North Jersey Media Group Inc. is the copyright owner of the iconic photograph of three firefighters raising an American flag at the ruins of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. On September 11, 2013, a Fox News producer posted a photograph that juxtaposed the 9/11 photograph with a World War II photograph of four U.S. Marines raising an American flag on Iwo Jima on the Facebook page for the Fox News’ television program Justice with Judge Jeanine. North Jersey Media Group sued Fox, claiming that the posting of the combined image infringed its copyright. Fox news argued that the use was protected “fair use” and moved for summary judgment. The court denied Fox’s motion and Fox is now appealing to the 2nd Circuit.
Fox’s appeal centers around the lower court’s analysis of the first fair use factor: the purpose and character of the use. The purpose of this factor is to test whether the allegedly infringing work is “transformative.” A work is transformative when it adds something new to the work allegedly infringed, with a further purpose or different character, altering the original work with new expression, meaning, or message. A work is transformative if it does something more than repackage or republish the original copyrighted work. A transformative work is one that serves a new and different function from the original work and is not a substitute for it. As the Supreme Court noted in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc, “the more transformative the new work, the less will be the significance of other factors, … that may weigh against a finding of fair use.”
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