Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Paris Hilton Card 'Clearly a Spoof', Hallmark Argues

May 18, 2008

Hallmark Cards has urged the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to swiftly dispose of a pesky publicity rights suit filed by Paris Hilton, arguing that a greeting card portraying the hotel heiress as a waitress is "clearly a spoof" and, in any case, is "transformative" under the fair use test of copyright law.

The suit reached the appeals court after U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson in January denied Hallmark's motion for an early dismissal under the free-speech protections of California's anti-SLAPP law. Anderson said a "more fact-intensive analysis of the card's context and Hilton's public image" was required to determine whether the card is protected as a parody.

But Hallmark attorney Lincoln Bandlow of Spillane Shaeffer Aronoff Bandlow in Century City argues in this opening appellate brief that the exact literary form of the card is not relevant to whether it is sufficiently transformative of Hilton's likeness. "[T]he Card need not be biting, side-splittingly funny or obviously parodic to someone unfamiliar with Hilton to be protected under the transformative use test or the First Amendment," he says.

Covering all the bases, the brief also places the card firmly within the context of other Hilton parodies, including a scene from "Epic Movie" in which "a Hilton look-alike exits a store, utters 'I’m so hot' and then is crushed to death by one of the film’s protagonists."

Hilton’s effort to target the exercise of First Amendment rights should meet with swift disposal," Bandlow concludes.