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June 28, 2004

Barbie Loses/Public Wins

This court decision is one of the most important in recent years.

Not because the court declared that the artist-defendant, who had created photographs condemning consumerism using images of Barbie, could not be sued for copyright violations, since his work was protected under fair use.

No, it's important because Mattel was ordered to pay $1.8 million to him to cover his legal fees.

Most defendants hit with a copyright injunction from a major corporation just give up, even if the law is on their side, because they fear the litigation costs.

The judge in his decision to award legal fees declared this an abuse of the legal system:

"Plaintiff had access to sophisticated counsel who could have determined that such a suit was objectively unreasonable and frivolous," Judge Lew wrote in his order. "Instead it appears plaintiff forced defendant into costly litigation to discourage him from using Barbie's image in his artwork. This is just the sort of situation in which this court should award attorneys fees to deter this type of litigation which contravenes the intent of the Copyright Act."
Corporate use of copyright and trademark laws are destroying the First Amendment every day, as courts threaten to bury defendants in mountains of legal bills.

This decision will hopefully become a model for future courts in punishing corporations that file abusive lawsuits.

Posted by Nathan at June 28, 2004 06:30 AM