Law in Popular Culture

Was Ted Nugent country singer? 4th Circuit judges clueless

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shutterstock_Ted Nugent

Singer Ted Nugent strikes a chord to a sold-out show in Anaheim, California, on June 30, 2011. Photo from Shutterstock.

Two federal appeals judges confessed during oral arguments Tuesday that they weren’t familiar with a rock musician known for the 1977 song “Cat Scratch Fever.”

At issue in the case is whether the Independent Journal Review’s use of a copyrighted photo of singer Ted Nugent was fair use in an article titled “15 Signs Your Daddy Was a Conservative.” The photo was captioned, “He hearts the Nug.”

Nugent is known for expressing his conservative views and making “incendiary political pronouncements” in his concerts, according to Detroit Free Press coverage of a Michigan concert in August.

Law360 covered the comments by flummoxed Judges Robert B. King and James Andrew Wynn of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Richmond, Virginia.

“Is he a country music singer, is that what he is?” King asked. “I’m too old to know, I guess.”

Wynn also admitted that he wasn’t familiar with the rocker later in the argument.

“Quite frankly, let me tell you, I did not have a clue. I don’t know who Ted Nugent is, but that doesn’t matter to me,” Wynn said.

The 4th Circuit is considering whether the Independent Journal Review’s use of Nugent’s photo was given new meaning in the context of the article, making it a transformative use, according to The Independent Journal Review had argued that the photo was used for “political commentary on conservative identity,” rather than to show Nugent in concert, and that was transformative.

Judge Allison Rushing appeared skeptical of the rgument.

“If you had photoshopped a Trump hat on him or substituted a gun for the guitar or something, we would know this is transformative, this is different,” Rushing said.

The case is Philpot v. Independent Journal Review.

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