Thursday, August 16, 2012

9th Cir. Rejects Mag's 'Fair Use' Claim in Publishing Pop Star's Wedding Pix

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...(Photo credit: Wikipedia)In a 2-1 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week in Monge et al. v. Maya Magazines, Inc. et al. (Case No. 10-56710) reversed a lower court ruling that accepted a gossip magazine's fair use defense in publishing without permission a Latina pop star's wedding photos.

As reported by the ABA Journal Law News Now blog, the 47-page decision written by Justice M. Margaret McKeown ruled against Maya's TVNotas magazine, which in 2009 published the private Las Vegas wedding photos of actress/singer Noelia Lorenzo Monge to Jorge Reynoso that purportedly were provided to the defendants by the couple's sometime chauffeur/bodyguard in 2007. The lovebirds sought to keep the marriage on the Q-T to preserve Monge's sexy single star image.

The defendants offered a fair use defense to the plaintiffs' copyright infringement claim, arguing the photos of the celebrity were newsworthy, but Justice McKeown wasn't buying it. "Waving the news-reporting flag is not a get-out-of-jail-free card in the copyright arena," she wrote. According to Justice McKeown, "Maya's effort to document its expose does not automatically trump the couple's rights in its unpublished photos."

In a stinging dissent, Justice Milan Smith, Jr. argued the majority's opinion would have allowed Tiger Woods to assert copyright privilege over his notorious sexting messages and former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner to prevent media use of his Tweeted crotch photos.  According to the dissent, the majority ruling "undermine(s) the free press and eviscerate the principles upon which copyright was founded. Although newsworthiness alone is insufficient to invoke fair use, public figures should not be able to hide behind the cloak of copyright to prevent the news media from exposing their fallacies."
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