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Warner Bros. Forced To Fight For Fair Use 222

Posted by Soulskill
from the crossing-the-aisle dept.
V-similitude writes with news that Warner Bros. has been forced into a position of claiming 'fair use' in the defense of an upcoming movie. From the NYTimes: "In The Hangover Part II, the sequel to the very successful what-happened-last-night comedy, the character played by Ed Helms wakes up with a permanent tattoo bracketing his left eye. The Maori-inspired design is instantly recognizable as the one sported by the boxer Mike Tyson, which is part of the joke. (Mr. Tyson makes an appearance in both films, playing himself.) But S. Victor Whitmill, a tattoo artist formerly of Las Vegas and currently from rural Missouri, doesn't quite see the humor. Mr. Whitmill designed the tattoo for Mr. Tyson, called it 'tribal tattoo,' and claims it as a copyrighted work. ... Warner Brothers in its brief also invoked the 'fair use' defense for Hangover Part II, namely the right to parody what has become a well-known tattoo since it first appeared on Mr. Tyson’s face in February 2003."
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Warner Bros. Forced To Fight For Fair Use

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  • by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Saturday May 21, 2011 @04:09PM (#36203832)

    Well that's usually in their contract. Thankfully, not every photographer does this.. hit google to find out where you can find them and whether they're available for shoots.

    The question then is whether or not Mr. Tyson signed a similar such contract OR whether the work could fall under the same laws that absurdly make taking photos of statues and other works of art ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Gate [wikipedia.org] ) violations of copyright resting on them from their original artist - enforced only when commercially exploited, but still absurd.

  • by ThosLives (686517) on Saturday May 21, 2011 @04:16PM (#36203880) Journal

    That has never been the point of copyright. The point has always been to set up a system whereby creation can be incentivized - which works wonderfully well.

    This philosophy makes me sad. Not because it's wrong, or because it's right, but because it indicates that people think the most compelling reason to do something is because of monetary or other material gain.

    (I would argue that we would have just the same, if not more, cultural and technical innovation if we had much weaker copyright and patent systems, because people would actually have to work hard to produce things of extraordinary value in order to gain from them.)

  • by michelcolman (1208008) on Saturday May 21, 2011 @04:21PM (#36203910)
    Hey, I just had a great idea! Ley's abolish copyright for a decade or so to see what difference it makes. For science.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 21, 2011 @04:28PM (#36203964)

    Actually, Tyson does not own the copyright to his tattoo. He was merely licensed to display it. Says so in the EULA posted above the door in the tattoo parlor where he got inked.

  • Re:A question (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hedwards (940851) on Saturday May 21, 2011 @05:05PM (#36204160)

    Why would he need that? By that logic architects would need permission from the Romans whenever they chose to include Roman arches in their buildings. A lot of architects would be liable for infringement around here if that were true.

  • Re:Isn't it Tyson's? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by St.Creed (853824) on Saturday May 21, 2011 @05:12PM (#36204214)

    The artist and Tyson explicitly arranged a copyright transfer to the tattoo artist, which is why he has a rather strong case at the moment: he can show a contract between him and Tyson giving him the rights to everything that's based on that tattoo. The contract also predates the movie by several years.

    Now you can argue about the silliness of copyright on this, but he is an artist and copyright does work this way, even if the canvas is a person. And Warner Brothers is about the last entity in the world that can claim ignorance on copyright issues, so they're probably going to try and get a deal, because if it goes to trial I wouldn't give them much chance. Not when every good defense will also backfire onto your own use of copyright to intimidate people.

    All in all: good news. I hope the artist takes them to the cleaners. Perhaps that will teach them something about why abusing copyright is similar to wielding a bioweapon: it tends to backfire.

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