Fair use is often cited, but many may not have a clear idea of what it is. In short, fair use is a pragmatic doctrine that allows the use of portions of a copyrighted work without approval from the copyright owner or creator. Typically, this use is done with a good faith assertion. Many may not understand the scope of its application, but fair use is a part of our everyday life.
Photographers face many challenges in the digital era, none more significant than having their works copied and repurposed without approval. In the two cases discussed below, the photographers took their infringement cases to court and initially lost. According to photography rights advocates, the lower courts have generally not been supportive in protecting the arts, which has led to a wave of rulings like these. Such rulings negatively impact the fees available for stock images, which is a significant revenue stream for many photographers.
The concept of songwriting has evolved. From communal folk songs that evolved over millennia in the public domain to the sampling of other artists’ recordings, ownership has gone from irrelevant to essential revenue streams for the songwriter or the company that owns the song. It also gets more complicated if ownership percentages are determined when there was more than one songwriter.
On January 4, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California refused to dismiss claims of copyright infringement because he found that the plaintiff photographer had sufficiently alleged a pattern of copyright infringement. The opinion illustrates the kinds of allegations of copyright infringement a court will credit with enough weight to survive a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.
It is common for content generators and social media influencers of various digital platforms to monetize their brands by driving their followers to third-party links or retail sites. These content generators are then paid for that traffic and the sales the traffic brings. So it makes sense that fashion blogger Nitra Mann started a class action suit against celebrity news site PopSugar. In a suit filed in June 2018, Mann claimed that PopSugar stole thousands of Instagram images from various content generators and then reposted them with PopSugar’s own third-party links.
Music Theatre International, known as MTI, is a copyright licensing company that specializes in musical theater. According to its website, MTI licenses official scripts, music and other resources to theaters nationally and globally.
Lina Iris Viktor is a British-Liberian visual artist based in Manhattan who creates stunning pictures in a unique style using gilded imagery with African themes. In February, Viktor sued Kendrick Lamar, Universal Music Group, SZA and other defendants for copyright infringement, alleging that they copied patterns and style from her artwork in a 19-second portion of the music video for the song "All the Stars" from the movie soundtrack of "Black Panther."
The law firm of Hovey Williams LLP is proud to once again have attorneys selected to the 2018 Kansas Super Lawyers and Rising Stars. No more than five percent of the attorneys in the state are chosen by the Super Lawyers research team to receive this honor, while no more than 2.5 percent of the attorneys in the state are designated as Rising Stars based on 12 different criteria.
We recently talked in this space about a case in which the court found that a photograph copied onto a website was not only substantially similar to the copyrighted original, as required for copyright infringement, but it was identical, an exact digital copy. Today we share further observations from a new federal copyright case involving photographs out of California.
At our law firm, we represent professional photographers in the protection of intellectual property rights in their creative works. Our advocacy includes asserting copyright protections when others infringe on copyrighted photos such as by reproducing them without permission. This work is more important than ever given the ease of digitally reproducing an image online.