"It's not as if we're selling our opinions in competition with a photographer... Using the photo in a judicial opinion couldn't conceivably be hurting the copyright holder."Posner did not give the photographer credit, though it's a commercial photographer who uses Getty Images to collect fees. But Posner just grabbed the photo from the internet. He says "With the Internet, it's extraordinarily easy to find photographs of anything," so there's a good chance he encountered the photograph on a website that didn't name the photographer.
Posner seems to think it's quite fun to toss photographs into judicial opinions. It reminds me of the way some judges like to quote song lyrics or lines from movies. Blogging, I always feel that it's more questionable to use an image that someone else created than it is to cut and paste a block of text, but why should that be? I quote blocks of text all the time, but I remember, when I started blogging, worrying quite a bit about whether it was acceptable to copy that much text, so I'm relieved to hear a judge take a broad view of fair use and set an example.
Here's an opinion where Posner includes a picture of an ostrich with its head in the sand and a picture of (presumably) a lawyer with his head in the sand as he criticizes a lawyer who failed to cite a case that should have been cited. The lawyer filed a grievance against Posner for funning with him like that. The grievance was dismissed, and Posner offers the classic nonapology "I'm sorry he was upset by it."
There's more going on here than copyright. There's also the idea that judges are supposed to be neutral and sober. They wield power against real individuals, and it's a power that's supposed to come solely from law, not from any will of the judge's own. In that light, when the judge displays that he's enjoying the experience or playing to the crowd, entertaining the audience, we may fear that he's doing something wrong. This is why most judicial opinions are so godawful tedious, as the judges all sound alike and phrase everything in the dullest possible way. And there are no pictures!
This reminds me. We lawprofs have to make students read these texts, and we use casebooks that have edited the tediously verbose writings down, but the casebooks are still ponderous — in more ways that one. I'd like to take iBooks Author — an amusing new app — throw all the cases I assign into it. (All the judicial opinions are in the public domain, so there's no copyright issue at all.) Edit the cases down, summarize some things, and embed some pictures in a Posneresque way.
For example, take Griswold v. Connecticut (the old birth control case that flummoxed Mitt Romney in the debate the other day). There's a point in Justice Harlan's concurring opinion where he writes:
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment stands, in my opinion, on its own bottom.That's just begging for a photograph grabbed from the internet.
IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt said:
Posner is The Crack Emcee of judicial opinions?