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Did Trump sue Alec Baldwin for $445 billion for Copyright Infringement?

Posted by Steve Vondran | Jan 28, 2017 | 0 Comments

Copyright Watchdog – President Trumps shows litigious side over Baldwin Comedy Sketch – NOT!!!

Here is a link to one story about Trump suing Baldwin I saw online.  When you read some of the viewer comments, it appears many people believe the story.  This is why it is important to always check the source and do some research before posting articles online, or sharing them on your twitter or facebook page, thinking you are the first one to break the serious news story.  What can happen is you end up looking like the fool.

So sorry, folks.  I saw this one running around with a lot of facebook shares through one of my analytical social media marketing tools I use.  Yes, it appears to be FAKE NEWS after I looked up both Donald Trump as a Plaintiff and Alec Baldwin as a Defendant.  So as of today, I see no such filing for a suit against the Saturday Night Live star filed by the President of the United States.  Don't believe everything you read, and same holds true for what you hear or see on TV. There is a TON of propaganda going on right now as the country is more divided than ever before.  We will be covering some of the interesting and relevant political legal issues on our Attorney Steve YOUTUBE video channel.  We are now over 2,700 subscribers  and 375,000 video views!  Join Us!!

Watch Attorney Steve explain First Amendment Law – Dazzle your friends with your knowledge of free speech!

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If anything changes, we will let you know.  For now, if you want to learn more about the First Amendment, watch our popular video.  As you will note, even if a sitting president does not like a joke being played on him, or a parody or satire, the president is a “public figure” and given that political speech is one of the most protected forms of free speech, it would be very difficult to hold Baldwin liable for slander, libel, or defamation or a sitting president especially since his goal is not only to comment on the president, mimic him, impersonate him, but to also criticize his policies.  As such, Baldwin and the makers of Saturday Night Live would have tremendous leeway in lampooning the president, vice president, first ladies, and any other “public figure” or “public official” or anyone else who thrusts themselves into a public controversy or debate.  This is the point of the first amendment, and we should be glad we have it.  It is the hallmark of a free country.

Why are people allowed to criticize a public figure?

One great case that discusses free speech, and the right to political speech, is Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Falwell, 485 U.S. 46, 50–52, 108 S. Ct. 876, 879–80, 99 L. Ed. 2d 41 (1988).  In this case the United States Supreme Court held:

At the heart of the First Amendment is the recognition of the fundamental importance of the free flow of ideas and opinions on matters of public interest and concern. the freedom to speak one's mind is not only an aspect of individual liberty—and thus a good unto itself—but also is essential to the common quest for truth and the vitality of society as a whole.” Bose Corp. v. Consumers Union of United States, Inc., 466 U.S. 485, 503–504, 104 S.Ct. 1949, 1961, 80 L.Ed.2d 502 (1984). We have therefore been particularly vigilant to ensure that individual expressions of ideas remain free from governmentally imposed sanctions. The First Amendment recognizes no such thing as a “false” idea. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 339, 94 S.Ct. 2997, 3007, 41 L.Ed.2d 789 (1974). As Justice Holmes wrote, “when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas—that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market” See also   Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630, 40 S.Ct. 17, 22, 63 L.Ed. 1173 (1919) (dissenting opinion). The Court continuedL “The sort of robust political debate encouraged by the First Amendment is bound to produce speech that is critical of those who hold public office or those public figures who are “intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions or, by reason of their fame, shape events in areas of concern to society at large.” Associated Press v. Walker, decided with Curtis Publishing Co. v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130, 164, 87 S.Ct. 1975, 1996, 18 L.Ed.2d 1094 (1967) (Warren, C.J., concurring in result). Justice Frankfurter put it succinctly in Baumgartner v. United States, 322 U.S. 665, 673–674, 64 S.Ct. 1240, 1245, 88 L.Ed. 1525 (1944), when he said that one of the prerogatives of American citizenship is the right to criticize public men and measures.” Such criticism, inevitably, will not always be reasoned or moderate; public figures as well as public officials will be subject to “vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks,” New York Times, supra, 376 U.S., at 270, 84 S.Ct., at 721. The candidate who vaunts his spotless record and sterling integrity cannot convincingly cry ‘Foul!' when an opponent or an industrious reporter attempts to demonstrate the contrary.” Monitor Patriot Co. v. Roy, 401 U.S. 265, 274, 91 S.Ct. 621, 626, 28 L.Ed.2d 35 (1971). In addition the U.S. Supreme Court held that there are times when a politician might be able to recover for damages for a copyright infringement lawsuit: “Of course, this does not mean that any speech about a public figure is immune from sanction in the form of damages. Since New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710, 11 L.Ed.2d 686 (1964), we have consistently ruled that a public figure may hold a speaker liable for the damage to reputation caused by publication of a defamatory falsehood, but only if the statement was made “with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.” “Fake News” addressed: “False statements of fact are particularly valueless; they interfere with the truth-seeking function of the marketplace of ideas, and they cause damage to an individual's reputation that cannot easily be repaired by counter-speech, however persuasive or effective. See Gertz, 418 U.S., at 340, 344, n. 9, 94 S.Ct., at 3007, 3009, n. 9. But even though falsehoods have little value in and of themselves, they are “nevertheless inevitable in free debate,” id., at 340, 94 S.Ct., at 3007, and a rule that would impose strict liability on a publisher for false factual assertions would have an undoubted “chilling” effect on speech relating to public figures that does have constitutional value. Freedoms of expression require ‘breathing space.” Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. v. Hepps, 475 U.S. 767, 772, 106 S.Ct. 1558, 1561, 89 L.Ed.2d 783 (1986) (quoting New York Times, supra, 376 U.S., at 272, 84 S.Ct., at 721). This breathing space is provided by a constitutional rule that allows public figures to recover for libel or defamation only when they can prove both that the statement was false and that the statement was made with the requisite level of culpability.” This, for example, is perhaps why Melania Trump filed a defamation lawsuit.

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Why “Parody” is protected as free speech (qualifies for a “fair use” defense under copyright law)

Another United States Supreme Court case discussed the concept of “parody” (obviously, Alec Baldwin is doing a Parody of Donald Trump) and when this is available as a defense to defamation:

“This Court has only once before even considered whether parody may be fair use, and that time issued no opinion because of the Court's equal division. Benny v. Loew's Inc., 239 F.2d 532 (CA9 1956), aff'd sub nom. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. v. Loew's Inc., 356 U.S. 43, 78 S.Ct. 667, 2 L.Ed.2d 583 (1958). Suffice it to say now that parody has an obvious claim to transformative value, as Acuff–Rose itself does not deny. Like less ostensibly humorous forms of criticism, it can provide social benefit, by shedding light on an earlier work, and, in the process, creating a new one. We thus line up with the courts that have held that parody, like other comment or criticism, may claim fair use under § 107. See, e.g., Fisher v. Dees, 794 F.2d 432 (CA9 1986) (“When Sonny Sniffs Glue,” a parody of “When Sunny Gets Blue,” is fair use); Elsmere Music, Inc. v. National Broadcasting Co., 482 F.Supp. 741 SDNY), aff'd, 623 F.2d 252 (CA2 1980) (“I Love Sodom,” a “Saturday Night Live” television parody of “I Love New York,” is fair use); see also House Report, p. 65; Senate Report, p. 61, U.S.Code Cong. & Admin.News 1976, pp. 5659, 5678 (“[U]se in a parody of some of the content of the work parodied” may be fair use).” The Court continued: “The germ of parody lies in the definition of the Greek parodeia, quoted in Judge Nelson's Court of Appeals dissent, as “a song sung alongside another.” 972 F.2d, at 1440, quoting 7 Encyclopedia Britannica 768 (15th ed. 1975). Modern dictionaries accordingly describe a parody as a “literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule,” or as a “composition in prose or verse in which the characteristic turns of thought and phrase in an author or class of authors are imitated in such a way as to make them appear ridiculous. For the purposes of copyright law, the nub of the definitions, and the heart of any parodist's claim to quote from existing material, is the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works. See, e.g., Fisher v. Dees, supra, at 437; MCA, Inc. v. Wilson, 677 F.2d 180, 185 (CA2 1981). If, on the contrary, the commentary has no critical bearing on the substance or style of the original composition, which the alleged infringer merely uses to get attention or to avoid the drudgery in working up something fresh, the claim to fairness in borrowing from another's work diminishes accordingly (if it does not vanish), and other factors, like the extent of its commerciality, loom larger.14Parody needs to mimic *581 an original to make its point, and so has some claim to use the creation of its victim's (or collective victims') imagination, whereas satire can stand on its own two feet and so requires justification for the very act of borrowing.”   See ibid.; Bisceglia, Parody and Copyright Protection: Turning the Balancing Act Into a Juggling Act, in ASCAP, Copyright Law Symposium, No. 34, p. 25 (1987). The US Supreme Court also added: “The fact that parody can claim legitimacy for some appropriation does not, of course, tell either parodist or judge much about where to draw the line. Like a book review quoting the copyrighted material criticized, parody may or may not be fair use, and petitioners' suggestion that any parodic use is presumptively fair has no more justification in law or fact than the equally hopeful claim that any use for news reporting should be presumed fair, see Harper & Row, 471 U.S., at 561, 105 S.Ct., at 2230. The Act has no hint of an evidentiary preference for parodists over their victims, and no workable presumption for parody could take account of the fact that parody often shades into satire when society is lampooned through its creative artifacts, or that a work may contain both parodic and non-parodic elements. Accordingly, parody, like any other use, has to work its way through the relevant factors, and be judged case by case, in light of the ends of the copyright law.” See  Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569, 579–82, 114 S. Ct. 1164, 1171–73, 127 L. Ed. 2d 500 (1994).

Contact a first amendment & copyright lawyer

If you need a lawyer for a first amendment legal issue, California anti-SLAPP, libel or slander (defamation cases), copyright infringement, California right of publicity, reporter's privilege, or other internet or media law matter, call us for a free consultation at (877) 276-5084.  If you want to look up federal cases on your own, use the awesome PACER SEARCH TOOL.

About the Author

Steve Vondran

Thank you for viewing our blogs, videos and podcasts. As noted, all information on this website is Attorney Advertising. Decisions to hire an attorney should never be based on advertising alone. Any past results discussed herein do not guarantee or predict any future results. All blogs are written by Steve Vondran, Esq. unless otherwise indicated. Our firm handles a wide variety of intellectual property and entertainment law cases from music and video law, Youtube disputes, DMCA litigation, copyright infringement cases involving software licensing disputes (ex. BSA, SIIA, Siemens, Autodesk, Vero, CNC, VB Conversion and others), torrent internet file-sharing (Strike 3 and Malibu Media), California right of publicity, TV Signal Piracy, and many other types of IP, piracy, technology, and social media disputes. Call us at (877) 276-5084. AZ Bar Lic. #025911 CA. Bar Lic. #232337


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