Copyright laws get pretty specific. A photographer can not only give a green light on a work, he or she can license a work for use only during specific years, or in a specific area, or for a specific publication medium (i.e. print vs electronic); and now it looks like massive publisher Pearson Education is in trouble for breaking these sort of terms one too many times.
Last Thursday a federal court judge in Chicago ruled in favor of photographer Robert Frerck when the judge wouldn’t allow Pearson to dismiss Frerck’s claim of massive copyright infringement. Frerck is alleging that many of the images he licensed to Pearson between the years of 1992 and 2010 were often and deliberately used outside of the permissions the company had purchased.
Part of the complaint reads as follows:
Pearson’s business model, built on a foundation of pervasive and willful copyright infringement, deprived Plaintiff and thousands of other visual art licensors of their rightful compensation and unjustly enriched Pearson with outlandish profits in the process.
This case is noteworthy, not because copyright infringement is anything new, but because of the tactics used up until now by textbook publishers to weasel out of infringement claims. Pearson and others take advantage of a stipulation which states that photographers can only sue for copyright infringement for which they can provide evidence at the time they file (which is impossible without access to the company’s records). Frerck expected this, and by pointing out the strategy in his own claim he prompted Judge Robert M. Dow to deny Pearson’s request and force the company to divulge their records.
Hopefully this case will set a precedent for future cases, closing the loophole and forcing major publishers to play fair with the photographers and stock companies they use.
Image credit: Giant Gavel by Sam Howzit