Northland Family Planning Clinic, Inc. v. Center for Bio-Ethical Reform

Summarized by:

  • Court: Intellectual Property Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 06-15-2012
  • Case #: SACV 11-731 JVS
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Selna
  • Full Text Opinion

The courts look to transformative use, the amount of copyrighted material used, and the market in which the copyrighted material is used when determining whether a work is protected under “fair use.”

Opinion (Selna): Northland Family Planning Clinic (Northland) produced a video designed to facilitate “outreach, counseling, and education in an effort to de-stigmatize abortion,” and posted it online. The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform and The Apologetics Group (Center), without Northland’s permission, used the Northland video, and spliced it with graphic abortion images and footage to produce several anti-abortion videos. Center posted these videos onto websites, some of which included solicitations for donations. Following the posting of Center’s videos, Northland became unable to attract licensees to use their video. Northland contacted Center to request the removal of the videos from Center’s websites, which Center ignored. Northland brought suit claiming copyright infringement. Center claimed that its actions constituted “fair use,” and were outside the scope of Northland’s copyright protection. The Court used a four-factor analysis to determine fair use, and found that Center did not infringe upon Northland’s copyright. The “character” of the defendant’s work was “transformative,” because it added something new to the original and constituted social commentary; the amount of the original work used by the defendants was not excessive for a “parody” of a little known video; and the market harm done to Northland was not of the character protected by the copyright act, because Center did not attempt to replace Northland in the marketplace. The Court therefore GRANTED defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

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