Law School Case Brief
Triangle Publ'ns, Inc. v. Knight-Ridder Newspapers, Inc. - 626 F.2d 1171 (5th Cir. 1980)
The 1976 Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C.S. § 107, instructs courts to consider four factors all gleaned from the case law in determining whether the defense of fair use applies: In determining whether the use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be considered shall include (1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; (2) the nature of the copyrighted work; (3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and (4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Of these four factors, courts have generally placed most emphasis on the fourth factor, the effect of the use upon the potential market for or the value of the copyrighted work.
Triangle Publication, the publisher of "TV Guide," a periodical containing television schedules and articles relating to television entertainment, found out that the Herald newspaper reproduced TV Guide covers. Since each issue of TV Guide was individually copyrighted, and since magazine covers have been afforded copyright protection in the past, Triangle Publication filed suit against Herald claiming that the Herald's showing of TV Guide covers violated the new Copyright Act. Triangle moved for both preliminary and permanent injunctions as well as damages in the District Court. Herald used fair use as its defense. The District Court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, pointing out that nearly all of the alleged harm had already occurred and that the likelihood of irreparable injury had therefore not been shown. The Court also denied the motion for a permanent injunction. The court pointed out that nearly all of the alleged harm had already occurred and that the likelihood of irreparable injury had therefore not been shown.
Was the denial for injunction proper?
The court affirmed the district court's judgment holding that because commercial use was a fair use that did not justify imposition of an injunction. It held that the magazine covers were used for advertisements, and any commercial use tended to cut against a fair use defense. Specifically, there was no attempt to palm off plaintiff's product as that of defendant's. Defendant's advertisements may have had the effect of drawing customers away from plaintiff. But this resulted from the nature of advertising itself and in no way stemmed from the fact that plaintiff's magazine covers were used. Any harm suffered by plaintiff resulted from competition with an independently created work rather than from exploitation of plaintiff's own copyrighted material. Moreover, the public as well as defendant benefitted from comparative advertising, thus minimizing the importance of the fact that a commercial use was involved. The court, however, did not address the issue of violation of the First Amendment.
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