Not As Funny As It Seems At First

A couple of whacky disc jockeys in New Jersey were named the state’s “best shock jocks” by the New Jersey Monthly magazine. They posed for a magazine photo standing, apparently nude, behind a sign with the station’s call letters – WKXW. And then a station employee uploaded the photo to the station’s Web site, eliminating the credit to the magazine photographer, and invited visitors to alter the image and submit their new altered images. The station posted 26 altered photos. One can only imagine what the alterations looked like. No word if Congressman Weiner participated. In any event, those whacky guys overlooked a few minor details. Like, for instance, who owned the copyright? And whether the station had any right to eliminate the photo credit. Those little missed details have landed the station in a federal copyright suit. And it’s not going well. The federal court of appeals earlier this week reversed an award of summary judgment in the station’s favor. The appeals court ruled that the photographer is entitled to a trial. That court felt that the photographer presented enough evidence to go forward with his claim that the station violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act when it removed the credit on the digital photo. It also found that there was a genuine issue of fact as to whether the station’s use of the photo constituted a permissible “fair use.” Given that the station used virtually the entire photo for a commercial use (i.e. to promote the show) the fair use defense was pretty weak. Just another reminder that the Internet has done a lot of things, but it has not eliminated intellectual property law. Think before you cut and past. No matter how whacky you are.