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November 19, 2018
Milt Policzer

By Milt Policzer

Courthouse News columnist; racehorse owner and breeder; one of those guys who always got picked last.

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I’m going play devil’s advocate here in a moment — mainly because it’s the obvious sort-of pun expected of me — but I have another more serious journalistic issue to deal with first, about a photograph published last week in the Los Angeles Times.

Can you see the problem with this?

OK, you probably can’t without the context. This was the sole illustration accompanying an article about a lawsuit filed on behalf of The Satanic Temple (not to be confused with the Church of Satan) over use of a goat-headed demon in the TV series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” on Netflix.

Do you notice what’s missing?

Yep — a full view of the Baphomet statue that the news story is about. Someone at the Times was afraid of being struck by lightning and pulled into Hades. So much for bravery in journalism.

A picture of the full sculpture would have been helpful, since the crux of the complaint was that this was a specifically detailed, unique work commissioned by the Church that included a pair of children identical to the ones used in the TV show looking up at the good or bad guy (depending on your point of view).

Editorial lapse aside, this is an interesting piece of litigation. You can decide for yourself whether Netflix can argue “fair use” or whether Netflix copied a copyright-protected sculpture unlike other Baphomets.

The best (or, perhaps, worst) part is that this has created a fertile ground for puns.

The Times story, for example, quotes a Los Angeles lawyer saying: “I don’t think they have a prayer.”

The lawsuit itself says: “This case presents, among other things, a textbook example of the hornbook explanation of copyright protection that copyright law protects unique expressions ...”

Hornbook! You know someone was chuckling when they wrote that.

And, of course, devil’s advocates abound. This may be someone’s idea of hell.

You also get the feeling from the complaint that the Satanists’ feelings have been hurt. On TV they’re the bad guys, when in real life, they’re the good guys.

“TST is an organization founded and designed to encourage benevolence and empathy among people rejecting tyrannical authority, advocating practical and common-sense justice, and undertaking noble pursuits guided by individual will,” the lawsuit says.

I was tempted to join the church when I read that, but then I realized that’s the sort of thing the devil would say ...

More illustration. The Baphomet non-photo, however, was not the most uninformative editorial illustration of the week. Take a look at this and then take a guess what the story is about:

Got any idea?

Here's the headline of the story from the Canadian newspaper The Star: "Woman ticketed for not holding escalator handrail to be heard by Supreme Court."

For some reason, this was illustrated by a picture of the Canadian Supreme Court building framed by colorful fall foliage. No sign of a ticketed woman, an escalator, or a handrail.

I'm guessing the Canadian editor didn't want to upset anyone by being too graphic.

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