Brownmark Films, LLC v. Comedy Partners: Why Fair Users Should Be Able to Rely on Fair Use

June 9, 2012

The fair use doctrine is codified in the Copyright Act of 1976. It protects the use of copyrighted material by parties who do not own rights to the copyrighted works if they are used for such purposes as education, parody, or commentary. However, many parties shy away from using materials that would be protected by the fair use doctrine. This is because even when a use fits squarely within the provisions of the statute, courts are typically unwilling to dismiss the suit relying on a fair use affirmative defense based only on the pleadings. In order to avoid the expense of litigation—including discovery, hearings, and even a trial in some cases—parties choose to settle out of court, even when their fair use claim is very strong. The Brownmark Films decision paves the way for other courts to dismiss copyright infringement cases based on strong fair use defenses during the early pleadings stages of litigation, rather than force defendants to undergo long and expensive legal battles.