April 18, 2002
The Beautiful Intricacies Copyright
Recently, Ive embroiled myself in the intricacies of copyright
law for a variety of various reasons. For example, lets examine
copyright law pertaining to photographs. In the United States, the
copyright claimant of a photograph is the fellow who snapped off
the picture itself. Simple enough.
Yet, under certain conditions, if an event of important magnitude
arises, news outlets are granted permission to reproduce such images
for the purposes of informing the public without obtaining permission
from the copyright owner themselves. Yet this privilege tends to
hold for news organizations alone.
As such, I simply decided to contact the legal experts of the United
States Copyright Office.
me: Hi copyright office. I just had some questions to ask
you about the intricacies of copyright law. I was wondering if you
could help me. Im trying to track down the copyright owner
for a certain photograph, but Im not quite certain who owns
the rights to it.
copyright office: Unless it was a work for hire, once the
picture is taken, the person who took the picture owns the rights
me: Well, the picture I have here is some picture of Osama
bin Laden going on about how he wants to kill Americans. Can I just
copyright office: No. The copyright claimant of a picture
is the person who took the picture. You have to obtain their permission.
Where did you get the picture from?
me: NBC I think.
copyright office: Then you have to ask NBC for permission.
me: I really dont think that NBC owns the copyright
to that picture though.
copyright office: You dont know that. Maybe they do.
me: No, Im pretty sure that the news media doesnt
own the rights to those pictures. Im pretty sure some guy
in Afghanistan owns the rights to those pictures. Or possibly some
guy in Pakistan. Or possibly some guy decomposing under a lot
of Afghanistan... Are you sure I need to obtain permission from
the copyright owner?
copyright office: Look, the person who took the pictures
owns the copyright on them. You have to get permission through them.
me: What if I use it in the context of a parody.
copyright office (annoyed at my obvious stupidity):
Look, you still have to get permission from the copyright
me: What if I just recreate the images myself?
copyright office: Then you have to get permission to produce
a derivative work from the owner of copyright.
me: I heard somewhere that Hitlers relatives were
suing publishers for money they made distributing Mein Kampf.
copyright office: Do you have any other questions?
me: Maybe... but Im slightly afraid to ask them.
copyright office: Thank you for calling the United States
From the slight research that I proceeded to do, it seems that al-Jazeera
actually had a joint deal with CNN to trade exclusive footage with
each other. The other news outlets simply swiped the footage because
its (obviously) newsworthy and thus quite fair for them to
use. Nevertheless, nothing I do with such images is newsworthy.
And, to complicate matters, even though al-Jazeera may claim
copyright on those tapes of Osama bin Laden, it was not al-Jazeera
who in fact created them. Nor do I believe they had any special
legal arrangement with Osama bin Ladens people. The tapes
just seemed to show up every so often.
So, summarizing my brief dip into the legal quagmire of U.S. copyright
law, it actually turns out that in using such images of Osama bin
Laden (outside the context of necessity for the news media) without
permission, it would appear that someone in Osama bin Ladens
al-Queda network (or his family, or donkey) actually has the basis
for an extremely lucrative lawsuit.
In order to use images of Osama bin Laden, one would actually have
to contact the Permissions Department of the al-Queda network and
request permission to use it. Until then, I suppose
one is allowed to claim a reasonable effort in any attempts
to contact al-Queda, if one indeed made an effort at all. Yet, later
on down the line, the owner of copyright is always entitled to collect
compensatory damages for usage of his copyrighted material.
So, I may, one day, in fact receive a letter from the lawyer of
one Omar Habibi, claiming copyright infringement. Yet I dont
want to have to pay al-Jazeera for any rights, or CNN, or anyone
(such as Almar Habibi or Osama bin Laden) for that matter.
However, there is a statue of limitations (I believe) on receiving
statutory damages. Nevertheless, I doubt that Mr. Habibi had enough
foresight to register his film with the United States Copyright
Office. Yet, unlike the apparent statute of limitations imposed
on child molestation cases, there is no statute of limitations
on Mr. Habibis suing for punitive damages.
Currently, it is my intention to send a letter on the behalf of
Hamza Habualee (or whomever) to every organization that has used
his image for profit in a non-news fashion, requesting compensation.
But I really dont want to get arrested.
In any case, I await my funding of future terrorist ventures. And,
citizens of the United States, keep this in mind: you may all have
to pay for using those images one day.
God Bless America!
Dear The Tonight Show,
It has recently come to my attention that certain copyrighted materials
of mine have been used in a fashion unrelated to news reporting
for the express purpose of commercial profiting off of said images.
The material in question is, more specifically, the films in which
Osama bin Laden expresses his hatred and desire to destroy America.
I am flattered that you saw fit to use my videos. Much work was
put into the intricacies of lighting and angle, and my intention
was to capture Osama bin Ladens unique essence through a variety
of shaky camera jerks, and by zooming in and out to focus the camera.
However, I am disappointed at not having been reached for specific
permission regarding said films. Also, you will require permission
for the creation of derivative works produced from such copyrighted
As of yet, I have received no request for the use of material,
nor do I recall granting such permission. I would ask that you halt
all such usage of infringing materials and forward a check for 12
Warning & Disclaimer: This article constitutes a series
of lies and fabricated conversations. I am not responsible for any
of the various lies I tell. They are simply an attempt to misinform
the people who havent read this article in its entirety.