After Boing Boing blogged, yes, Boing Boing blogged, about Ralph Lauren’s most recent photoshop disaster, they (obviously) included the photo. The one over there, on the left, with the model whose head is larger than her entire pelvis.
Ralph Lauren’s law firm cynically sued. I say cynically, because you don’t get a more perfect bull’s eye on the fair use exception to copyright: a reproduction “for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting,” etc. But large companies do this all the time. They sue knowing they’ll lose, simply because the blogger or magazine can’t afford to defend the case for years. They use the law as a club, and in today’s cautious culture, many, maybe most, people cave.
But Boing Boing’s blogger Cory Doctorow didn’t cave. In a rare (everyone else took the photo down) dual display of backbone and funnybone, he responded with this brilliant post:
So, to Ralph Lauren, GreenbergTraurig, and PRL Holdings, Inc: sue and be damned. Copyright law doesn’t give you the right to threaten your critics for pointing out the problems with your offerings. You should know better. And every time you threaten to sue us over stuff like this, we will:
a) Reproduce the original criticism, making damned sure that all our readers get a good, long look at it, and;
b) Publish your spurious legal threat along with copious mockery, so that it becomes highly ranked in search engines where other people you threaten can find it and take heart; and
c) Offer nourishing soup and sandwiches to your models.”
Thank you Mr. Doctorow!
He also writes, “As Wendy Seltzer from the Chilling Effects project said, “Sounds like a pretty solid fair use case to me. If criticism diminishes its effectiveness, that’s different from the market substitution copyright protects against. And I’ve rarely seen a thinner DMCA form-letter.”” And yet Photoshop Disasters’ ISP took the image down, as did lots of other cowardly sites. Shame on you, Google Blogspot!
In the type of world I’d like to live in, for every coward who took the image down ten more would put it up. Not because I care about Ralph Lauren or the whole argument about skinny models (I personally don’t want models to look like regular women, though as a man looking at an image I find nothing attractive about a giant skull on spindles; and just so I don’t seem effeminately enlightened, I’ll add that I prefer models to have more characteristics of balloons and fewer characteristics of sticks; but whatever), but I do care about bully companies and literary freedom.
This is the type of case I became a lawyer to fight. Instead, I found myself reading 512-page addenda on ball-bearing classifications, or on a team with 120 other lawyers spinning Palm off from 3 COM (giving away my age now…). But if I can’t fight this as a lawyer, the least I can do is stick my neck out as one additional defendant for Ralph to sue.
(I’ll say it again: “Boing Boing blogged”. It’s a good thing to write.)