Thursday, June 25, 2009

'Corzine Times': Infringement? Parody? Satire? Homage?

The Republican Governors Association thought it had a clever idea for attacking incumbent John Corzine (D-NJ), who is up for reelection this year: create a web site for a fake newspaper called The Corzine Times, with links to real stories bashing Corzine. The Corzine Times just happens to resemble another newspaper across the Hudson.

Well, that other newspaper is not amused; it quickly sent a cease and desist letter to the RGA, complaining that the site
is clearly intended to be nearly identical to title for the site is designed to recall the world famous, protected New York Times logo, and the pages use the same fonts and layout as in order to mimic its design. Such copying is a clear infringement of The Times's rights under the Copyright Act of 1976 and falsely suggests, in violation of the Lanham Act, that the Times has sponsored or is otherwise affiliated with your website.
The Times' letter, dated June 17, gives the RGA three days to take down the site, "or we will have no choice but to pursue all available legal remedies." It's now been eight days since the letter was written, and the Corzine Times is still up. If the Times was so eager to have the site down, why hasn't it just sent a DMCA notice to the Corzine Times' ISP?

The RGA certainly doesn't sound like it's backing down; spokesman Mike Schrimpf tells the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza (whom I like to call my stalker, since he succeeded me directly in two journalism jobs):
It's amusing to see The Gray Lady standing up for The Gray Beard, but we were hoping the Times would send a cease and desist notice to Corzine telling him not to hike taxes by another $1 billion.
This could turn out to be a very interesting case; I'm not at all confident in predicting how a court will see it.

UPDATE: a reader reminds me of another parody/satire/who knows of the NY Times:

I'm not aware that the Times ever objected to this one, though DeBeers, the target of a fake ad in the fake Times, did. The fake Times remains accessible on the web.


  1. Fair Use, Parody, end of discussion.

  2. @DensityDuck:

    Ah, I wish the world were so simple...

    Parody? Not so clear. Does the Corzine Times poke fun at the NY Times (parody), or does it use copyrighted elements of the NY Times to poke fun at Corzine (satire)? See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose:

  3. Can you copyright a font/layout? I'm GUESSING you can, but I don't know. Would the NYT have to have their font/layout registered with the copyright office in order to enforce their copyright? (assuming they actually take this to court and don't just go the DMCA route. If they did send a takedown notice I bet the RGA would send a counternotice.)

    And even if they can copyright their font/layout, why woudn't this fall under fair use?

    1) I don't know if the RGA is using this site to raise money, but if it is for commercial purposes, it is not obviously so. What IS obvious is that it is transformative from any message that would eminate from NYT. There also seems to be an element of political commentary here, weak though it may be.

    2) I have no idea how the nature of the copyrighted work would be evaluated. The New York Times itself is factual, but would the font/layout fall within the category of "factual", or "entertainment"?

    3) It looks like the amount taken from the NYT is insignificant--Unless one takes the position that the primary characteristic of NYT is its font/layout, and not its reporting. Of course, I guess NYT would argue that they are approrpriating 100% of their font/layout.

    4) Most importantly, I don't see how this could effect the potential market for the NYT.

    Since the other factors are somewhat muddled, I think the fourth one tilts this in favor of fair use.

  4. There are thousands of sites and news papers that infringe on the NYTimes copyright. The problem is that is full of such disgusting lies and propaganda that it uses the copyrighted material of to appear to be credible.

    The site claims to be the one stop shop for "The truth" about Corzine.!?

    Give me a break. This site is lower than low. It has headlines like "Corzine to middle class: Drop Dead" and "Corzine to citizens: Stop whining about taxes", but clicking on the links shows absolutely no details about the claims being made. Actually, it reveals propaganda and senseless rhetoric that has nothing to do with the headlines.

    How stupid does the republican party think voters are? I find it very condescending to think that the republican party believes that such an unethical tactic would convince voters to vote for Christie.

    Furthermore, if Chris Christie was the "champion of ethics" that he claims to be he would demand these baseless sites be shut down or at least the unsubstantiated garbage that is contained on them be removed.

    I thought we sent a strong message that we would not be deceived by such unfounded scare tactics during the 08 presidential election, but apparently the republican party still doesn't get it.

    Both the corruptican and corruptictratic party should be ashamed of themselves. They both engage in such shameless activities which only goes to show that the two-party system is broken and corrupt in NJ beyond repair.

    I mean, seriously, right now Corzine and Christie are just your run off the mill politicians throwing political fodder back and forth at each other. But the mere fact that they would go to such extremes as making up outright lies and spend millions of dollars to convince the public that there lies are true is outright pathetic and disgusting.

    To the people the running site site I must ask, "Have you no morals or conscious?" Apparently not when you support such a site as this and claim it is your one stop shop to find out the truth about Corzine knowing outright that it is full of lies and slander.

    This only reinforces my point that both the Republican and Democratic parties are corrupt beyond repair. Electing either will do nothing more than to make corrupt politicians like Corzine and Christie get richer while allowing the political parties to continue to bend us over backwards and give it to us from behind.

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