A few days ago, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska affirmed that David Adjmi’s play 3C was a legal parody of the Three’s Company television series. Preska made this decision based on a solid interpretation of the intention of copyright and the four factors.
I’m sharing this not just because it is a good ruling that supports fair use, but because Preska has some fine writing in her ruling.
About copyright in general, Preska notes that it favors neither “side” in general. Copyright, she writes:
“is designed to foster creativity. It does so by, in effect, managing monopolies in knowledge: granting one in original work to reward its creator, but ensuring it is limited, temporary, and does not operate as a moratorium on certain ideas. The law is agnostic between creators and infringers, favoring only creativity and the harvest of knowledge”
She describes how Adjimi’s play transforms the source materials:
“Three’s Company’s sunny 1970s Santa Monica into an upside-down, dark version of itself. DLT might not like the transformation, but it is a transformation nonetheless.”
But she also notes, quoting the Supreme Court, that the 2nd factor isn’t “ever likely to help much in separating the fair use sheep from the infringing goats in a parody case.” So she cogently goes through the rest…without losing her own sense of humor.
The best bit is her writing on the fourth factor—effect on profits, real and potential—where Preska writes:
“Indeed, 3C appears to be intended for those who enjoy other of Adjmi’s ‘hard-edged,’ plays; and the Court is quite sure that a viewing of Three’s Company does not require one’s therapist. In light of the Court’s review of 3C and Three’s Company, and contemporary reviews of the production, 3C is not a potential market substitution for Three’s Company.”