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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Let Freedom Ring: Federal Judge Rules That, Yes, You Are Entitled To Mail Out Pictures of Your Enemies Altered to Look Like Hitler

Posted By on Thu, Aug 6, 2009 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge No worries, Basil. It's 'fair use!'
  • No worries, Basil. It's 'fair use!'
In the past few years, it seems the powers that be have found so many devious new ways to restrict our freedoms. They're reading our e-mails, listening to our phone calls, and calling up incessantly to try to get us to donate to their "Police Athletic Leagues" (hey, we're on to you!).

So it was heartwarming to learn that, last month, a local federal judge ruled that we're still entitled to one of our most basic freedoms: Firing off unsolicited mailings containing photos of your enemies doctored to look like the Führer.

Judge Saundra Brown dismissed a case filed against onetime General Electric worker Robert Delsman by Sedgwick Claims Management Services -- after Delsman sent out postcards emblazoned with photos of two top Sedgwick executives altered to look like Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler.  

The background: Delsman, a longtime G.E. employee, grew, shall we say, disgruntled with how his disability claim was being handled by Sedgwick (something he documented fervently on more than one blog). Anyhow, at one point he sent out the Nazified pictures of Sedgwick CEO David North and COO Paul Posey to a number of Sedgwick employees. (This was an interesting step, skipping right to the Third Reich and not sending out photos of North and Posey altered to look like Mussolini or Tojo.)

Sending out Hitlerian mashups probably doesn't sit well with the folks at the Museum of Tolerance and definitely didn't amuse Sedgwick. The company filed a bevy of claims in April, including copyright infringement, defamation, and libel. Yet the judge saw "Operation Going Postcard" (as Delsman coined it) to be "fair use" of the photos.

Judge Brown felt the Nazified pictures were clearly "transformative" and qualified as "parody" -- "Allowing Defendant to use the photographs in the context of publicly criticizing and warning the public regarding Sedgwick's business practices is precisely the type of activity the fair use doctrine is intended to protect."

Two other fun facts: In siding with the defendant, Brown cited the cases Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors and Savage v. Council on American-Islamic Relations. There's a dream team, all right.

Also, Delsman, a non-attorney, won this one without representation. Impressive. Not advisable -- but impressive. 

H/T   |   Courthouse News


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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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