Monge v. Maya Magazines, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 08-14-2012
  • Case #: 11-55483
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge McKeown for the Court; District Judge Brewster; Dissent by Circuit Judge M. Smith.
  • Full Text Opinion

In a Copyright issue, the fair use doctrine does not protect unauthorized use of copyrighted material when that use was: commercial and non-transformative; the first instance of that material being published; total; and the use destroys the potential market for the material.

Noelia Lorenzo Monge and Jorge Reynoso sued Maya Magazines, Inc. for copyright infringement, because Maya published wedding photos that Monge and Reynoso had copyright to. At the district court level Maya claimed the affirmative defense of the fair use doctrine, and the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Maya on this basis. Monge and Reynoso appealed on the grounds that the fair use doctrine did not protect Maya’s use of the photos. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the issue de novo, as a question of law and fact. The Court reasoned first, that Maya’s use: exceeded what was necessary for reporting of facts; had not transformed the photos in any way; and had been for commercial use. They reasoned, as per the Supreme Court case of Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., that commercial use reflected negatively on a defense of fair use. Second, The Court reasoned that, as per the Supreme Court case Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. v. Nation Enters., that the fact that the photos were previously unpublished was a key factor, and a factor against Maya. Third, The Court reasoned that because Maya used all, quantitatively and qualitatively, of the photos in question, that this factor also spoke against their use being fair. Finally, The Court reasoned, as per Harper & Row: Maya’s use had destroyed the commercial market for the photos; this was one of the most important factors; and, because the commercial market was destroyed, this factor strikes against Maya’s use being fair. The Court held that because the pertinent factors all went against Maya’s use being fair, that the fair use doctrine was not a valid defense for Maya, and the summary judgment in their favor had been incorrect. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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