcom, there's no TV show with them, they don't sing (god I hope not) and there's not even a movie in which they perform.

    Oh shit... they're on reality TV... god the world is going to ruin. Aren't they? I bet they are, I never watch that drivel but I just bet they are. No wonder they irritate the bejesus out of me.

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 25th, 2013 @ 10:26am

    Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 24th, 2013 @ 12:42pm

    woosh!

    Im asking, instead of "responding to mikes claims" why dont you write your own blog where you can write a post on the merits. not in response to mikes post. sheesh, you are a fucking idiot.

    It makes complete sense to me, its you who doesnt understand.

    guess reading comprehension isnt your strong suit.

    Try again?

     

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