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Netflix wins second chance to appeal 'Tiger King' copyright ruling

Post Time:2024-05-15 Source:Reuters Author:Blake Brittain Views:

May 13 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court said on Monday that it would reconsider a March ruling it issued against Netflix (NFLX.O) in a copyright dispute over footage used in the streaming service's hit documentary series "Tiger King."

The Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to hear new arguments about whether Netflix made fair use of one of cameraman Timothy Sepi's videos in the show, vacating its previous ruling that revived part of Sepi's lawsuit.

The three-judge appeals court panel said that it was "particularly interested" in the case's impact "on the law and practice of documentary filmmaking."

Representatives for Netflix and Sepi did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"Tiger King," a true crime series set in the world of private zoos and their eccentric owners, became a hit for the streaming service on its release in March 2020. The show focused largely on Joe Exotic, the owner of an Oklahoma animal park who was later convicted of wildlife crimes and attempted murder-for-hire.

Exotic, whose given name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, hired Sepi as a cameraman for the park in 2015. Sepi left the job in 2016.

Sepi sued Netflix and "Tiger King" producer Royal Goode Productions in 2020 for using eight of his video clips in the series without his permission. Chief U.S. District Judge Timothy DeGiusti ruled in 2022 that Netflix had rights to seven clips Sepi made as a park employee and made fair use of an eighth clip, of a eulogy Exotic gave at his husband's funeral, that Sepi filmed independently.

The appeals court in March partly reversed the decision, determining that Netflix's use of the eulogy clip may not have been "transformative" enough to be fair, citing a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision involving Andy Warhol's art.

Netflix's "purported commentary did not 'comment' on the original composition, but rather targeted a character in the composition," Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Jerome Holmes said. "And Warhol has deemed such a use to not be sufficiently transformative."

Netflix asked the court last month to rehear the case. It said the March decision would "inevitably have a chilling effect on documentarians and other creators who make use of short excerpts of other works to create something entirely new for a different purpose."

The case is Whyte Monkee Productions LLC v. Netflix Inc, 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 22-6086.