The Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor blogger Irina Chevaldina’s use of an online photo of Raanan Katz, part owner of the Miami Heat and noted real estate developer. The decision sets an important precedent not only in favor of blogger use of “headshot” photos but also against efforts to silence blogger criticism through a manipulative use of the copyright laws. The legal wrinkle in the case: Katz had purchased the candid photo from the photographer in order to prevent its further publication.
The Eleventh Circuit ruled that Chevaldina’s use was non-commercial and for an educational purpose, namely to editorialize about Katz’s business practices. And since Katz purchased the photo to prevent its publication, he could hardly argue that Chevalina’s use harmed its marketable value.
The Eleventh Circuit opinion is worth a read if only because of its masterful recounting of the numerous satirical purposes to which Chevaldina managed to put the photo. In its restrained way, the opinion makes clear the court’s impatience with Katz’s effort to “utilize copyright as an instrument of censorship against unwanted criticism.” Also worth a read are blog posts by Eugene Volokh, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (which filed an amicus brief in the case) and the South Florida Lawyers Blog