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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Wales Ducks Lawsuit Over|Use of Dylan Thomas Photos

MANHATTAN (CN) - The Welsh government does not need to face copyright infringement claims for using two photographs of its national hero Dylan Thomas for a New York ad campaign promoting tourism, a federal judge ruled.

Just as Thomas's poetry made him one of his country's most beloved icons, his tragic unraveling at the age of 39 intimately tied to New York City history.

Thomas, whose "Do not go gentle into that good night" and "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower" became synonymous with Welsh lyricism, arrived here on his first trip to the United States in 1950, three years before he drank himself to death at lower Manhattan's White Horse Tavern.

Accompanying the poet on the literary tour, biographer John Malcolm Brinnin recounted Thomas' self-destructive benders, marital affairs, financial struggles, and socialist political ideals in "Dylan Thomas in America," a book later turned into a Broadway play.

The Welsh government's tourism campaign used two pictures depicting happier days between Thomas and his wife Caitlin Macnamara: "Just Married" shows the couple after their wedding in Penzance, Cornwall, and "Dylan and Caitlin and Penard" captures them holding holding polo mallets.

In both photographs, Thomas wears a characteristically moody expression as his wife smiles at his side.

Claiming to own the U.S. copyrights for the images, the London-based media company Pablo Star sued the Welsh government and nine news outlets that ran the ad campaign in Manhattan Federal Court last year.

The outlets included Miami Herald Media, the Richmond Times Dispatch, Treasure Coast Newspapers, E.W. Scripps, Co., Journal Media Group, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Travel Squire, Colorado News Feed and the Tribune Content Agency.

Despite the poet's troubled New York travels, U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken found no reason why the case belonged here.

"Neither plaintiffs nor the Welsh government reside in the United States," he wrote. "The only concrete infringing materials that plaintiffs can identify are materials that were available online."

Oetken added later: "Indeed, all of the Welsh government's relevant conduct - including the creation and maintenance of the websites at issue - appears to have occurred abroad."

The order dismisses claims against all but one defendant: Tribune Content Agency, which did not join the motion to dismiss.

Lawyers for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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