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November 14th, 2013

Judge Dismisses Authors Guild’s Copyright Lawsuit Against Google

A federal court judge has dismissed a long-standing lawsuit over the Google Books project, ruling that Google’s initiative to scan the contents of millions of books to make them searchable online falls within the bounds of fair use.

Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that Judge Denny Chin has dismissed a lawsuit filed eight years ago by the Authors Guild, which had claimed that Google was violating the copyrights of authors by scanning books without permission. A similar suit against Google, filed by photo trade groups, is still pending.

According to the Businessweek report, Judge Chin wrote in his ruling: “Google Books provides significant public benefits. It advances the progress of the arts and sciences, while maintaining respectful consideration for the rights of authors and other creative individuals, and without adversely impacting the rights of copyright holders.”

Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, told Businessweek: ““In our view, such mass digitization and exploitation far exceeds the bounds of the fair use defense.”

The decision doesn’t bode well for a nearly identical lawsuit filed against Google in 2010 by ASMP, the Graphic Artists Guild, the North American Nature Photographers Association, the Picture Agency Council of America, and the Professional Photographers of America. Those organizations want to prevent Google from scanning visual works in books without permission from copyright holders.

They filed suit against Google after Judge Chin refused to allow them to join the Authors Guild lawsuit.

Eugene Mopsik, executive director of ASMP, told PDN that he could not make specific comments about the ASMP claim against Google, which is still pending.

But he said of the dismissal of the Authors Guild lawsuit, “I think that it’s a terrible expansion of fair use [doctrine] to the detriment of individual rights holders.” He added, “I think it will further contribute to abuse of the fair use statute by other businesses. A lot of entities will look at this and say, ‘If Google is allowed to use [copyrighted] works this way, why can’t we?’”

Related:
ASMP, Other Trade Groups Sue Google (subscription required)
APA, NPPA Join copyright Suit Against Google
Judge Blocks Google’s Divide-And-Conquer Strategy in Big Copyright Cases

November 12th, 2013

Supreme Court Declines to Hear Patrick Cariou’s Copyright Claim Against Richard Prince

An image from Richard Cariou's book Yes, Rasta, as it was altered by Richard Prince.

An image from Richard Cariou’s book Yes, Rasta, as it was altered by Richard Prince.

The US Supreme Court has declined to review Patrick Cariou’s copyright infringement claim against artist Richard Prince, the Associated Press has reported.

A federal appeals court ruled last spring that artist Richard Prince did not infringe Cariou’s copyrights by reproducing several dozen of Cariou’s images without permission. The appeals court said Prince’s use of Cariou’s images was fair use in most instances, overturning a lower court ruling that had declared Prince liable for infringement.

By refusing to hear the case, the US Supreme Court has effectively let the appeals court decision stand. The high court did not give a reason for its decision.

At issue in the case was a series of paintings and collages that Prince created by appropriating images from Cariou’s book Yes, Rasta. Prince altered the images in various ways for a series of paintings called “Canal Zone,” which he displayed at the Gagosian gallery in New York in 2008. Most of the works eventually sold, fetching a total of $10.4 million.

In its ruling for Prince, The appeals court took a broad view of fair use, finding that Prince’s works qualified as fair use even though they were not intended as commentary on the original works by Cariou. The decision was a victory for appropriation artists, who take elements of works by other artists without permission, and use them in new contexts, often as a form of commentary on society or popular culture.

Related:
Richard Prince Did Not Infringe Patrick Cariou’s Photos, Appeals Court Says

October 24th, 2013

PPE 2013: Photography & The Law: Access, Copyright and Social Media Issues

During a talk at PhotoPlus Expo 2013, sponsored by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), attorneys Mickey Osterreicher and Alicia Wagner Calzada provided tips for how photographers can protect their First Amendment rights and control the copyright and distribution of their work.

Tips On the Right to Photograph in Public

Osterreicher, who is the general counsel for the NPPA and was a working photographer for 40 years before he became a lawyer, offered advice for news photographers in dealing with police.

He noted that photographers or videographers are never arrested for documenting a news event in public. Instead they are arrested for “discretionary charges,” what he termed “catch and release” charges, which can include disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace and loitering.

If a police officer orders a photographer to stop taking pictures in public, they are violating the rights of that photographer, Osterreicher said. Photographers can avoid being accused of interfering with or obstructing police officers by following reasonable directions from police when they’re given. He also mentioned that it’s prudent to be aware that officers are concerned with things like weapon retention, making sure nobody is close enough to them to reach for their gun. If a photographer is in an officer’s face with a camera, the officer can reasonably claim that photographer is interfering or obstructing their work. (more…)

October 23rd, 2013

NFL, Getty and AP Hit With Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

Seven photographer are suing the National Football League and two image distributors–Getty Images and Associated Press (AP)–for copyright infringement over widespread use of their images in NFL ads, products and promotions without fair compensation, according to an October 21 report from Courthouse News Service.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New York, is a legal tangle because Getty and AP represented the photographers, and were authorized to license their work at the time of the alleged infringements. But the case boils down to allegations that Getty and AP breached their fiduciary duty to the photographers because of conflicts of interest.

Both distributors had incentive to curry favor with the NFL in order to gain and hang onto an exclusive contract to license images of NFL events to third parties for commercial use. Getty won the contract in 2007, then lost the contract to AP in 2009.

According to the lawsuit, the photographers “recently discovered that both Getty Images and AP granted the NFL nearly unfettered access to plaintiffs’ photo collections and, either expressly or by inaction, allowed the NFL to make free or ‘complimentary’ use of plaintiffs’ copyrighted photos.”

According to the Courthouse News Service report, the photographers are also accusing Getty of using bare-knuckle tactics to keep them from moving their images to AP, after AP won the exclusive NFL contract in 2009. Specifically, the plaintiffs allege that Getty threatened to stop marketing all of their sports images–including Major League Baseball photos–for commercial use, if the photographers moved their NFL images to AP.

Photographer Paul Spinelli is the lead plaintiff in the case. The other photographer plaintiffs are Paul Jasienski, David Stluka, Thomas E. Witte, David Drapkin, George Newman Lowrance and Scott Boehm.

AP and Getty both declined PDN’s request to comment about the lawsuit.

October 4th, 2013

If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

Harper’s publisher John R. MacArthur wrote a letter for the October issue of the magazine in which he took a strong stand against publishing free writing and photography on the web. He tackles the question of how journalism should be funded and distributed today, arguing that publishers, readers and journalists should reject the idea that good journalism should be given away for free in hopes of gaining page views. When he talks about good journalism, he includes good photography. (We’ve noted previously that Harper’s has become a great publisher of photography, winning National Magazine awards and other accolades.)

MacArthur says he has been distressed in recent years as publishers give away the work done by journalists and editors “in the quest for more advertising. Instead of honoring the reader, writer, and editor, this new approach to the publishing business instead insulted them,” MacArthur writes, “both by devaluing their work and by feeding it—with little or no remuneration—to search engines, which in turn feed information to advertising agencies (and, as it turns out, the government.)”

MacArthur says advocates of free content are peddling “nonsense.” “Who needs fact-checkers when we have crowdsourcing to correct the record? Why doesn’t Harper’s give away a particularly good investigative piece… so more people will read it?”

He also has the temerity to suggest that publishers, journalists and editors “have to earn a living.” He singles out a recent photo essay by an anonymous photographer, who risked arrest and imprisonment to report from inside Iran. The assignment cost the magazine $25,000, MacArthur says. “Shouldn’t Anonymous be paid for this courage and skill?” MacArthur asks. “Shouldn’t Harper’s be compensated for sending Anonymous into the field?”

“It is unreasonable to expect that an advertiser would directly sponsor such daring photography,” MacArthur writes. “It is wishful thinking to believe that parasitic Google, now bloated with billions of dollars’ worth of what I consider pirated property, will ever willingly pay Harper’s, or Anonymous, anything at all for the right to distribute Anonymous’s pictures…”

MacArthur will hopefully forgive us for quoting him at length on our blog, which is not behind a paywall. Those who want to read the rest of his statement, and see Michael Christopher Brown‘s fantastic photographs from Libya, or Misty Keasler‘s touching images accompanying a report about a controversial Montana orphanage for Russian children, will have to pick up the magazine on the newsstand, or subscribe for $20, about twice what I will probably spend on lunch today.

September 25th, 2013

In TwitPic Copyright Claim, Daniel Morel Seeks $13.2 Million from AFP, Getty

©Daniel Morel

©Daniel Morel

Photographer Daniel Morel is seeking as much as $13.2 million from AFP and Getty Images at a trial to determine damages for copyright infringement of his exclusive images of the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, which Morel had posted via Twitter. The trial is scheduled to begin November 12.

A federal court determined earlier this year that AFP infringed Morel’s copyrights in 8 photographs by distributing those photos without his permission.  The November 12 jury trial is meant to determine the amount of damages owed to Morel, based upon the question of whether or not the infringements were willful.

Morel asserts that the infringements were “willful and intentional,” and says in court papers  that “AFP knew or should have known the images were his when they distributed them without permission.” For copyright infringement, he is seeking a maximum of $1.2 million in statutory damages.

Morel also contends that both AFP and Getty images violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) by intentionally removing copyright management information that identified the images as Morel’s. He says AFP and Getty “knowingly provided and distributed false copyright management information” to their customers. For the DMCA violations, Morel is seeing a maximum of $13.2 million.

Getty and AFP no longer dispute that they violated Morel’s copyright, but deny that they acted with reckless disregard or willfulness. They say they “do not believe Mr. Morel can meet his burden of proof on this point.” They say in the pre-trial court papers that “they believed they had the right to do so and were acting within industry norms, customs, and practice.” Getty also says it distributed Morel’s images with “innocent intent.”

Both defendants also assert that if they did violate the DMCA, Morel is not legally entitled to the level of damages he is claiming for those violations.

Morel happened to be in Haiti at the time of the January 2010 earthquake there. He posted exclusive images of the destruction on his TwitPic account less than two hours later. The images were immediately stolen and re-posted under the name of another Twitter user. AFP picked up the images and distributed them through its own image service and through Getty under the false credit.

Morel’s agent, Corbis, sent take-down notices to Getty and AFP, but it took AFP two days to issue a kill notice. And when they did, they told clients and partners to kill images credited to Morel, but not the identical images that had been sent out initially under the false credit. Getty allegedly didn’t purge the images with the false credits, and continued to distribute them.

Morel has maintained that the companies violated his copyrights willfully because at least some AFP photo editors knew the images in question were his, not those of the other Twitter user who stole the images.

In his original claim, Morel also sued several AFP and Getty customers for unauthorized use of his images. Those defendants previously settled with Morel.

Related story:
AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyright, Judge Says

September 5th, 2013

Facebook Makes Alarming Changes to Terms, ASMP Breaks Down the Changes

Facebook has altered their terms of service to make it possible for companies that pay the social media network to utilize Facebook users’ content and likeness without compensation or permission. The changes are sure to alienate Facebook’s users in the creative community, who make a living from licensing their work and content.

Among the changes is this gem:

“You give us permission to use your name, and profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related that content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.”

ASMP created a handy Q&A about the new terms of use that helps break down the changes and what they mean for photographers.

This comes on the heels of the ASMP-led criticism of Instagram that was recently issued.

We have to wonder, at what point will a social network take the step to actually compensate the users that make it tick and protect them from unauthorized exploitation and surveillance? Seems to us like a network that figured out how to do that would find a community very quickly.

Related: Photography Trade Organizations Take Aim at Instagram Terms
AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules
Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks of Social Networks

August 22nd, 2013

Photography Trade Organizations Take Aim at Instagram Terms

Several professional photography trade organizations have banded together to study Instagram’s Terms of Service, and today the American Society of Media Photographers issued the following press release:

Photographic Community, Led by The American Society of Media Photographers, Deems Instagram Terms Too Far-Reaching

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 22, 2013 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), joined by National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), The Digital Media Licensing Association (PACA), American Photographic Artists (APA), This Week in Photography (TWiP), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), Coordination of European Picture Agencies Stock, Press and Heritage (CEPIC), Graphic Artists Guild (GAG) and American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP), has mounted a campaign to address the far-reaching Terms of Use of the image sharing service Instagram. Since 2010, more than 16 billion images and movies have been uploaded to Instagram. The organizations believe that few of the users who share images on the site understand the rights they are giving away. ASMP has issued “The Instagram Papers,” information in the form of essays and analysis about the Terms of Use in which the key issue is that users should have the ‘right to terminate’ their agreement with Instagram, allowing them to remove permissions for the use of their identities and content at any time.

Specifically, the Terms of Use give Instagram perpetual use of photos and video as well as the nearly unlimited right to license the images to any and all third parties. And, after granting this broad license to Instagram, users also relinquish the right to terminate the agreement. Once uploaded, they cannot remove their work and their identity from Instagram. Additionally, in the event of litigation regarding a photo or video, it is the account holder who is responsible for attorney and other fees, not Instagram.

Moreover, while Instagram’s agreement includes the right to sublicense images, it specifically excludes the need to ever pay creators, regardless of the way the company may use or sell their work. The photographic community believes strongly that fair compensation for the creators of work is a vital component of a fair agreement.

According to ASMP Executive Director Eugene Mopsik, “While clearly benefiting Instagram, the rights of imaging professionals and general users stand to be infringed upon in an unprecedented way. We are concerned that not only have Instagram’s Terms of Use gone beyond acceptable standards, but also that other social media providers may use these onerous terms as a template for their own agreements.”

Peter Krogh, ASMP’s Digital Standards & Practices Chair, said, “As online services become larger repositories of intellectual property, power has shifted away from the user and toward the company provider. Unless changes are made by Instagram, we believe the terms will have a profound and negative impact on imaging professionals, publishers and general users.”

In the coming weeks and months ASMP, along with the other listed organizations, will continue to reach out to gain support in addressing these egregious terms before they become the industry standard.

Related: Bowing to Pressure from Users, Instagram Retracts New Terms of Use
Now That We Know Instagram Isn’t a Charity, What Would You Be Willing to Pay?

August 7th, 2013

Photog Who Shot Image for Nike’s “Bo Knows” Ad Campaign Unleashes Lawsuits on Infringers

Richard Noble's 1987 portrait of baseball and football star Bo Jackson. ©Richard Noble

Richard Noble’s 1987 portrait of baseball and football star Bo Jackson. ©Richard Noble

Photographer Richard Noble has reached a tentative settlement with Nike over a copyright infringement claim, filed a second infringement claim against various t-shirt vendors, and is preparing to file new claims against other infringers in the coming weeks, according to his attorney, Edward Greenberg.

All of the claims allege unauthorized use of an iconic image of athlete Bo Jackson, which Noble shot in 1987. The photograph became the poster image for a legendary ad campaign called “Bo Knows” that helped turn Nike into the leading athletic footwear brand.

“Mr. Noble has not licensed this image to anybody for any purpose in some 20 years,” says Greenberg.

Noble sued Nike in June, and was seeking unspecified damages for multiple unauthorized uses of the Bo Jackson image. Nike’s alleged infringement dated back to 2007.

Greenberg declined to discuss the terms of the settlement agreement with Nike, which is still pending, or explain why Noble waited until June 2013 to sue Nike for infringements that took place as long as six years ago. But court papers suggest Noble wasn’t aware of them until more recent infringements led him to suspect past infringement, and search for them.

According to the claim he filed against Nike, Noble was contacted by ESPN and Nike last fall for permission to use the image of Bo Jackson for various projects. ESPN wanted to use it in a documentary film about Bo Jackson, while Nike wanted it for unspecified marketing campaigns, and the company told Noble it wanted to buy “all rights” to the image.

Noble declined both requests, and asked Nike for more details about how they wanted to use the image, so he could propose a fee for a limited license. Nike told Noble in late 2012 they were eager to start using the image, but Noble told the company in mid January 2013 to “hold off” pending a license agreement to be determined, according to the lawsuit. He also told Nike explicitly that he would not agree to a “buy out” of the image.

Then, on January 23, 2013, Noble discovered that Nike had already started using the image. According to Noble’s lawsuit, the company admitted it had distributed the photo on Facebook and Twitter, and had provided it to ESPN for use in the network’s promotion of the documentary film about Bo Jackson.

The lawsuit said that Noble then discovered that a number of other companies had used the image in promotions of Nike products. Those other companies include Steiner Sport Memorabilia, Major League Baseball, Sneaker Bar Detroit and Nice Kicks. Noble alleged in his lawsuit that Nike provided the image to those companies, and authorized them to use it without Noble’s permission.

In addition, Noble discovered that Nike had used the image in various ads and promotions for its products in 2007, 2009 and 2012 without his permission.

Noble says in his claim that he has asked Nike for a full accounting of its past uses of the image, and uses by other companies that were facilitated by Nike (i.e., for which Nike provided the picture and told those third parties it was OK for them to use the image).

He has also told Bo Jackson himself to stop using the photo as an autograph handout because he has not authorized Jackson to do that, according to the lawsuit.

Noble is planning to file copyright infringement claims against other companies besides Nike who have used his Bo Jackson image without permission, Greenberg told PDN.

So far, only one other claim has been filed. That claim, against Blank Shirts Inc and a number of other t-shirt sellers. According to the claim, Noble discovered in June that the companies were using the Bo Jackson image on t-shirts for sale through various Web sites. Noble is seeking unspecified damages from the defendants in that case.

Greenberg says he will file a third lawsuit next week against other companies who have used Noble’s image of Bo Jackson without permission. Other lawsuits could follow that, he said.

May 9th, 2013

UK Paves the Way for Orphan Works Law. Will the Sky Fall?

Photographers have not only been “Royally Robbed,” but the British government has violated their human rights, according to a UK group called stop43.org.uk. Photo trade groups in the US, including NPPA, ASMP, PPA, APA and PACA have predicted “a firestorm of international litigation.”

The cause of all the fuss? Changes in UK law that pave the way for regulations under which publishers and others can use orphan works–ie, photographs and other works for which the copyright owner cannot be identified or located–without violating copyright. The changes to the law also enable the British government to establish a central registry and licensing agency for visual works, analagous to the musical licensing agencies ASCAP and BMI.

The changes are part of the so-called Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, which provides a framework but few details of how the UK’s orphan works law and copyright registry might work.  The British government is expected to issue detailed regulations this fall. Meanwhile, the government says its intent is to make the licensing of intellectual property more efficient in the digital age, and that it will protect the interests of copyright holders at the same time.

Absent the details about how the law will work, however, photographers and other copyright holders are left to speculate on the actual consequences of the new laws. Reactions among photographers (and their trade groups) range from wariness to outrage.

“I’m not terribly worried at all” about the orphan works provision of the new law, says David Hoffman of Editorial Photographers UK. “It’s annoying there’s so much confusion, hysteria and anger about that.

“I’m much more concerned about [the collective licensing provision]. It takes control away” from photographers over who may license their images, for what purposes, and for how much. “But what control do I have anyway?” Hoffman adds, explaining that thousands of his images are used illegally. He estimates he loses tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of licensing fees each year as a result.

Paul Ellis of stop43.org also dismisses the orphan works part of the legislation as a “red herring.” Users of orphan works are likely to have to show that they searched diligently for the copyright owner of the work, and the government will still collect a fee for the use in case the rights holder ever steps forward. Ellis predicts almost nobody will bother licensing orphaned photographs.

“The system will be costly to use,” once licensing, search and administrative costs are added up, he says. “And if the costs of acquiring orphan works licenses are higher than a normal license fee, you’ve built an incentive to infringe.” (Courts in the UK award little more than a normal license fee for infringement, if an image owner bothers to sue and win, he notes.)

Ellis is far more enraged about the proposed registry, called an extended rights collective. The idea behind that is that the government would set prices for lots of small commercial and editorial uses of images, collect fees for those uses, and disburse the payments to copyright holders, provided they register. Ellis points out that anyone who doesn’t register won’t get paid. And although copyright holders may be able to opt out of the system, it might be a difficult to do that.

“The effect of this will be to drive down prices, and drive value out of creators’ pockets,” Ellis predicts. But there’s a bigger principle at stake, he says. “It utterly breaches the conception that the owners of property have the exclusive right to exploit that property. If you punch a hole in that principle, you’re on very shaky ground.

“Extended collective licensing is an arbitrary deprivation of property. The government is confiscating property,” Ellis says, asserting that it amounts to a human rights violation under international law, which he says guarantees “the right to peaceable enjoyment of your property.”

The major photo trade associations in the US, along with the Graphic Artists Guild, sent a letter last fall to UK officials objecting to the new laws on the grounds that images by US copyright holders would be swept up in the UK licensing system–and used in violation of international treaties as a result.

ASMP executive director Eugene Mopsik, who was one of the letter’s signatories, says of the UK’s new orphan works law: “It’s not the end of the world, but there are significant concerns,” although he adds that it is difficult to predict the effects of rules that haven’t been written yet. He agrees that the issues of orphan works and widespread theft of images online are issues that governments have to address. But he says, “The devil is in the details.”

Mopsik says metadata is easily stripped from digital image files, so under orphan works laws, photographers can easily lose control of their intellectual property through no fault of their own. Their work can be used in ways they find objectionable, and unauthorized uses can undercut their markets–and their income, he says.

But he says ASMP is not opposed to orphan works laws provided that photographers are given certain protections, including the exclusion of any commercial uses under orphan works legislation, requirements that users search diligently enough for copyright holders, and requirements that users post notice of their intent to use an image–so photographers have a chance to learn if their images are about to be classified as orphan works.

How good or bad it the orphan works law ends up being for photographers, Mopsik says, depends upon how lawmakers define terms like commercial use and diligent search.

Jeff Sedlik, co-founder, president and CEO of the PLUS Coalition, is also opposed to collective licensing systems that are opt-out (like the UK system seems to be) rather than opt-in. But he believes it is incumbent upon copyright holders to register their works, in order to prevent those works from becoming orphans because the metadata is inevitably stripped away. But the registry must be centralized–or consist of registries in different countries that are all connected together and searchable at once–in order to effectively protect copyright, he says.