Noisebridge hackerspace explains fair use to Dreamworks

Dreamworks is producing a sensationalized, awful movie about Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Some of the action involves the Noisebridge hackerspace in San Francisco that Wikileaks's Jacob Appelbaum helped to found, so Dreamworks wrote to them asking for permission to use their logo. Noisebridge collectively penned a letter back explaining fair use and free speech to the representatives from Big Content who'd come a-knockin':

From your description, it should be clear to anyone watching your film that you're just using the image to talk about Noisebridge, not claim you are Noisebridge or that Noisebridge supports your film*.

Given this, Noisebridge as a community believes you have the free speech right to use such imagery without having to ask permission -- especially those who you might be implicitly criticising or commenting upon. Such a right is encoded in the existing nature of trademark and copyright with the idea of fair use.

Sadly, knowledge of such rights have been eroded over the years by the repeated claims of copyright maximalists, who would have you believe that you must beg to refer to us in your film -- or even that you would be beholden to us if, for instance, you parodied our disrespectful attitude to your concerns with the following image, which includes both of our identifying marks, the Noisebridge(TM) circuit, and the Unicorn Pissing A Rainbow(TM).

Such a position is lunacy and a genuine threat to free speech and the first amendment. You should exercise all of your fair use rights freely and without fear.

So we say tell your friends at DreamWorks to publish (or print, or produce) and be damned. Tell them we fully support them in their brave stand. You can say with confidence that the only conditions under which Noisebridge would sue them and their partners to the maximum damages entitled to us by law would be if it turned out that hackers like us were completely hypocritical nihilists out only for our own egotistical ends.

Given that you were so nice as to ask us, we can't imagine you think that of us.

DreamworksReply (Thanks, Danny!)


  1. Something tells me the low-level drudge in Legal at Dreamworks that was tasked with this won’t get it…

    1. Who will now reply with something along the lines of, “Yeah, OK, but can you just sign this document giving us permission?”

  2. When they kick down your front door
    how you gonna come,
    with your hands on your head
    or on some Photoshoppéd fun?

    When the law break in
    how you gonna go,
    LOLing mightily
    or tied up on court row?

    You can harsh us,
    you can sue us,
    but you’ll have to answer to
    Oh, the ‘Shoops of Noisebridge

  3. Sigh. “Yes, that’d be fine. We consider this fair use. Thanks for asking.” Was that so hard?  Of course, then they would have missed a perfectly good opportunity to be condescending.

    1. Considering that Dreamworks, through the MPAA if not otherwise, has done a lot to try to undermine fair use doctrine I think it is entirely fair and not very condescending to say, “fuck you, but yes obviously you can.”

    2. The movie studios are notorious for taking a big ol’ shit on fair use.  Oops, did a few seconds of TV in the background end up in your indie movie?  Hope you have $10,000 for the rights to that son… Against assholes like that, why not take a few moments out of your day to tell some assholes that they are assholes?

      I would have summed it even simpler.  “No, we don’t give you permission.  However, if you think that this is legally fair use, take your chances.”  Make them use fair use if they want to include that content.

  4. Jacob Appelbaum is not a member of Wikileaks, I don’t think. He has helped them but it’s not right to call him Wikilieaks’ Jacob Appelbaum

    1. I guess you could say he has been ‘linked’ to wikileaks, in the same way random people/groups around the world are ‘linked’ to al queda in news reports. Reporters don’t have to say what the link is or explain how tenuous it may be. “Hollywood actor Kevin Bacon has been arrested today after authorities have linked him to several key commanders of al queda”

    2.  Actually, he is and, in fact, read a speech for Julian Assange when he couldn’t come to a conference. For his sins, Jake has been harassed by the US government for years now.

  5. It would have been smarter to not respond to the request, then when Dreamworks used the logo anyway on the grounds of “fair use” they would have had Dreamworks in a corner on their denials of the legitimacy of fair use.

  6.  I know he read a speech for Assange . Know he’s been harassed. Still not sure he’s a member of wikileaks — as in part of the team that did the specific wikileaks work. But if the above article said The Tor Project’s Jacob Appelbaum — that would be truer. My understanding is that he is independent.

    1. I just re-read your proposed letter and speaking as someone who worked as a legal assistant for a few years, you’re wrong. There are any number of lawyers that not only wouldn’t understand it, they wouldn’t even bother to look up the hard words in a dictionary.

    1. Oy, Cowicide, I suppose if I knew your politics I could tell what you are saying. I think you may have left out one piece of information that would help me understand. That is; who are you talking about? It is possible to read your statement head leaning either way. Seriously. just gimme a clue.

      And, no, I don’t care to follow the link to find out if you cant bother to be clear. Just a little brotherly advice, man.

  7. This is the way to do it. The people in those offices aren’t morons and if they are in entertainment law they are probably not conservatives. Lawyers talk to their clients and lawyers can sense a ground swell. I guarantee this thing is getting the go around at the office and everyone is saying, “Awesome!” with the first syllable higher pitched than usual. They are not fools and if they are paying attention they know the movement is getting its legs and this is a measure of that. They appreciate being treated as living and breathing humans as much as anyone does and good on Noisebridge for taking the time to show the respect that a good rebuttal requires.

  8. I’m willing to bet large sums of money that that film is going to have some horrifying, sensationalistic discussion of his rape accusations. Something about women being scheming bitches. Etc.

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