Missoula, Montana-based photographer Erika Peterman is suing The Republican National Committee (RNC) for willful copyright infringement. The suit, filed in Montana District Court earlier this week, alleges the RNC used without permission a Peterman photograph of Rob Quist, the Democratic candidate in a special election to fill Montana’s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The suit says that Peterman’s photo was used in an RNC mailer that criticized Quist, who is running against GOP candidate Greg Gianforte.
Peterman is seeking monetary damages, an injunction ordering the RNC to cease using the image, and attorney’s fees and other expenses. Because Peterman filed for copyright registration for the image on May 12, after the alleged infringement had already taken place, she may be eligible for actual damages only, and not statutory damages.
Peterman’s photograph of Quist shows the candidate from behind during a speaking engagement at a Montana Democratic Party event. Peterman was hired by the Montana Democrats to photograph the event, and she gave them a limited license to use the photographs, the suit says. She learned about the RNC mailer on May 9, 2017, according to the lawsuit.
Contacted on May 11, 2017 by the Missoulian newspaper, the RNC said in a statement that they had grabbed the image from a promotional video on the Facebook page of the Quist campaign. The suit says the image is not part of any Quist video.
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