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Copyright is a set of exclusive rights regulating the use of a particular expression of an idea or information. At its most general, it is literally "the right to copy" an original creation. In most cases, these rights are of limited duration.


  • The Joker: As I was saying, since every fish in Gotham now bears my famous, and frankly, fabulous face I should be getting a profit from every fish product sold. Let's say a nickel per fish sandwich, Millions of dollars a day to finance my happily hedonistic lifestyle. So which of your tedious copyright forms do I fill out first? You may speak now.
Mr. G. Carl Francis: No one can copyright fish. They're a natural resource.
The Joker: But they share my unique face. Colonel what's-his-name has chickens, and they don't even have mustaches.
Mr. G. Carl Francis: I can't help it. It's the law!
The Joker: Trying to cheat the Joker, are you? Well, we'll see who has the last laugh. You have until midnight to change your mind, Francis. Or you'll be the poorest fish of all.
Harley Quinn: Bye-bye!
Mr. G. Carl Francis: He's crazy.
  • Copyright is monopoly, and produces all the effects which the general voice of mankind attributes to monopoly [...] It is good that authors should be remunerated; and the least exceptionable way of remunerating them is by a monopoly. Yet monopoly is an evil. For the sake of the good we must submit to the evil; but the evil ought not to last a day longer than is necessary for the purpose of securing the good.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, A speech delivered to the House of Commons on February 5, 1841, in opposition to the extension of copyright to 60 years after the death of the author. [1]
  • Those who invade copyright are regarded as knaves who take the bread out of the mouths of deserving men. Everybody is well pleased to see them restrained by the law, and compelled to refund their ill-gotten gains. No tradesman of good repute will have anything to do with such disgraceful transactions. Pass this law: and that feeling is at an end. Men very different from the present race of piratical booksellers will soon infringe this intolerable monopoly. Great masses of capital will be constantly employed in the violation of the law. Every art will be employed to evade legal pursuit; and the whole nation will be in the plot [...] Remember too that, when once it ceases to be considered as wrong and discreditable to invade literary property, no person can say where the invasion will stop. The public seldom makes nice distinctions. The wholesome copyright which now exists will share in the disgrace and danger of the new copyright which you are about to create. And you will find that, in attempting to impose unreasonable restraints on the reprinting of the works of the dead, you have, to a great extent, annulled those restraints which now prevent men from pillaging and defrauding the living.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, A speech delivered to the House of Commons on February 5, 1841, in opposition to the extension of copyright to 60 years after the death of the author. [2]
  • I was in the pub last night, and a guy asked me for a light for his cigarette. I suddenly realised that there was a demand here and money to be made, and so I agreed to light his cigarette for 10 pence, but I didn't actually give him a light, I sold him a license to burn his cigarette. My fire-license restricted him from giving the light to anybody else, after all, that fire was my property. He was drunk, and dismissing me as a loony, but accepted my fire (and by implication the licence which governed its use) anyway. Of course in a matter of minutes I noticed a friend of his asking him for a light and to my outrage he gave his cigarette to his friend and pirated my fire! I was furious, I started to make my way over to that side of the bar but to my added horror his friend then started to light other people's cigarettes left, right, and centre! Before long that whole side of the bar was enjoying MY fire without paying me anything. Enraged I went from person to person grabbing their cigarettes from their hands, throwing them to the ground, and stamping on them. Strangely the door staff exhibited no respect for my property rights as they threw me out the door.
  • If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of everyone, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me. That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density at any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. Inventions then cannot, in nature, be a subject of property.
  • Defendant used a robot with mechanical features and not, for example, a manikin molded to Plaintiff’s precise features. The robot at issue was not Plaintiff’s “likeness” within the meaning of section 3344.
The common law right of publicity cause of action may be pleaded by alleging: (1) Defendant’s use of Plaintiff’s identity; (2) the appropriation of Plaintiff’s name or likeness to Defendant’s advantage; (3) lack of consent; and (4) resulting injury. The right of publicity is not limited to the appropriation of name or likeness – the common law right of publicity is not so defined.
The right of publicity had developed to protect the commercial interest of celebrities in their identities. The theory of the right is that a celebrity’s identity can be valuable in the promotion of products, and the celebrity has an interest that may be protected from the unauthorized commercial exploitation of that identity. If the celebrity’s identity is commercially exploited, there has been an invasion of his right whether or not his “name or likeness” is used. It is not important how Defendant has appropriated Plaintiff’s identity, but whether Defendant has done so.
Television and other media create marketable celebrity identity value. The law protects the celebrity’s sole right to exploit this value whether the celebrity has achieved her fame out of rear ability, dumb luck, or a combination thereof.
Defendant’s claim of the parody defense is rejected. Parodies of advertisements run for the purpose of poking fun. In this case, the ad’s primary message is: “buy Samsung VCRs.” The difference between a parody and a knock-off is the difference between fun and profit.
  • Dissent. (J. Kozinski) Overprotecting intellectual property is as harmful as under protecting it. Creativity is impossible without a rich public domain. Nothing today, likely nothing since we tamed fire, grows by accretion, each new creator building on the works of those who came before. Overprotection stifles the very creative forces it’s supposed to nurture.
  • Discussion. In this case, the Court abandoned the strict common law rules of appropriation. The viewer of the ad could clearly see that it was an attempt to convey Plaintiff on the set of Wheel of Fortune. Defendant hoped to profit from Plaintiff’s fame without paying her for it. Because Plaintiff did not consent to such appropriation, Defendant is liable.
  • White v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc [3]

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