Joustin’ Beaver: Let’s Get This Parody Started!

Deep in the mists of time, before I restricted my law practice to criminal defence work, I used to be an entertainment lawyer. As such, I was at one point up on the law of intellectual property, specifically copyright and personality rights.

Given my background, it gave me an extra tickle when I read about upcoming (i.e. threatened) lawsuits between teen heart-throb Justin Bieber [1] and app developer RC3, creators of an app called “Joustin’ Beaver.”

The app depicts a well-coiffed beaver with a purple jacket and a handsome face jousting with paparazzi. It’s clearly designed to mock the pop idol, a fact that RC3 readily admits.

Lawyers for Bieber have threatened to sue the company and the company is reportedly planning a pre-emptive lawsuit of its own against the Biebs, claiming that its app is protected under the U.S. First Amendment because it is a parody. [2]

Naturally, as a result of all this litigation hullabaloo, the app is gaining more attention than it probably ever would have if Bieber’s attorneys didn’t make such a big deal of it in the first place.

As we say down in The South, ‘Yew jus’ cain’t make this $#!t up!”


[1] I am happy to say that I don’t know anything about Justin Bieber, except for the fact that I see his face plastered everywhere. I imagine he’s some obscenely popular kind of singer.

[2] Although a parody can be considered a derivative work under United States Copyright Law, it can be protected from claims by the copyright owner of the original work under the fair use doctrine, which is codified in 17 U.S.C. § 107. The Supreme Court of the United States stated that parody “is the use of some elements of a prior author’s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author’s works”. That commentary function provides some justification for use of the older work. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. (Source: Wikipedia)


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