Lawyer Says It's Copyright Infringement To Use Her Own Blog Posts Against Her In Disciplinary Proceedings

from the court-says-hahahahahahah dept

Eugene Volokh points our attention to yet another bizarre copyright case, Denison v. Larkin, in which lawyer Joanne Denison argued that the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission (IARDC) infringed on her copyrights by using portions of her own blog as evidence against her during a disciplinary proceeding. Not surprisingly, the court soundly rejected this particular interpretation of copyright law.

Basically, Denison created a blog about what she and some others believed was "courtroom corruption" concerning a particular 90-year-old woman. Some of those involved in the story filed a disciplinary complaint against Denison, "alleging professional misconduct in making false statements on her Blog." The complaint itself included "15 paragraphs of text" from the blog. Further, she claims that the IARDC "copied over 1,000 pages of the Blog and 'then incorporated [it] into further exhibits.'" She also sued Nextpoint, a company that the IARDC apparently used to save copies of the blog. The (rather patient) court goes through a full fair use analysis, finding (rather easily) that all four of the traditional "fair use factors" weigh heavily in favor of fair use. Based on that, it finds no direct infringement -- and without any direct infringement, the claims of contributory and vicarious infringement fail as well.

Amusingly, Denison tried to argue that the "commercial use" fair use factor weighed in her favor because "the IARDC sells its decisions to companies such as Lexis Nexis and Westlaw for paid or unpaid benefits." The court rather simply points out: "This statement is unfounded."

In the end, it was an easy fair use win (and those are always handy), though this case appeared to be absurd from the start. So it's great to see the court make quick work of it without causing any trouble to fair use.
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Filed Under: copyright, disciplinary proceedings, discipline, fair use, illinois, joanne denison


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2014 @ 11:51am

    You can't use what I said against me, it's copyrighted!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2014 @ 12:07pm

    "...infringed on her copyrights..."

    Increasingly, this construction is synonymous with "used for a purpose to which she objected."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2014 @ 12:15pm

    Weaponright

    Copyright is nothing but a club, readily available to any angry person to swing around and create havoc. It is bad for society.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2014 @ 12:33pm

    i think the point here is that regardless of whether copyright was valid or not, it even seems to confuse those who should know a lot more than ordinary people. that has to make it therefore extremely difficult for us non-lawyers to understand and make it easy to unwittingly fall foul. the big difference being no one is interested in whether infringement was unintentional, the whack with the big damages stick gets used as quick and as much as possible. that never seems to be the case in reverse when a good bollocking could be given to those of the industries when needed, even though Congress were fucking stupid enough to allow them to get away with just that and no financial penalties!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PB, 15 Oct 2014 @ 12:55pm

    When do we begin simply -- and with some sort of due process -- stripping these people of their licenses? When they either demonstrate such a thorough lack of understanding of the law, or such a willingness to abuse its process, it should be considered that they have demonstrated their unfitness to practice professionally.

    Strip them of their licenses; thereby help prevent their causing further damage -- whether to an undeserving "adversary" or their own potential future clients.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2014 @ 1:06pm

    What matters is that this was an easy win

    What's great about this decision is that the court held that plaintiff failed to state a claim at all. A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim is made quite early in the proceedings and is, therefore, a relatively cost-effective way of disposing of meritless litigation. It's great to see a court recognizing that fair use (which is often punted to a later stage of the proceeding, on the dubious basis that it is "a mixed question of law and fact") can be so obvious that it warrants dismissal of the copyright claims right out of the gate:
    Since Plaintiff's complaint leaves no possible outcome but a finding of fair use, there is no valid claim for copyright infringement. Therefore, the Court dismisses Count I, alleging copyright infringement, for failure to state a claim....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 15 Oct 2014 @ 5:13pm

    *waves at the shark in the tank as we sail over it*

    Copyright is broken.
    It has become this amazing tool for many uses other than what was intended. As they kept expanding it to appease some interests they have created something ripe for abuse, and now it is coming home to roost.
    How much more abuse has to happen before there can be serious reform of a law that was supposed to give us more, and is constantly used to give us less for the sake of the bottom line?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Oct 2014 @ 6:06pm

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward Too, 15 Oct 2014 @ 10:59pm

      Re:

      But this article is about how copyright law WAS enforced. You know, the bits found within it regarding fair use. So I'd say Mike Masnick was more than happy copyright law was enforced in this instance, fool.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2014 @ 12:54am

      Re:

      Not in this case - copyright law was enforced, justice was done.

      It's more truthful to say "Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is abused".

      You need to stop lying.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DougPaulsen (profile), 15 Oct 2014 @ 6:30pm

    Facts in the case of Mary G. Sykes ..

    "Denison first became concerned as to the hanky panky going on in State Probate courts via her involvement in the adult guardianship of Mary G. Sykes. Sykes was put under an adult guardianship, without apparent legal jurisdiction by the Cook County Court. Neither Mary Sykes nor her adult daughter, Gloria, were served with notice of the proceedings. The court-appointed guardians have subsequently isolated the elderly woman from family and friends for roughly four years."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Oct 2014 @ 3:25pm

    If the police created the confession..its not admissible in court...

    if the accused created the confession they have copyright over it and if they're being tried in East texas, the judges will rubber-stamp a vast amount of compensation for using it....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Joseph Miller, 19 Sep 2015 @ 12:30pm

    It's one thing to copy a few dozen pages for a court case, it's entirely another to copy and download an entire blog consisting of dozens of paid authors who rely on their copyrights for income.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    joanne denison, 11 Jul 2016 @ 7:00pm

    copyright infringement case

    Now we have a most interesting development. it turns out none of the court reporters were licensed in the ARDC proceeding and Illinois law says you can't use an unlicensed court reporter, nor can you utilize a judgment based upon transcripts for an unlicensed court reporter. The entire case is fraud on the court, and the copyright case should be reopened. They claim they used the documents for "litigation purposes" but the litigation turned out to be false and fraudulent so it's all fraud on the court and the copyright claim, therefore should be valid. If you want to do a story update, contact me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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