By Eriq Gardner
A couple months ago, to the puzzlement of many, Summit Entertainment decided to go after a "Twilight" fanzine that used publicity photos from the film without permission.
Few people could figure out why the studio would file a copyright and trademark infringement lawsuit against Beckett Media when those stock photos are floating around the Internet and have undoubtedly been used by many.
We went back and looked at the original complaint
in this case. To us, the most interesting issue is the way that Summit tries to foreclose a free-speech, journalists-have-fair-use-rights line of defense.
The issue of whether a fanzine is a journalistic enterprise or a commercial one is interesting.
Beckett's main revenue source is selling trading cards. In its "Twilight" fanzine issues, the company included pullout posters and allegedly modified some of the photographs in question. Summit has its own officially sanctioned "Twilight" books, of course, and the Beckett 'zines presumably compete with the officially licensed stuff.
Still, what magazine hasn't splashed photos of Rob Pattinson and Kristen Stewart all over their pages, and many publications make similar alterations and place photos in an unflattering context (we're reminded of the ongoing lawsuit by 186 indie rock musicians against Rolling Stone magazine
for featuring them in a spread next to an advertisement for Camel cigarettes). In its answer
to the original complaint, Beckett asserted some defenses that media organizations might rely upon in this situation, including the First Amendment.
Journalism or commercial speech? As the space between entertainment and news product collapses, we could see more of these types of lawsuits. Especially when content like photos are so easily passed around on the Internet.
Summit, repped by Jill Pietrini and a team from LA's Manatt firm, gave us this statement on the case:
"Summit Entertainment acted to protect its rights in a situation which found Beckett Media using copyrighted and trademarked images and materials relating to the Twilight films for Beckett's financial gain without an agreement in place with Summit to legally license the right to produce materials based on its film franchise. Beckett's sale of standalone magazines under the name Twilight, and wholesale use of Summit's copyrighted material in a commercial product, went well beyond the intended purpose of Summit's publicity site. We applaud the court for its judgment in this matter."