At what point does inspiration turn into plagiarism? That’s the question that popped up last year when Rhianna was sued by David LaChapelle over scenes found in one of her music videos, and it’s the same issue with a lawsuit recently filed by photographer Janine Gordon against photographer Ryan McGinley. Gordon claims that 150 of McGinley’s images — including some used for a Levi’s ad campaign — are “substantially based” on her photos. In the three pairs of disputed images shown above, the ones on the left are by Gordon and the ones on the right by McGinley. Read more…
When we shared the story of how monkeys hijacked photographer David Slater’s camera and unwittingly snapped some self-portraits, we asked the question “doesn’t the monkey technically own the rights to the images?” Techdirt, a blog that often highlights copyright issues, went one step further and dedicated a whole post to that question. Read more…
The legal battle between photographer Mike Hipple and sculptor Jack Mackie over a photo of Mackie’s public art piece “Dance Steps on Broadway” has ended with Hipple paying a settlement out of court. Mackie writes,
Anyone can make photographs of any public art and do most anything they want with the photograph. Private photos are most likely not infringements. People can frame them and give them to their uncles and aunts as gifts, they can post them on their facebook pages, or they can make Valentines with them and give them away. What they can not do, and this was the basis for the lawsuit, is offer to commercially sell them, which Mr. Hipple did, at least twice.
[...] The legal issues surrounding this case have always been clear and obvious. Instead of acceding to the clarity of the law, Mr. Hipple attempted numerous defenses. Mr. Hipple pleaded that because my art work is popular I should no longer be allowed to hold copyright. Tell that to Walt Disney. Mr. Hipple pleaded that one can not copyright public art. Tell that to the US Registrar of Copyrights. Mr. Hipple claimed that my art work is “instructional” and that his photograph “depicts dancing.” Taking him up on this argument we produced an image of his photograph containing my Dance Steps juxtaposed to an image of his carefully posed shoe model on a blank sidewalk [shown above]. Does his image without the Steps “depict dancing?” You decide.
Turns out turning photographs into stencils isn’t transformative enough to be defended as “fair use”. In a case that has many similarities to the Shepard Fairey vs. AP legal battle, a judge ruled earlier this week against graffiti artist Thierry Guetta after Guetta (AKA Mr. Brainwash) had used a “stencil-ized” photo of Run DMC by Glen E. Friedman to promote an exhibition, concluding that Guetta’s piece didn’t differ enough from the original image to be considered fair use.
What are your thoughts on this issue? How much does a photograph need to be transformed before it is considered a new piece of art?
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam signed a new law last week that makes it a crime to post images to the Internet that “frighten, intimidate, or cause emotional distress.” Violators found guilty of doing so now face up to one year in jail and $2,500 in fines.
[...] for image postings, the “emotionally distressed” individual need not be the intended recipient. Anyone who sees the image is a potential victim. If a court decides you “should have known” that an image you posted would be upsetting to someone who sees it, you could face months in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. [#]
Needless to say, the Internet is in an uproar over this, and it seems pretty likely that the law will be struck down for being unconstitutional very soon.
29-year-old student and avid photographer Christopher Fussell was taking photographs of trains at a Baltimore station back in March when he was confronted by Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) officers. He was able to record the conversation, which shows the officers having a complete lack of understanding of laws and photographers’ rights. Fussell writes,
I have no qualms with MTA Police inquiring what I’m doing, but the fact that they took it to the next level with so many lies, unreasonable detainment, denying my boarding of my train that caused me to be delayed and following me to delay me further; this whole episode of theirs was unprofessional and perhaps unconstitutional. I am posting this video in hopes to further strengthen photographer’s constitutional rights.
The story has since become a pretty big deal after the video went viral online, with the MTA admitting that the officer had incorrectly cited the Patriot Act and other laws. The American Civil Liberties Union has also sided with Fussell and may sue MTA over his detainment.
Libertarian magazine Reason created this video about the erosion of photographers’ rights in the United States. One of the cases highlighted is the one involving Antonio Musumeci, who was arrested for filming a government building and came out victorious in a lawsuit with the help of the NYCLU.
Things aren’t going very well for Sigma these days — just days after the world balked at the $9,700 price tag it’s attaching to the upcoming SD1 DSLR, Nikon is announcing that it’s suing Sigma for $150 million over the vibration reduction technology found in Sigma DSLR lenses. Furthermore, it’s demanding that Sigma put a halt to the manufacturing and sale of lenses that infringe on the VR patents, which might be a large number of OS (Optical Stabilization) lenses.
Photography lovers in Canada may soon be caught in the crossfire of the music industry’s fight against piracy. The Canadian Private Copying Collective is pushing for a new tax on memory cards that would be based on the capacity of the cards — $0.50 for 1GB or less, $1 for 1-8GB cards, and $3 for any card with over 8GBs. Law professor Michael Geist writes,
The financial impact of the levy would be significant. A 2GB SD card currently sells for about $6.00 and this would add an additional dollar or almost 15% to the cost. Given that the levy would remain static (or even increase) but the costs of SD cards are dropping by roughly 30% annually, the percentage of levy in the overall cost would likely gradually increase over time. Moreover, music plays a small role in the use of memory cards. A recent report indicates that digital cameras are the primary market for SD cards with smartphones the second biggest (and fastest growing) market. Music is a small part of the equation, yet the CPCC is demanding payment for every memory card sold in Canada regardless of its intended or actual use.
You can read more about the current state of Canada’s private copying levies here.