Court Explains Fair Use To Michael Savage; Dismisses Copyright Infringement Charges Against CAIR

from the abuse-of-copyright dept

Back in February, we wrote about how radio talk show host Michael Savage was misusing copyright law to charge the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) with copyright infringement. Savage had apparently said some negative things about CAIR, and CAIR responded by posting the segment of Savage’s show and responding to the points he raised. This kind of criticism is the very definition of fair use, and it seemed clear that Savage was trying to abuse the law to silence CAIR from responding to his allegations. What amazed me, though, were the comments responding to that post, accusing CAIR of all sorts of terrorist activities — and then naming me as a supporter of the “terrorist jihad” for pointing out that Savage was abusing copyright law. I made no statements either way concerning either what Savage was saying or CAIRs response. My interest was merely in the issue as relating to copyright law — and, on that, it appears that I was right.

The court has now tossed out Savage’s lawsuit, pointing out that CAIRs actions were, indeed, fair use.

The complaint affirmatively asserts that the purpose and character of [CAIR’s] use of the limited excerpts from the radio show was to criticize publicly the anti-Muslim message of those excerpts. To comment on [Savage’s] statements without reference or citation to them would not only render [CAIR’s] criticism less reliable, but be unfair to [Savage]. Further, it was not unreasonable for [CAIR] to provide the actual audio excerpts, since they reaffirmed the authenticity of the criticized statements and provided the audience with the tone and manner in which [Savage] made the statements.

Furthermore, the court points out that Savage’s claim of “lost revenue” from this so-called infringement are incorrect as well:

Plaintiff instead alleges that defendants caused him financial loss in advertising revenue. Assuming the truth of this allegation, it relates only to the economic impact on future shows, and has no impact on the market for the original, copyrighted show on October 29, 2007.

If it’s true that CAIR is some sort of evil terrorist organization, then let the feds deal with it. Don’t misuse copyright law to do so. If it’s true (as others alleged in the comments) that CAIR uses similar tactics on critics, then let’s expose that as well. But, misusing copyright law should never be seen as an acceptable way to shut up an opponent. If truth is on your side, use it. Don’t try to shut up opponents by twisting copyright law to your purposes.

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Comments on “Court Explains Fair Use To Michael Savage; Dismisses Copyright Infringement Charges Against CAIR”

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Mike (profile) says:

Re: Expose what?

If CAIR’s tactic is simply to respond to criticism with point by point rebuttals, exactly what is there to expose? There is absolutely nothing wrong with such a tactic.

People in the comments last time claimed that CAIR also filed baseless lawsuits against critics. Of course, that wasn’t at issue in this case, but people seemed to think that made it okay for Savage to file a baseless copyright claim against CAIR as well.

Phallacy Fallacy? says:

Re: tech dirt

Ad Hominem: (logical fallacy) In common language, any personal attack, regardless of whether it is part of an argument, is often referred to as ad hominem.

[Also: “billybob”? What kind of stupid back-woods redneck name is that? Sounds like what the offspring 1st cousins in the American South would name their kid. Are you from the South? If so, I understand, and apologize for attacking your good-natured eloquent ignorance with my hard-edged logic]

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: tech dirt

“Ad Hominem: (logical fallacy) In common language, any personal attack, regardless of whether it is part of an argument, is often referred to as ad hominem.

[Also: “billybob”? What kind of stupid back-woods redneck name is that? Sounds like what the offspring 1st cousins in the American South would name their kid. Are you from the South? If so, I understand, and apologize for attacking your good-natured eloquent ignorance with my hard-edged logic]”

I am from the south, the same backward southern state Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and so many other “rednecks” hailed from. I would like to state that I am very familiar with the Ad hominem fallacy (this is likely the most used tactic of the Right actually, attack the person, not the argument) as well as confirming the antecendent and many others. What I find most ironic about your post, is attacking someone because of their name or the region in which they live is in actuality an Ad Hominem attack . . . LOL.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Who to root for?

Michael Savage is a world class racist bigoted a-hole. CAIR is a radical organization that supports some evil people world-wide. Sigh, can we get rid of them both?

Why? Because neither agree with your pointy headed view of the world?

Savage is right on the money when it comes to his assessment of CAIR. They are the American arm of the jihadist “movement”. It’s unfortunate the US Government hasn’t got the stones give the leaders of CAIR a one way all expense paid vacation to Club Gitmo.

Yakko Warner says:

Re: Who to root for? by Alex Hagen

For whom to root?

“Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put!” (sorry, had to be done) 😉

First thing I thought when I read this story (I missed the original report in February) was, “Isn’t that what radio talk shows do all the time?” Play clips from someone’s speech/interview/TV appearance, and then tear it apart? Sometimes they’ll even use those clips (usually with their “witty” response) in their own ads/promos/bumpers.

Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve listened to talk radio, and even longer since I’ve subjected myself to Savage; so maybe I’m wrong, and it’s not really a case of blatant hypocrisy. :rolleyes:

silentsteel (profile) says:

Re: Who to root for? by Alex Hagen

Since you decided to play grammar nazi, proper English dictates that it should be “for whom to root.” Otherwise “who to root for” is correct. As last I checked this is a technology blog, and not an English Literature blog, as long as the statement is coherent, I could not care less about a vernacular usage of the English language.

Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Interesting..

“ people are all for free speech, until someone says something with which they disagree.”

That’s always been one of the great hypocrisies with this country — you’ll find people who will stand up and yell “FREE SPEECH FOR EVERYONE!”, but then when someone says something that pisses them off to the point they break out the lynching ropes, they’ll yell “FREE SPEECH FOR SOME!”

It’s bullshit, and I don’t care about who you are or what you do — Free Speech applies to every American citizen (and, in my belief structure, it applies to every human being by right of birth). If you abuse Free Speech or you try to take someone’s right to Free Speech away, you’re going to have to face the consequences. Granted, in this case, Savage probably won’t be punished for his comments (hell, looking back at the comments on the previous Techdirt story about this situation, he’ll be celebrated for them), but he’s still had a ton of people learn about his comments about CAIR thanks in part to the Streisand Effect, and that could end up hurting him in terms of losing a possible audience.

“I may not like what you say, good sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

bobbie boberino says:

if this would have been some dude reviewing movies would the RIAA have gotten a win?

If some guy set up a site playing a few minutes of a song, say rap lyrics with obscene language and then critisised the lyrics would he have won? If some woman in Fresno set up a site with 5 minutes scenes from movies and discussed the socio-political ramification of the scene, would she have been shut down? This not a win for anyone. Mike Savage does not have the deep pockets the lobbyist organizations due. He cannot buy off judges and congressional representative. What this shows you, is if you and I try to use the same tactics the lobbyist do, we still fail. If he would have won this case, it actually would have been better for us long term. If enough people started using this and being successful at shutting down protected speech, then maybe a backlash would happen and we would go back to what the copyright laws were meant to protect. One individual, making a living off his creation, allowing it into the marketplace, then entering the public domain so others can be inspired, create derivative works.

50 years ago, every museum was filled with artists copying the masters. No you cannot even take a photograph of a 500-year-old painting, because some millionaire has loaned it to the museum, and he ‘owns’ the rights to it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Savage also wanted to expose CAIR

He was also looking to get into the discovery phase to get a look at where CAIR funding comes from. This could have exposed them as a terrorist group front. Who knows, but the court was correct in this case. Savage just needs to get at them with something that sticks. Then, he can get into discovery and see who is behind them. Maybe, just maybe the Gov will shut them down.

Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Savage also wanted to expose CAIR

Huh. Funny how that has absolutely nothing to do with CAIR’s right to Free Speech, but has everything to do with spreading FUD.

Seriously, even if they are a supposed “terrorist organization” — you could claim that groups like the Ku Klux Klan and American Neo Nazis are terrorist organizations as well, but I don’t see anyone stomping all over their freedom to speak their (deranged) minds no matter how much people disagree with their message.

Lemme guess, you think that just because CAIR is a supposed “terrorist organization” without any investigation or proof, they’re not entitled to the freedoms guaranteed in the American Constitution? Wow…you would have gotten far in the George Dubya administration.

CVPunk says:


savage is an idiot. not only does he not know what “Fair Use” is, but he attacks a group of people then gets all indignant when they defend themselves. when will people get a clue and stop listening to this moron?

as to the terrorism thing… I think Chomsky says it best >
“Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it. “

Anonymous Coward says:


If CAIR is a “terrorist” “supporting” “organization”, they must have been convicted of such support in a court of law. To the best of my knowledge, they haven’t been. Otherwise, don’t allege they’re “supporting” “terrorists” unless you have proof that they are indeed supporting those terrorists, through things like arms smuggling, human trafficking, or laundered money.

(BTW: Opposing Israel’s occupation of the 1967 territories isn’t “supporting” “terrorism”, much as some might like it to be considered that–it’s called free speech. We have that here in the US. If you don’t like it, then too bad: you’re welcome to move to Iran.)

Loose talk like Savage’s and his wingnut supporters gives the real terrorists aid and comfort, by distracting our attention from those with blood on their hands who must be caught and dealt with according to the law. It also trivializes the victims of terrorism by turning the term “terrorist” into a vague political epithet used to describe those whose views you oppose, rather than a term used to describe the butchers of Al Qaeda. It is the most insidious form of treason, turning Americans against each other, waving the flag while burning the Constitution and Republic for which it stands, and it has grown far, far too common these days.

Voltaire says:

no big surprise

Savage is a liar, racist, hypocrite, flip-flopper, and an embarrassment to this country, but he has every right to speak within the law. So does the CAIR. The CAIR has every right to respond to his accusations, though their purposes may touch on the dubious.

This is just another radio talk show host looking for attention. Ask yourself two things:

1) Is it a right-wing talk show host?
2) Will it bring him more attention?

If the answer to both is “yes”, then just about any action is justifiable to them. I wouldn’t mind seeing Savage go away, but it’s only going to happen if his listeners wake up and realize they’re being used by a shamelessly disingenuous demogogue. A dietician posing as a political scientist.

edd (profile) says:

Why are you insulting the South? Do you know anyone that lives in the South? Do you watch video from the ’60s and think that’s footage from today? Where do you get your information? Movies? What does a user name have to do with anything about this topic? Are you a bitter emo goth 15 year old? Phallacy Fallacy is a super awesome name man, I totally value and respect everything you have to say. No wait, keep your uninformed opinions to yourself. Go post your own blog if you want to insult areas of the country without basis. I doubt you’ll succeed in making a blog people will visit, but at least you can vent your severe emotional problems to people that care.

Wombat says:

Fair use

You’re right fair use is the issue. People have become so radical on the right that they hate anyone who wants to talk about American values. It’s time to live up to our nickname, “Land of the free, home of the brave”. Right wingers need to stop freaking out. Look at that homegrown terrorist who attacked a church to kill liberals -it’s obvious the guy had a political agenda and also, doesn’t respect the constitution: free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion. It’s time to look at the man in the mirror and calm down.

Crazy Ivan says:

But Mike

But Mike, I don’t see how you can be a communist and part of the terrorist jihad at the same time. Something besides logic has to give.

Seriously, though, its a straightforward legal issue as you point out. It doesn’t matter if Savage is a jerk or if CAIR is associated with actual terrorists. This becomes like the ACLU dilemma. To do their job, they need to defend Nazis and all kinds of other unsavory people. In this case, agreeing with CAIR on the legal issue is not the same as agreeing with them on any other issue.

Anonymous Coward says:

“but terrorist supporters have the right to fair use as well.”

I disagree. I don’t think that terrorists or their supporters have a right to anything. Savage may be all that these comments suggest, but at least he doesn’t go around killing people. Let’s just remember September 11, 2001 for a moment before we hand out rights to terrorists and their supporters.

Truthseeker says:

Re: Re:

Ok, I say Michael Savage supports terrorism, so he has no rights (according to you) and the problem should be settled. Sound fair?

I will assume you are not American and don’t know this, but in the Declaration of Independence (a document that outlined the goals of our society) Thomas Jefferson references an idea he got from Thomas Locke, the idea of inalienable rights. The idea that rights were not granted by the state (as too many Americans seems to believe today?) but were simply part of a person’s very existence and simply could not be separated from them. The idea was that as human beings, cable of reason, we were simply born with certain natural expectations and as such were morally entitled to them. As a society we have found it necessary to occasionally take some of these rights from people. However, they are so sacred that a protection was added to our constitution limiting the government’s ability to take these “natural” or “inalienable” rights with out, “due process of law”. I would add that citizens can NEVER, under any circumstances take away these rights, ONLY the state has that power and even then, only after due process of law.

If CAIR really had any legitimate ties to terrorism, I am sure our government would have used its unconstitutional surveillance practices to expose it and would have prosecuted them to the full extent of the law (which they should). Since that has not happened, I see no more reason to believe CAIR supports terrorism, then to believe Michael Savage supports terrorism.

If you don’t like that concept of “due process” or “inalienable rights” then the United States might not be the place for you. These ideas are the cornerstone on which our country was founded and as such are simply inalienable to its existence.

Tony Kondaks (user link) says:

Savage is confused

Savage confused the right to free speech with the right to have listeners of his speech. Unfortunately for him, the constitution guarantees the former and not the latter.

For anyone who loves freedom, the defeat of the Savage lawsuit is a cause for celebration.

Savage hookwinked us all by telling us that this lawsuit was a cause for free speech. Yeah, it was about free speech but it was CAIR’s free speech that was being infringed, not Savage’s. Indeed, if Savage had prevailed, first amendment rights would have lessened for all of us.

America is such a great country that we even extend free speech to questionable organisations like CAIR.

Michael Savage is an ENEMY of free speech:


W S Henley says:

Savage copyright

Anyone who listens to Savage and thinks his “borders, language, culture” motif is original should read Carl Schmitt…Savage is no stranger to improperly using someone else’s ideas. Suppsose it doesn’t matter that Schmitt was a Nazi. Savage shares with Schmitt a perverse brilliance; he too should give credit where it is due.

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