Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pigs Fly Safely: With EFF's Support, Viacom Wins Fair Use Lawsuit

In December 2011, I wrote about my EFF amicus brief where EFF supported . . . Viacom.  I noted that this was a bit unusual.
EFF supported Viacom and its "South Park" subsidiary in Brownmark v. Comedy Partners because Viacom had been sued for making a parody of Brownmark's music video in a South Park episode.  EFF supported Viacom's right to make such parodies, and to get copyright suits against such parodies dismissed at the pleading stage, avoiding costly discovery and trial.

Today the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Viacom and South Park, finding that the parody video was fair use, and that courts could dismiss cases at the pleading stage based on fair use.  The court stated:
The expense of discovery, which SPDS stressed at oral argument, looms over this suit. SPDS, and amicus, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, remind this court that infringement suits are often baseless shakedowns. Ruinous discovery heightens the incentive to settle rather than defend these frivolous suits.
I'm pleased that the copyright universe is safe for flying pigs, and the fair use defense in particular.  EFF's blog post about this decision is here.  Update: Techdirt's post about this opinion has links to the two videos.  And another blogger claims that this is the first appeals court decision to use the term "copyright troll."

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