Universal Oddities

April 18, 2002

The Beautiful Intricacies Copyright Law

Recently, I’ve embroiled myself in the intricacies of copyright law for a variety of various reasons. For example, let’s 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. I’m trying to track down the copyright owner for a certain photograph, but I’m 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 to it.

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 use it?

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 don’t think that NBC owns the copyright to that picture though.

copyright office: You don’t know that. Maybe they do.

me: No, I’m pretty sure that the news media doesn’t own the rights to those pictures. I’m 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 owner.

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 Hitler’s relatives were suing publishers for money they made distributing Mein Kampf.

copyright office: Do you have any other questions?

me: Maybe... but I’m slightly afraid to ask them.

copyright office: Thank you for calling the United States Copyright Office.

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 it’s (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 Laden’s 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 Laden’s 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 don’t 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. Habibi’s 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 don’t 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 Laden’s 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 materials.

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 donkeys to:

Hamza Habualee
al-Queda Organization

Respectfully yours,

Hamza Habualee

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 haven’t read this article in its entirety.




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