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Strong Fair Use Decision Issued in Bouchat v. Ravens

baltimore-ravens-playing buffalo-bills
image © Lauren Swiecicki

In a long-running legal dispute between Frederick E. Bouchat and the Baltimore Ravens along with the National Football League (NFL), a federal appeals court has ruled that the use of the former Ravens logo by the Ravens and the NFL was fair use. The case involved the incidental use of copyrighted logos in films about historical events—football games, in this instance.

In his strong fair use decision (PDF), Judge Wilkinson wrote, “Were we to require those wishing to produce films and documentaries to receive permission from copyright holders for fleeting factual uses of their works, we would allow those copyright holders to exert enormous influence over new depictions of historical subjects and events…The NFL may not arouse sympathies in the way that a revered artist does, but the consequences of this case reach far beyond its facts. Society’s interest in ensuring the creation of transformative works incidentally utilizing copyrighted material is legitimate no matter who the defendant may be.”

The Library Copyright Alliance—the American Library Association, the Association of Research Libraries, and the Association of College and Research Libraries—filed an amicus brief (PDF) in support of the Ravens in September 2010.

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