Montana Court Finds Copyright Lawsuit Is All Hat, No Cattle

Author:Mr Michael Nepple
Profession:Thompson Coburn LLP

All is fair in love and war. Political campaigns seem to get a break too, based on a copyright infringement case involving the Republican National Committee's copying of a photograph used in a political advertisement.

A federal court in Montana granted summary judgment to the RNC, even though it used photographer Erika Peterman's photo of congressional candidate Rob Quist. The court found the RNC's copying of the photo from Quist's campaign website, and use of it in its own campaign mailer, to be fair use.

Judge Dana Christensen found fair use even though he concluded that one key traditional fair use factor favored the photographer and another was neutral. The court relied upon two other factors, concerning the purpose and character of the RNC's use, and the economic impact on the market for the photo.

Essentially, the court found the nature and character of the usetaking a pro-candidate photo and using it an anti-candidate adwas fair. Quist had been a singer-songwriter before entering politics and his website displayed a photo of him, taken from behind, while he was onstage. The RNC copied the photo for its campaign mailer and added treble clefs and text attacking Quist. For example, it suggested that Quist and Nancy Pelosi...

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