Reproductions of “famous monster” art work ruled fair use when used in biography of artist

Basil Gogos is an artist who is known for creating “monster magazine” cover art since the late 1950’s.  Among other places, his work appeared in publications such as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Creepy and Eerie

In 2006, David Spurlock and his company Vanguard Productions collaborated with Mr. Gogos to produce a biography and career retrospective entitled Famous Monster Movie Art of Basil Gogos, which celebrated Mr. Gogos’ nearly 50-year career.  The book included 10 reproductions of covers, and 14 other images, that were used in the Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine. 

In 2008, Warren Publishing, publisher of the magazine, sued Spurlock and Vanguard, asserting that the new book’s reproduction of the covers and other images constituted copyright infringement.  In defense, Spurlock and Vanguard argued that reproductions were permitted under the “Fair Use” Doctrine, which permits the use of copyrighted works for certain uses, including criticism, comment and scholarship.

This week, in Warren Publishing Co. v. Spurlock, No. 08-3399 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 4, 2009) the court agreed with Spurlock and Vanguard, ruling that the use of the images was “squarely within” the fair use doctrine and granting summary judgment in favor of the defendants.  More details about the case, and a copy of the court’s opinion are available on the Pepper Hamilton website by clicking here.  (My colleagues M. Kelly Tillery, Christopher Olszyk, and Cara Kearney represented Spurlock in the case.)

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