District court dismisses copyright claim involving website’s use of politician’s headshot, finding that inclusion of photo along with article criticizing plaintiff was fair use.

Plaintiff, an attorney and the vice chairperson of the California Republican Party, brought suit against MungerGames.net, a website critical of the California Republican Party, for the unauthorized use of her photo. The website posted an article about plaintiff and paired it with a headshot, for which she owned the copyright, without plaintiff’s authorization. Since MungerGames is run by bloggers who choose to remain anonymous, plaintiff could sue the defendant only as Does 1 through 10. Plaintiff sought $250 in damages and injunctive relief, as well her attorneys’ fees and costs.

One of the Doe defendants answered and moved for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, summary judgment, arguing that the doctrine of fair use barred plaintiff’s claims as a matter of law.

The district court granted summary judgment, noting that the use of the headshot was not for a commercial purpose, and even if it had been, its use was transformative because the photo of plaintiff accompanied an article criticizing her. Defendant’s use had no negative impact on its potential market or value of the photo, which was used primarily in connection with political activities.

Although the court concluded that the website was entitled to a fair use defense, it declined to grant attorneys’ fees to defendant, finding that plaintiff’s position “was not completely unreasonable.”


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Loeb & Loeb LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:


Loeb & Loeb LLP on:

JD Supra Readers' Choice 2016 Awards
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:

Sign up to create your digest using LinkedIn*

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.

Already signed up? Log in here

*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.