On September 27, 2021, a U.S. District Court Judge for the Eastern District of New York found that Charlotte Hornets basketball player Terry Rozier’s use of a ghost mask was fair use. Fair use is the right to use a copyrighted work under certain conditions without the permission of the copyright owner.
Fun World produces holiday decorations and costumes one of which is a ghost face mask. In 1996, Dimension Films was granted the license to use the ghost face mask in the 1996 film “Scream.” “Scream” became a successful box office phenomenon that eventually led to three sequels.
In 2018, Rozier acquired a reputation in the NBA as a “dangerous scorer” and “fearless shooter” which led to the persona “Scary Terry.” In effect, Rozier decided to market a line of merchandise featuring himself wearing a mask associated with “Scream.” However, Fun World found the merchandise to infringe upon its trademark and copyrights. Hence, Fun World filed suit against Rozier on November 20, 2018.
The Judge ruled that Rozier’s use of the iconic mask from “Scream” was “a means of satirizing and ridiculing the perception of ruthless high-scoring athletes in the NBA.” Further, Rozier’s use of the mask and his brand’s sense of humor had transformed the horror villain in a manner that does not infringe upon Fun World’s copyright. Ultimately, the Judge added that the “Scary Terry” merchandise “serves the purpose of identifying and connecting defendant’s fans with defendant’s Scary Terry persona, a significantly different use and purpose from that of the original work.” Hence, Rozier’s use of the ghost mask was fair use.
Fun World is represented by Jonathan M. Cader and David M. Barshay of Barshay Sanders PLLC.
Terry Rozier is represented by Patrick Kabat of Poets & Patrons Inc. and Paul J. Safier of Ballard Spahr LLP.
The case is Easter Unlimited Inc. v. Rozier, case number 2:18-cv-06637, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
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