Re: Copyrights

Subject: Re: Copyrights
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- SIMPLYWRITTEN -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 1998 09:29:44 -0500

>> Courts haven't always been kind to commercial usages, though. In one
>> case, a comedian staged a satirical version of the play/movie "Gaslight",
>> called "Autolight", which featured a large number of fully recognizable
>> lines and other attributes, although very few items were actually lifted
>> whole from the original. Still, the court ruled that the owners of
>> "Gaslight" had been infringed and awarded damages.
>That's surprising, since parody is one of the "fair use" provisions. Was
>this a recent case, or has copyright law changed since then?

It was several decades back, but the law doesn't really change its
rationalizations over time all that much, and it's still cited as precedent.

The law then as now permitted a parody fair use, but the court found that
the parody of "Autolight" was a thinly-veiled rip-off, basically changing
"Gaslight" just enough to get laughs, but keeping significant chunks of
dialogue and character traits. Contrast this with the Simpsons, which
parodies everything from "Rear Window" and "The Birds" to "Jurassic Park"
and "Hard Day's Night", but does so with a distinctly Simpsonesque twist and
for only short periods.

This case illustrates the point I was making, which is that fair use is a
Pinto; it may get you where you want to go, or it may blow up when you least
expect it to. Any commercial fair use infringement is a potential fireball.
Far better to play it safe and drive something that won't appear on "World's
Most Tragic Videos".

Tim Altom
Adobe Certified Expert, Acrobat
Simply Written, Inc.
The FrameMaker support people
Ask about Clustar Method training and consulting

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