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.
Alberto Korda‘s iconic photo of Che Guevara, titled “Guerrillero Heroico“, is constantly at the center of copyright battles, with Koda’s daughter Diana Díaz even licensing the image for branded products in order to fund the legal fights. The latest case involves a London gift company, takkoda, which recently began selling products featuring a dog Photoshopped to look like Che in Korda’s photo. The designers insist that there was no copyright infringement but, rather than risking a prolonged legal battle, the gift company decided to settle out of court. Though the amount of the settlement was not made known, it’s estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars.
On November 9th, 2009, Software programmer Antonio Musumeci was filming the arrest of a protestor outside a federal courthouse in NYC when he himself was arrested. His main camera was confiscated, but he recorded the entire encounter on a second camera (the resulting video is above). In April 2010, the New York Civil Liberties Union sued the government on Musumeci’s behalf, and yesterday it was was announced that a settlement had been reached, with the government recognizing the public’s right to photograph and film in public spaces outside federal buildings. Read more…