Defending hope

Despite a recent appearance on CNN, Anthony Falzone, the Executive Director of Stanford’s Fair Use project, isn’t talking much about his latest case, which is perfectly proper.  Nevertheless, the case has all the necessary elements to attract a great deal of attention.

Street artist Shepard Fairey seems to admit that his used a photograph taken by an AP photographer to create his image of Barak Obama inscribed with the word “HOPE.”  The image became downright iconic during and immediately after the election.  The work has certainly had an impact on Fairey’s career, both positive and negative.  Just yesterday I saw a commercial-like feature about him on the USA Network; he is, they say, “character approved.”  In the spot Fairey comments on the thrill of being a street artist and, as he says, doing something he is not supposed to do.  According to this story, the thrill caught up with Fairey on Friday when he was arrested in Boston, apparently for defacing public property, although the nature of the warrants is not clear.

As the story about his arrest notes, Fairey is also being sued by AP over his use of the photograph to create those famous Obama posters one sees everywhere.  AP is asking for credit and compensation from sales of the image; Fairey is asserting fair use.  Which brings me back to Anthony Falzone, who is defending Fairey in the copyright suit.  Although he acknowledges that fair use is to be the defense, Falzone has otherwise said little, which is the appropriate course for a lawyer in an ongoing case.

Anthony Falzone will be talking, however, about the other high profile copyright cases he has litigated, when he speaks at Duke and at the University of North Carolina on March 2 and 3.  Many of his cases involve both fair use and free speech issues, and they often either directly involve scholarship or have grave implications for scholars.  Some of his previous cases have included helping James Joyce scholar Carol Schloss win agreement that her use of letters in a scholarly book was fair, in spite of objections from the Joyce estate, and successfully defending filmmaker and conservative pundit Ben Stein on fair use grounds when Yoko Ono objected to a brief clip of “Imagine” use in the film “Expelled.”  Perhaps Falzone’s most widely-publicized case was his defense of the publisher of “The Harry Potter Lexicon” against a coyright infringement claim from JK Rowling and Universal Pictures.  About all of these cases, Falzone will have much to say when he visits the Research Triangle.

Falzone’s lecture at Duke is called “From James Joyce to Yoko Ono to Harry Potter: the Impact of Fair Use on Scholarship and Free Speech.”  It will be at 5 pm on March 2, in the Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine, and Applied Sciences (CIEMAS) Auditorium A on West Campus.  A reception will follow the talk.  This promises to be an exciting and timely discussion of the role fair use plays in supporting both scholarship and the fundamental values of free expression.  Hopefully many people in the Duke community will come out to hear Falzone, either on March 2 or the next day at UNC.

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