The Encyclopedic Footnote of Pop Culture (Kozinski)

U.S. Ninth Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski is well known for sprinkling pop culture references throughout his opinions, particularly in the famous Syufy opinion, which wove in the titles of more than 200 movies. (See “Coming Soon to a Footnote Near You”)

A less noticed, but just as fun pop culture-laden opinion was his dissent to an order denying rehearing en banc in White v. Samsung Electronics America, Inc., a case where the Ninth Circuit upheld a “right of publicity” claim by former game show hostess Vanna White against Samsung for using a robot resembling her game show persona in a television commercial.

Complaining that, “[u]nder the majority’s opinion, it’s now a tort for advertisers to remind the public of a celebrity,” Kozinski excoriated the court for over-extending intellectual property rights in an opinion jammed full of pop culture references.

(That’s one thing to love about Kozinski’s writing: he can be pithy, insightful, and amusing in less than twenty words.)

Pop culture ran amuck in a single footnote (footnote 6) that includes references to (in order): grunge rocker Tad Doyle, the Hell’s Angels, Marvel Comics, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Breakfast of Champions, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Looking for Mr. Goodbar, The Coca-Cola Kid, The Kentucky Fried Movie, Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, The Wonder Years, Wonder Bread, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat, Janis Joplin, Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, dada, Monty Python, Roy Clark, Mel Tillis, the Talking Heads, Andy Warhol, REO Speedwagon, 38 Special, Jello Biafra and the Dead Kennedys.

White v. Samsung Elec. Am., Inc., 989 F.2d 1512, 1512 n.6, 1514 (9th Cir. 1993) (Kozinski, J., dissenting from order denying rehearing en banc). Thanks to Katherine Shipman.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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