Property I, Pages 117–127

Comedy III Productions, Inc. v. Gary Saderup, Inc.

Supreme Court of California, 2001

Facts:

Defendant made a charcoal drawing of the Three Stooges, whom plaintiff owns the publicity rights to. Defendant then sold reproductions of this drawing.

Procedural History:

Pages 118–119Trial court found for plaintiff, awarding damages for all of defendant's profits from the items and plaintiff's attorney fees as well as issuing a permanent injunction from selling any thing based off plaintiff's property. Court of Appeals concluded that because the items were reproductions, they received no First Amendment protection. The Court of Appeals struck the injunction as plaintiff did not prove defendant violated the statute and as the injunction was overly broad, but affirmed the rest of the judgment.

Issues:

  • When is a celebrity's right of publicity violated by a product containing their likeness?

  • Did defendant violate plaintiff's publicity rights?

Plaintiff's Argument:

Enforcement of the judgment against him violates his right of free speech and expression under the 1st Amendment.

Rule:

A product does not violate the right to publicity when it is primarily the defendant's own expression rather the celebrity's.

Reasoning:

Defendant's work has no significant transformative or creative contribution. His created a literal, conventional depiction of The Three Stooges. The art's value was primarily from the fame of the actors, not from his transformative elements.

Judgment:

Court of Appeals was wrong in their reasoning yet their judgment is affirmed.

Like my site?
Slightly less broke than the average law student?
Want to give me money for some reason?

I accept donations!

(Don't feel bad if you don't) (Not tax-deductible)