The Entertainment, Art, and Sports Law section of the New York State Bar Association has posted an article about Morris v. Young, a copyright matter involving issues related to “transformative use” and “fair use.” Click here for the full text of the decision. The district court granted partial summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff, but denied summary judgment in part because a reasonable trier of fact could find that one of the three works at issue could be considered fair use.
Dennis Morris published two books on the Sex Pistols:
Never Mind the B*ll*cks: A Photographic Record of the Sex Pistols Tour and
Destroy: A Photographic Archive of the Sex Pistols 1977
The photographs that are the subject of this lawsuit portray performances by Sid Vicious and Johnny Rotten.
Russell Young created the following variations of Dennis Morris’s Sex Pistol photos:
- “Sex Pistols in Red” – “cropped slightly to more closely frame the subjects and tinted in a deep red color.”
- “Sex Pistols” – “depicts the Subject Photograph, printed using black enamel on an acrylic background.” Young “altered the colors and shades, deepened the contrast between the black and white portions of the image, and added ‘grittiness’ to the image by printing it in black enamel on an acrylic background.”
- “White Riot + Sex Pistols” – two images of the photograph side-by-side, “with a Union Pacific logo and the words “White Riot” and red stars graffitied atop the images.”
The court denied summary judgment for the “White Riot + Sex Pistols” piece, finding that it “bears certain aesthetic characteristics that raise the question of transformation, and, by extension, fair use.”
“[U]nlike the other two Accused Works, ‘White Riot + Sex Pistols’ incorporates images beyond the band itself and arranges them such that the composition may convey a new message, meaning, or purpose beyond that of the Subject Photograph.”
Citing the Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music Inc., 510 U.S. 569 (1994), the court held there were issues of fact “as to whether the work does more than ‘merely supersede the objects of the original creation,’ and therefore a trier of fact may reasonably deem it transformative. Campbell, 510 U.S. at 579. The transformative character of a work bears upon the weight and meaning of the other fair use factors.”
[And just for kicks: Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks (1977)]
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