First World Problems:' A Fair Use Analysis of Internet Memes
- Author(s): Patel, Ronak
- et al.
The phenomenon of Internet memes pictures with juxtaposed text
that are replicated by derivative authors to the point where the pictures
transcend the importance of the original posting and its underlying
work-has become a pervasive component of mass Internet culture.
Yet, there is little legal scholarship on the subject. This Article seeks to
fill that void or at least, a small part of it-by exploring whether or
not an Internet meme could survive an action for copyright infringement
by asserting a fair use defense. To that end, this Article considers
what Internet memes are and compares them to "actual" memes, as
the term was originally conceived in Richard Dawkins's The Selfish
Gene. Positing that Internet memes share many characteristics with
actual memes as described by Dawkins, the Article goes on to show
how those memes serve the functions of the theoretical concepts that
ground the fair use defense (namely, cultural interchange, market failure,
and productive consumption). The Article ultimately argues that a
meme user will likely prevail if he asserts the fair use defense.