MANHATTAN (CN) – A viral video that urged millions to send Uganda warlord Joseph Kony to the Hague does not share “any meaningful similarities” to a still image from a mosh pit at an indie-rock tour, a federal judge ruled in a copyright suit on Friday.
Three years ago, a short video produced by the nonprofit group Invisible Children put the heat on Kony, a fugitive who has ducked prosecution in the abduction of more than 30,000 children captured as child soldiers and sex slaves.
Sending up a U.S. political campaign, the effort adopted the slogan “Kony 2012” for the year it hoped to send the warlord to the International Criminal Court.
Politicians like George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice and John Kerry endorsed the call, and celebrities from Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney and Angelina Jolie lent a megaphone to its message to “Make Kony Famous” as mock-campaign posters with the Lord’s Resistance Army leader’s mugshot spread across the world.
To date, the video has been viewed by more than 100 million people on YouTube, but Kony’s newfound visibility has not brought the warlord any closer to capture and prosecution three years later.
Detractors jeered the Kony 2012 campaign as promoting “slacktivism” by turning African geopolitics into a morality play in which the world’s ills are cured by participating in a U.S.-based public relations blitz against one man.
But photographer Janine Gordon, a Brooklyn-based artist better known by her rap name Jah Jah, had a different beef with Invisible Children and its co-founder Jason Russell.
She claimed in a pro se lawsuit last year that the group’s campaign ripped off her picture of a mosh pit from the 2001 Warped Tour, a series of punk and indie-rock concerts.
Both photographs show a man in a white undershirt with his arms outstretched at the center of the frame.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe found on Friday that the similarities ended there.
“Beyond the fact that all of these images show a male figure in a white tank top standing in front of a group of people with his arms extended out to his sides, there is precious little – conceptually, visually, or otherwise – that is common to Gordon’s photograph and the Kony 2012 image,” the 30-page opinion says.
Gordon said in an email that she did “not agree” with the court’s decision.
“‘Plant Your Feet on the Ground,’ 2001, is a work of art and I firmly believe this complaint should go to trial,” she wrote.
This is the third copyright lawsuit filed by Gordon dismissed from Manhattan Federal Court.
She voluntarily withdrew previous infringement claims against rappers 50 Cent and Dr. Dre, and she lost another case against fellow photographer Ryan McGinley four years ago.
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