Photographer Jessica Nichols‘ most popular photograph on her Flickr account (above left) is titled “Loads of Ranunculus” and has more than 10,000 views. Nichols got a nasty shock a year ago when she discovered that American fashion designer Chris Benz had apparently turned the photo into numerous clothing designs for his Spring 2012 line, without Nichols’ knowing and/or permission. Since July of this year, Nichols has been fighting against the infringement in an attempt to get the designer to pay up.
Intellectual Ventures has announced a settlement with Olympus over a patent infringement battle launched against the camera maker back in September 2011. The patent-holding company, one of the top 5 owners of patents in the United States, is infamous for its “patent trolling”, or making money simply by licensing patents from companies and then suing other companies for infringement.
In 2008, I had this kooky idea to take my then 4-year-old son out to an abandoned road and throw him into the air, since it seemed most fathers like to do this with their kids. There was this long, abandoned road near my house, so we set up there. After getting my Nikon D200, self-timer, and tripod ready, my son decided that he didn’t want to be thrown into the air, so I just held him up instead. I then took another photo of myself looking up with my arms extended.
Copyright infringement of photographs is anything but uncommon in this Internet age, as countless images are published all across the web every day without the owners’ consent. The problem is so widespread that virtually everyone gets away with it. The ones that don’t, however, are occasionally in for a good deal of pain.
Case in point: the viral-content aggregation site BuzzFeed is currently being sued for $1.3 million by a photo agency after publishing nine — that’s right, nine — of the agency’s photographs of celebrities.
Facebook takes the copyright infringement of photographs seriously. So seriously that it doesn’t think twice about instantly — and permanently — nuking offending pages, regardless of how popular those pages are. Case in point: two months ago, popular trend hunting blog The Cool Hunter had its popular page abruptly deleted; the page boasted over 788,000 fans, contained five years’ worth of content, and was a huge source of traffic for the company’s website. Facebook has since stated that the removal was due to “multiple instances of copyright infringement.”
Shepard Fairey avoided jail time after all. The Obama HOPE poster artist was sentenced today to two years of probation and a $25,000 fine for using an AP photo without permission and then destroying evidence to cover his tracks. The New York Times writes that the entire dispute will be an interesting case study for fair use law:
When the case began in 2009, Mr. Fairey argued that his use of Associated Press imagery constituted fair use under copyright law. But the civil lawsuit was settled before that question was decided, and the two sides agreed to financial terms that were not disclosed. The parties also agreed to share the rights to make posters and merchandise bearing the “Hope” image. Mr. Fairey maintained that he had never personally profited from sales of the image, a contention The A.P. disputed.
[...] Until the settlement between Mr. Fairey and The Associated Press, the case was watched closely as one that might define more clearly the murky issues surrounding the fair-use exceptions to copyright protections. One of the central questions was whether Mr. Fairey’s creation, which became ubiquitous on street corners and T-shirts during and after Mr. Obama’s campaign, constituted a “transformative” use of the photograph, a use that is allowed under the law so that creative expression is not stifled.
In his official statement on the matter, AP CEO Gary Pruitt states, “We hope this case will serve as a clear reminder to all of the importance of fair compensation for those who gather and produce original news content.”
Image credit: Shepard Fairey at the ICA by WBUR
Shepard Fairey has spent the past few years fighting a messy legal battle with photographer Mannie Garcia and the Associated Press over his use of a portrait of Obama his iconic HOPE poster. He has raked in a significant amount of dough from the artwork, but may now face jail time for foolishly attempting to destroy evidence when the copyright infringement investigation began. The Smoking Gun reports,
[...] the Department of Justice has filed a memorandum arguing that a prison term for the 42-year-old artist would be “appropriate.” However, prosecutors did not specify how long Fairey should be incarcerated (though, statutorily, his punishment would not exceed six months). Additionally, government lawyers have contended that Judge Frank Maas could fine Fairey up to $3.2 million.
[...] Levy stated that Fairey reaped significant reputational and financial benefits from the Obama “Hope” image, which was created in early-2008. The prosecutor specifically cited the escalating combined profits of three Fairey companies, which grossed $2.93 million in 2007, $4.59 million in 2008, and $6.08 million in 2009.
Fairey has already admitted that he deleted digital files and created fake ones in an effort to avoid the copyright infringement case that was being brought against him. Fairey agreed to pay a settlement to the AP in early 2011, but continues to maintain that his appropriation of the photo was fair use.
Not too long ago, I was approached by a newspaper (Journal Le Droit, a large daily newspaper distributing print in the Ottawa-Hull area) asking if I would allow them to print a few of my pictures in an upcoming special feature on a nearby town, Rockland, Ontario. Having photographed much of Rockland in the past three years, I gladly accepted and figured that I could somewhat benefit from some exposure.
Just to make sure, I asked if they were offering monetary compensation. They responded that a photo-credit would be placed at the bottom of the image in lieu of payment. Why not?
You know that FBI anti-piracy seal that appears at the beginning of home movies? The one that’s displayed alongside the messsage, “The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of a copyrighted work is illegal.
Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain
is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by fines and federal imprisonment”? Well, you can now use it to remind would-be infringers that your photographs are copyrighted.
Prior to a new policy that was enacted this past week, only certain members of the entertainment and software industries were allow to display the warning. Now, all copyright holders in the US — including photographers — can make use of the Anti-Piracy Warning (APW) seal and message.
Clockwise from top left: Jay Lee's original photograph, a screenshot of Google Image Search results, and a screenshot of Candice Schwager's website showing the image being used
After discovering that multiple websites had used one of his photos without permission, photographer Jay Lee began sending out DMCA takedown notifications to web hosts in an attempt to protect his copyright. One of the websites was owned by a woman named Candice Schwager, who had 14 of her sites temporarily taken offline as a result of the takedown request. Turns out Schwager is involved in both helping represent special needs children and helping a man named Louis Guthrie get elected as County Sheriff. This is where the story gets weird.