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EFF to Court: Dismiss Politically Motivated Copyright Lawsuit

PRESS RELEASE
January 27, 2014
Use of Campaign Photo on Political Blog Is Clearly 'Fair Use'

San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is urging a federal court to dismiss a politically motivated copyright lawsuit.

The case started in April, when California Republican Party Vice Chairman Harmeet K. Dhillon sued an anonymous blogger over the use of a five-year-old campaign photo in a critical post on "The Munger Games" website – a site dedicated to criticism of donor and current chairman of the Santa Clara County Republican Party of Silicon Valley, Charles Munger, Jr. However, the use of the photo is clearly allowed under the "fair use doctrine," which ensures that copyrighted works can be used by others for purposes including criticism and commentary.

"The fair use doctrine protects what Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert do with copyrighted material every night – they use it to illustrate, explain, and amuse. Fair use is a basic building block for free speech, and the Munger Games blogger has as much right to fair use as a TV star," said EFF Intellectual Property Director Corynne McSherry. "This lawsuit is not about copyright infringement but simply a bald attempt to intimidate a political blogger, and the court should shut it down now."

In its amicus brief filed Friday, EFF asked the judge to end this case quickly and decisively, as allowing the lawsuit to proceed would discourage other bloggers from exercising their First Amendment rights to criticize political figures.

"Protection for political criticism and commentary lies at the heart of the First Amendment," said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "Courts should be highly skeptical of attempts to punish speakers engaged in this kind of political speech. While the blogger in this case is fighting back, copyright lawsuits are expensive and others may be intimidated from speaking in the future. EFF urges the court to dismiss this meritless suit as soon as possible."

For the full amicus brief in Dhillon v. Doe:

https://www.eff.org/document/amicus-brief-19

Contacts:

Matt Zimmerman
   Senior Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   mattz@eff.org

Corynne McSherry
   Intellectual Property Director
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   corynne@eff.org

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