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The only thing a formercenterfold sued by Playboy Enterprises Inc. has to shed is a logo, the 9th U.S.Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday. Terri Welles, Playboy‘sPlaymate of the Year for 1981, may continue to market herself on a Web site asHugh Hefner’s one-time top bunny, the court ruled. “It would be unreasonableto assume that the Chicago Bulls sponsored a website of Michael Jordan’s simplybecause his name appeared with the appellation ‘former Chicago Bull,’”Judge Thomas Nelson wrote. “Similarly, in this case, it would beunreasonable to assume that PEI currently sponsors or endorses someone whodescribes herself as a ‘Playboy Playmate of the Year in 1981.’” Nelson was joined by SeniorJudge Betty Fletcher and Judge Marsha Berzon. The ruling allows Welles tocontinue using Playboy’s copyrighted terms as metatags, or terms embedded inthe code of a Web site to increase the likelihood that search engines willpoint visitors to the site. “A large portion of Welles’website discusses her association with Playboy over the years,” Nelsonwrote, holding that the copyrighted terms were the only way to accuratelydescribe Welles. “Forcing Welles and others to use absurd turns of phrasein their metatags … would be particularly damaging in the Internet searchcontext.” The court reversed a lowercourt’s decision and remanded for further proceedings on one issue: whetherWelles’ use of the letters ‘POTY’ as a logo on her Web site — Playboy’sshorthand for Playmate of the Year — is a copyright violation. Welles relationship with Playboybegan in the late 1970s, when the United Airlines flight attendant attended aparty at the Playboy mansion. Her relationship has soured overthe years, however, and she now posts critiques of Playboy on her Web site –most recently after the announcement that Playboy would lay off dozens ofemployees. “Perhaps if they showedsome restraint with regards to lame-ass lawsuits against innocent Playmates ofthe Year AND spending millions on outside legal teams to lose, they’d turn aprofit … just a thought,” Welles wrote. Nelson noted that if the courtwere to bar the use of copyrighted metatags, it would have the effect of makingcriticism of a particular entity difficult to find on the Internet since thecritic would not be able to name the object of her ire. “Precluding their use wouldhave the unwanted effect of hindering the free flow of information on theInternet, something which is certainly not the goal of copyright law.” When Playboy Enterprises v.Welles, 02 C.D.O.S. 975, was argued in September, Welles apparently knewgood things were in store. On her Web site: “Anyreasonable person with an I.Q. in double digits could see that the judgesweren’t buying anything their lawyer said. … I know this is the end of theasinine lawsuit that I kicked their asses on!!!!!! Pound sandHefner!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Lawyers for Playboy could not bereached for comment.

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