A case about fair use defense and parodies. Cases of Interest >  IP >  Copyright >  Fair Use

Campbell v. Acuff-Rose

__Name: Campbell v. Acuff-Rose

__Cite: 114 S. Ct. 1164 (1994)

Lexis: ((lex: %Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, 510 U.S. 569 (U.S. 1994)

  • __Court: Supreme Court

  • __Facts and Procedural Posture: Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. owns the copyright to Roy Orbison’s classic song “Oh, Pretty Woman.” After the rap group 2 Live Crew recorded a parody of Orbison’s song and included it on its album, Acuff-Rose sued for copyright infringement. In defending the copyright infringement claim, 2 Live Crew claimed that its parody was fair use. The district court agreed that 2 Live Crew’s song was parody entitled to fair use protection. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court decision and held that 2 Live Crew’s “Pretty Woman” was not a fair use of Orbison’s original song. The Court of Appeals focused on the statutory factors and found against a finding of fair use for 2 Live Crew.

  • __Holding: The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court decision, while articulating how to apply the fair use factors to a parody case.

  • __Critical Analysis: Regarding the first factor, the purpose and character of the use, the commerciality of the use weighs against a fair-use finding; however, that determination is not dispositive. The purpose of the first factor is to determine “whether and not to what extent the new work is ‘transformative’.” The goal of copyright law is to promote the arts and that goal is furthered when the secondary work “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first new expression, meaning, or message.” The Court found that 2 Live Crew’s song was transformative because it added to the original. Also, the purpose of 2 Live Crew’s song was to parody the original. 2 Live Crew’s version actually commented on and criticized Oribson’s song. The Court found in favor of 2 Live Crew for the first fair use factor.
The Court found the second fair use factor, the nature of the original copyrighted work, in favor of 2 Live Crew. The Court did not find the second factor helpful when parody is involved. The second factor is not “likely to help much in separating the fair use sheep from the infringing goats in a parody case, since parodies almost invariably copy publicly known, expressive works.”
The third fair use factor is whether the amount and substantiality of material that the secondary user copied from the original is reasonable in relation to the purpose of the copying. The Court found that in the case of a parody, taking of the heart of the original is not necessarily excessive copying, as long as the parody is transformative. The Court found the third factor in favor of 2 Live Crew because 2 Live Crew’s parody did not merely copy the heart of the original, it added to and commented on the original.
The fourth fair use factor is the effect of the secondary use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. The Court stated that it is unlikely that a parody would “affect the market for the original in a way cognizable under this factor, that is, by acting as a substitute for it.” The Court’s analysis of the fair use factors tended to favor parodies. The Supreme Court’s analysis in Acuff-Rose on how to apply the fair use factor to parodies gave direction to lower courts. Courts should not dismiss the finding of fair use in the case of parodies when the secondary use is commercial, or because it copied the heart of the original work.

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