from the good-news-for-fair-use dept
There’s some good news on the fair use front. Many people seem to falsely believe that if a work is used for commercial purposes it cannot be fair use. They think fair use only applies to non-commercial efforts. But that’s not true. Commercial use is factored into the analysis, but just because it’s commercial does not mean that it’s not fair use. A few years ago, an important case made this point, involving Grateful Dead concert posters that were used in a book. The Bill Graham Archives, who owned the posters in question, claimed that because the book was published commercially, it wasn’t fair use. But the court ruled that even though the images were used commercially, and even though they were used in their entirety without modification, the fact that they were used in the context of a book describing the history of the band, made it fair use.
It looks like we now have another, quite similar, ruling — this time involving movie monsters, and whether or not magazine covers could be used in a book. And, once again, a court has ruled that this is fair use, despite the commercial nature. In this case, the book was a look at the artwork of Basil Gogos, who apparently designed numerous magazine covers concerning monster movies in the 1950s and 60s. The magazine publisher claimed that the use of the magazine covers in the book violated its copyrights and trademarks, but the judge ruled that this was fair use, noting that the use (if not the works) was transformative. That is, the original works were designed for use as magazine covers, but this use — as a biographical and retrospective look at the artist — was entirely different.
“The fact that the Gogos book is inherently biographical renders it so fundamentally transformative in nature, coupled with the fact that Spurlock utilized such a quantitatively and qualitatively minor portion of the magazines, requires this court to conclude that Spurlock’s use is fair use and to grant Spurlock’s motion for summary judgment on the copyright claims,”
This is definitely an important fair use ruling, though will likely still go through appeal. Hopefully, it’ll be allowed to stand.