A co-defendant in the copyright infringement case against celebrity music producer Quincy Jones has denied the infringement claims, which were filed in February by Los Angeles photographer Michael D. Jones.
Harman International, which allegedly used a portrait of Quincy Jones without the photographer’s permission to promote a line of its audio headphones, says that Michael Jones shot the portrait under work-for-hire terms. Therefore, the photographer doesn’t own the copyright to the images and can’t claim infringement, Harman says. (The company has yet to produce evidence of a work-for-hire agreement, however.)
Harman adds that even if Michael Jones does own the copyrights to the image, he transferred those rights to Harman. As evidence of that, Harman points to a rights transfer contract drafted by its attorneys, but Michael Jones’ signature is conspicuously absent from that contract. For good measure, Harman says its use of the portrait was “fair use,” so Michael Jones’s permission wasn’t required.
“Any and all uses that it made of any such photographic images were authorized, lawful and not infringing of any alleged rights,” Harman asserts repeatedly.
Harman says it is responding to the claims only for itself, not Quincy Jones or the other defendants, including music publisher Hal Leonard Corporation, which also used the portrait.
But Harman’s response presages those of the other defendants, and the dispute is likely to boil down to two questions: whether Michael Jones photographed Quincy Jones under a work-for-hire arrangement, and if not, whether Michael Jones subsequently transferred usage rights to the defendants.
Michael Jones says he shot the images in 1995 during several sessions at Qwest Records. He provided Quincy Jones with some 8×10 prints, but alleges he was not paid for shooting the last two studio sessions because he refused at the time to sign over his rights to the images.
Years later, in 2010, a Qwest Records executive allegedly offered Michael Jones $5,000 for what amounted to a copyright transfer of one of the images so Harman could use it to promote a line of audio headphones endorsed by Quincy Jones. The photographer says he demanded $10,000 for a license, and that he subsequently refused a counter-offer of $6,500. Allegedly without any license agreement, Harman ended up using the images anyway.
A court date has not been set.