A ruling in a copyright infringement case involving photographer Michael Kenna has affirmed the principle that copyright does not protect ideas (or choice of subject matter). It protects only the expression of an idea.
That’s true under copyright law in the US, as well as in Korea, where a gallery representing Kenna sued Korea Air on Kenna’s behalf, according to a report in The Korea Times. The claim was that a photograph of South Korea’s Seok Island that appeared in ads around 2010 for Korea Air copied an image that Kenna shot of that island in 2007.
The Korea Times says that in rejecting the copyright claim, the court said: “When the subject is identical, it is the matter of preference of a photographer in deciding when, where and how to shoot. They are just two different ideas which can’t be protected by copyright law.”
The newspaper noted that the Korea Air photo was in color, while Kenna’s image was in black and white. Regarding the similarities in composition in both photos, a photographer quoted in the Korean Times article notes that there are few vantage points from which the islands can be photographed.
Infringement Claim Fails Because Law Protects Expression, Not Ideas
In Court, Copycats Prove Elusive (subscription required)
A court in South Africa has convicted photographer Zwelethu Mthethwa of the 2013 murder of Nokuphila Kumalo, 23, a sex worker, in a suburb of Cape Town, several South African newspapers have reported. Bail for Mthethwa, a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology who is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery, was revoked while he... More ›
A French court has ordered appropriation artist Jeff Koons and contemporary art museum Centre Pompidou to pay €40,000 (about $46,000 US) for infringing the copyright of a photograph by the late French photographer Jean-François Bauret. The court decision was reported by Radio France Internationale (RFI). Bauret’s family sued Koons over a 1988 sculpture (shown at... More ›
Photographer Mannie Garcia has won $45,000 to settle a claim against police in Montgomery County, Maryland for violation of his First Amendment rights in 2011. The claim stemmed from Garcia’s wrongful arrest for video recording and photographing the arrest of two other men outside a restaurant in Wheaton, Maryland. The settlement came just days before... More ›