March 6th, 2014

Getty’s Free Image Program: New Revenue Model, or a Surrender to Copyright Infringement?

Getty Images lit up the Twittersphere today with an announcement that it was making its archive available free of charge for bloggers and other non-commercial users. Some of the big questions are: What is Getty gaining by making images free to the public? How does Getty’s decision affect not only its own contributors, but all photographers? And are there any hidden costs to non-commercial users who take advantage of Getty’s free images?

Getty said in its announcement that it was releasing a new embed tool to make it easy for non-commercial users to share its images on websites, blogs and social media channels.

Getty CEO Jonathan Klein says in the announcement that the “easy, legal sharing…benefits our content contributors and partners.”

One benefit to the company and its partners is that by automatically crediting the images and linking them back to Getty’s website, the embed tool makes it easy to find and license the images for commercial use.

At the same time, the embed tool will also makes it easier for Getty to track non-commercial uses of its images, and the users who take advantage of the company’s offer of free images.

To read what Getty’s terms of service allow it to do with users’ information, and more on the implications of this new business for the perceived value of all images, see our news story, now on PDNOnline.

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Getty’s Free Image Program
ASMP To Getty Photographers: Time to Bail

January 15th, 2013

AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules

A federal court has ruled that Agence France-Press violated photographer Daniel Morel’s copyrights by distributing his images of the 2010 Haiti earthquake without permission.

The copyright infringement claims turned on whether the terms of service for Twitter, the social network that Morel used to distribute his images of the earthquake, gave AFP the legal right to download the images and re-distribute them.

“The Twitter TOS [terms of service] provides that users retain their rights to the content they post–with the exception of the license granted to Twitter and its patterns–rebutting AFP’s claim that Twitter intended to [give AFP license] to sell Morel’s photographs,” the court said. On that basis, it concluded that AFP was liable for copyright infringement.

The court also found The Washington Post, which published the images, liable for infringement.

But the court declined to rule on whether the infringement was willful, or whether Getty Images–which also distributed Morel’s photographs–is liable for infringement. The judge left those questions for a jury to decide. See our story on PDNonline for more details about the ruling.

--David Walker

Related Articles
Morel Wins Pre-Trial Victory Against AFP, Getty

Morel Releases More Evidence Against AFP, Getty in Copyright Case

Insult to Injury: AFP Suing Photographer It Stole Images From  (for PDN subscribers)

Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks on Social Networks (for PDN subscribers)

August 16th, 2012

Photo Montage Artist Settles with Mountain Light; Muench Drops Copyright Suit

Mountain Light Photography has accepted a $2,600 settlement offer from Thomas Barbèy, and Muench Photography has withdrawn its infringement claim against the photo montage artist, according to court records in the case.

Muench and Mountain Light filed a joint claim of copyright infringement against the Las Vegas-based artist, alleging unauthorized use of two separate photographs. The case was filed in US District Court in Los Angeles.

Barbèy created an image that he titled “Rhinal Congestion” (it shows multiple rhinos in a snowscape), allegedly using parts of an image owned by Muench called “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park.” Barbèy was also accused of using a photograph called “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park,” shot by the late Galen Rowell of Mountain Light Photography, to create a photo montage titled “Pitcher Books.” (Photos here).

Mountain Light accepted Barbèy’s settlement offer of $2,600–including $1,600 in damages and $1,000 for attorney’s fees–along with Barbèy’s promise to stop marketing the “Pitcher Books” image. (Mountain Light had no possibility of winning statutory damages in court because it had not registered the “Quadruple Falls” image prior to the alleged infringement).

Despite offering payment of $1,600 for damages, Barbèy said in court papers that his offer was not to be construed as an admission of liability for infringement, or an admission that Mountain Light had suffered any damages.

Meanwhile, Muench’s attorneys have filed notice with the court that Muench Photography was dismissing its claim against Barbèy.

Attorneys gave no explanation for dismissing the claim, and they were not immediately available for comment. Muench Photographer was also not immediately available for comment.

Barbèy has admitted use of the Muench and Mountain Light Images in comments he has posted to the PDNPulse blog. He said he created the montages “well over a decade ago.”

His attorney told PDN last week that the claims against Barbèy were without merit. The attorney said Barbèy would successfully defend against them on fair use grounds, and by invoking the statute of limitations for copyright claims.

Related story:
Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photos

August 8th, 2011

Outdoor Photo Expo: Understanding Copyright Protection

At the seminar “Copyright: Know It or Blow It” conducted at the Outdoor Photo Expo, held August 4-5 in Salt Lake City, agent Debra Weiss and photographer and former stock agent Patrick Donehue offered advice on how photographers can protect the copyright on their images – and also how to avoid being held liable for infringing on another artist’s work.

“What’s going on the internet is like the wild, wild west,” Weiss said during the seminar, which was sponsored by APA National. She quoted a statistic that as many as 85 percent of images on Web sites and blogs may be infringed.  She noted, “There’s so much theft with images today and it’s important to realize their value. Having one of your images stolen is just as damaging as getting your car stolen.”  To back up her point about the proliferation of image infringement, she cited a variety of recent examples and court cases. These included the “appropriation” of images by artists such as Richard Prince, whose famous “Cowboy” series directly copied ads for Marlboro shot by photographers like Sam Abell and Jim Krantz. She also discussed infringement in the commercial realm, including examples of advertising clients hiring photographers to copy other photographers’ work. She also cited the recent suit filed by photographer David LaChapelle against pop singer Rihanna, alleging she viewed his images, then used them as the model for images recreated in her recent video S&M. (See “LaChapelle Wins Pre-trial Motion Against Rihanna.” )

When it comes to protecting your work against bloggers or other online infringements, the panelists noted that one solution is to simply cover the image with a watermark. The best legal remedy, however, is to register the copyright on your images. Though it can be daunting to copy and register each image you shoot, Donehue said every photographer should establish a system to register thousand of images in sizable chunks as part of their workflow.  Though your copyright begins with the moment you create a photo, you have to register your copyright with the US Copyright office (at copyright.gov) before the work is infringed in order to sue an infringer for statutory damages and attorneys’ fees. If your image has been infringed, but you have not registered the copyright,   you are only entitled to receive the value of your infringed work –which, in the case of online infringement, may be a small fee.

Donehue noted that a $35 registration fee and filing a copyright registration form can cover thousands of images. Donehue also said it’s possible to register several bodies of work at the same time, titling the groups of images separately under titles such as Personal Work Volume I 2011, Personal Work Volume 2  2011, etc. and receive a certificate of registration.

(For information on how to register visual works, published or unpublished, visit  www.copyright.gov/fls/fl107.html).

Weiss noted that it’s important to distinguish between “inspiration” and “plagiarism.” The subject matter or an idea behind a photo cannot be copyrighted, only the expression of an idea.  She also advised photographers not to become infringers themselves.  “It is up to you as a creator of intellectual property to never copy another photographer’s style,” even if directed to do so by a client.  She added that if you infringe another photographer’s work, “You could end up getting sued, [and paying] ten thousand dollars of fees.”

So what action do you take if see your work is infringed?  Weiss and Donehue had suggestions:
- Contact a lawyer right away. Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts will give you a certain amount of free time.
- The Web sites of organizations like ASMP, Editorialphoto.com and APAnational.com provide forums on copyright; many offer recommendations of intellectual property attorneys.
- Remember that taking legal action should always be a business decision. There’s a lot of time and energy invested in dealing with these cases.

–Amber Terranova