A Fair Use Test

The following cases illustrate the often-contradictory history of case law in the copyright arena. Can you guess which cases were ruled legal?

  1. 2 Live Crew releases a parody of Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman," substituting the lyrics with "shocking ones". Their manager asks for permission to release the song, but the song's publisher refuses permission. 2 Live Crew releases the song anyway, giving credit to copyright holders.

    The Supreme Court ruled that this was fair use, since it was a valid parody of the original song. (Campbell vs. Acuff-Rose Music, 1994)

  2. The Nation excerpts some short passages from President Ford's memoirs in discussing the Nixon pardon, before the book is released. Harper & Row, the publishers of the book, sue the Nation.

    The Supreme Court ruled this illegal, because Ford's memoirs were considered an "expression" of the facts in an unpublished work. The Nation may have been able to use purely factual elements from the book.

  3. Samsung runs an ad starring a robot in a wig, gown and jewelry (reminiscent of Vanna White) standing next to a Wheel-of-Fortune- like game board. White sues under a California law which gives her the exclusive right to her name, likeness, signature and voice for commercial purposes.

    The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to review this case, upholding a lower court's ruling against Samsung.

  4. Triangle Publications, Inc., a publisher of a TV Guide competitor, uses the image of the TV Guide magazine cover in one of their ads. Knight-Ridder, owners of TV Guide, sues.

    This was ruled fair use, since the use of the TV Guide cover did not reproduce the "essence" of TV Guide (the schedules and articles), and thus did not substantially reduce the market for TV Guide.

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