Legal Question in Intellectual Property in New Jersey

Emailing a spoof of community paper to criticize local politian

I recently took the front page of local community paper/promotional flyer

and used the masthead and accompanying image of a local politician to create

a spoof. This spoof, which pokes fun at the politician, was then emailed

anonymously to several email addresses including the politician's office.

This politician was extremely upset by this email, and also has ties to the

community paper. Assuming they eventually fiqure out I was the author

of the email, what are the potential problems associated with using the

copyrighted paper's masthead in this spoof?

Asked on 1/26/08, 4:53 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

John Corbett Corbett Law Firm LLC

Re: Emailing a spoof of community paper to criticize local politian

Depending on how well the newspaper has protected its intellectual property rights and the exact content of the article, you could have some serious problems. Making an unauthorized copy of the masthead most likely infringes the newspaper's copyright in it. If it is properly protected, they can recover hefty statutory damages per copy and attorney fees. The attorney fees would likely include the cost of the investigation to locate you. So, the anonomous email is not so anonomous after all.

Public figures have a harder time in recovering for defamation, but it is not impossible for them to do so. That depends on the content of the "spoof" and its legitimacy as comment on affairs of interest to the public.

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Answered on 1/28/08, 9:17 am

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