The Scarlett Johansson Photo Scandal, Anthony Weiner, and Fair Use

Posted on Sep 20 2011 - 4:26am by Zennie Abraham

Just over ten days ago, a nude photo of Scarlett Johansson was posted on Twitter, and rapidly went out all over the place on Twitter. This blogger was informed of it, and the news rapidly placed the name “Scarlett Johansson” on the Google Trends list. Anything that’s a trend is noted by this blogger and followed.

The problem with the photo, which will not be posted here, is that it looks for all the World like the Anthony Weiner scandal. But the reason why it never got to the point of a counter-accusation of the photo being intentionally posted by Ms. Johansson is that she’s not a politician, and thus does not offer herself as a target for an opposition group or person.

Like Andrew Breitbart of the blog Big Government, who basically teed off on Weiner, and spread the Congressman’s photos all over the place.

But the question must be asked: did Ms. Johansson take and distribute the photo? The photo brought to this blogger’s attention shows her obviously using a cell phone to take a photo of herself. Cell phones have apps that allow quick uploads and texts to persons and to groups. Is it possible she hit the wrong button?

Opps?

Now The Avengers star does have a Twitter account, here: @The_Scarlett_Jo but there’s no evidence that her account was the initial source of the photo release.

The question is, how did the photo get out into the public open?

Like the Anthony Weiner case, the FBI was brought in to investigate. It was alleged that a hacker group callled “Hollywood Leaks” was responsible for the photo “leak.”

But Hollywood Leaks issued this Twitter tweet:

@HWLeaks Hollywood Leaks
WE DID NOT LEAK THE SCARLETT JOHANSSON PICS, WE WOULD HAVE RELEASED IT HERE FIRST! So stop the speculating!

So, that’s that. But the question is, if not Hollywood Leaks, who did leak out the photos to the public?

As it happens, this story, according to TMZ.com, goes back to March, which the entertainment blog reported that:

TMZ now has a partial list of the celebs who had compromising pictures and video stolen from their computers and mobile devices by a group of hackers.

And one of the names was Scarlett Johansson.

But how? And who posted the Scarlett Johansson photos on the Internet first? And why?

Further digging in the search history reveals that this is not the first time the term “Scarlett Johansson nude photos” has popped up. The history goes as far back as 2006, when the term was apparently used to call attention to a movie video scene with Bradley Cooper from He’s Just Not That Into You, where Cooper tries to have his way with Johansson in his office.

The search history, muddled with new postings on the story, old ones, and cached versions, is so muddled, it’s hard to say when the issue of the photo leak really started. For example, someone made a Facebook page that dates back to December 8, 2010, but has a link that is to a web page whos content was taken down months ago.

The other problem I have is with the matter of the “mass release” that TMZ reported. Was this a planned process by a “black ops” PR company? First we release them, then call stolen after they’re distributed, then go for a takedown. Meanwhile the client gets fresh PR.

Just seems like a perfect plan.

One that snared this blogger. I have no interest in Scarlett Johansson’s butt any more than Anthony Weiner’s chest. It’s news, but if it is something Johansson did not do intentionally, which is not what I thought, then take it down? No problem. But not at the expense of my Chamillionaire video. I want that back up.

The person who called me saying he was a lawyer was yelling and accusatory and really and most unprofessional. Just saying. The photo is meaninglesss to me – I was tipped to it, used one of them as it was the story, and made news commentary about it (as is my right), and I’m done.

But the fact is, any blogger or journalist has a fair use legal right to use such photos distributed the way they were. Here’s an except from a case, one of many, that proves my point:

A Puerto Rico newspaper’s publication of photos of a nude Miss Universe contestant was valid under the fair use defense to copyright infringement cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) ruled on Dec. 21 in upholding a district court’s decision.

The appeals court cited the “newsworthy” nature of the photographs as the main reason they met the fair use requirements. Using the language of the district court, the First Circuit said “the pictures were the story”and therefore constituted a news-related use despite their placement on the front page, presumably to prompt readers to buy the newspaper.

That said, Scarlett Johansson will kick butt in The Avengers. We don’t need to see her nude to know that.

Stay tuned.


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    Zennie Abraham is the founder of Zennie62Media which consists of http://www.zennie62blog.com and a multimedia blog news aggregator and video network, and 78-blog network, with social media and content development services and consulting. Zennie is a pioneer video blogger, YouTube Partner, social media practitioner, game developer, and pundit. Note: news aggregator content does not reflect the personal views of Mr. Abraham. Visit http://www.youtube.com/user/zennie62 and http://www.tout.com/u/zennie62 - follow on Twitter @zennie62