SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) — An Iowa politician is defending his campaign’s use of a copyrighted photo-turned-meme for his campaign with a trial to be held.
According to documents for an order to proceed in a lawsuit filed by Laney Marie Griner and Sam Griner against former U.S. Representative for Iowa for Congress, Steve King and his campaign, King for Congress, allegedly used his website and various social media to raise money from political donors for his campaign, including a photo that belonged to Lany Griner and her son, Sam Griner.
The photo depicted Sam Griner as an infant which became largely known as the “Success Kid” meme. The documents allege that Michael Stevens created a “meme action post” that places Sam Griner on a different background than the original photograph, and posted it to a Winred, Inc. server and the committee’s Facebook page. The Griner’s allegedly asserts that they are owed compensation on claims of Copyright infringement, and invasion of privacy, according to the documents.
The documents stated that the original photo of Sam Griner, which showed him as an infant on a beach with his fist full of sand poised, was altered and captioned “Fund our Memes.”
The documents stated that the complaint was originally filed in December 2020 against Steve King, Committee, and Winred, Inc. The documents stated that Laney Griner posted to social media indicating that an individual who wanted to use the photo for profit should pay her for it.
On May 3, 2021, the Griner’s voluntarily dismissed the claims against Winred Inc., King, and the committee filed a motion to dismiss the case on May 17 claiming that there was a lack of personal jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. They also motioned to transfer the case, which was moved to the Northern District Court of Iowa on June 2, 2021, according to the documents.
King and the committee filed a second motion for dismissal on July 21, 2021, which was denied by the court. Afterward, the parties filed cross-motions for a decision without going to trial, otherwise known as summary judgment.
The documents stated that the court denied the motion for summary judgment of noninfringement on the grounds of fair use and granted the motion for summary judgment in favor of King’s personal liability. Meaning the Griner’s could not prove that King had a part in using the copyrighted photo.
The court further denied the summary judgment on the invasion of privacy claim against both King and the Committee, according to the documents, with means the invasion of privacy claims will need to be decided by trial.
The court denied Griner’s motion for summary judgment of copyright infringement and partial summary judgment of the claim for copyright infringement against King.
The trial is set for November 14, with a pretrial hearing on October 31.