Defamation, Girls, and pictures through a window: recent legal news affecting photography and copyrightMar 25, 2014 by M. Scott Brauer 1 Comment »
There’ve been a bunch of legal developments in the world of photography and copyright in the past couple weeks. Here are a few things that have been on my radar that all have relevance to freelance and staff photographers in the US:
- A woman’s photograph was used in a New York State Division of Human Rights advertisement stating that she is HIV positive. The woman did not sign a model release, but Getty argued that the real culprit in the case is the State of New York. A judge recently ruled that the issue should be taken to trial rather than dismissing the case, as Getty had hoped. The woman seeks $450,000 in damages, according to the New York Daily News.
- A new law has made it illegal to take photos of people without their permission in Hungary. An April 2013 post on the New York Times’ Lens Blog has good coverage of other strict privacy laws around the world, including France’s principle of droit d’image. I haven’t read the original Hungarian law and don’t have extensive knowledge of privacy law around the world, but it seems that the new law in Hungary outlaws the taking of photos without permission, not just the publication of photos without permission; this seems like a new development in photography-related law. Recent legal efforts to regulate paparazzi behavior around celebrities’ children in California would similarly limit the act of photography and not just publication.
- A judge has dismissed the invasion of privacy lawsuit against Arne Svenson for his photographs through windows of a Manhattan apartment building. The judge ruled that Svenson’s photos are protected by the First Amendment. At the time the photos were first shown last year, The Atlantic Cities posted a comprehensive look at the issues surrounding Svenson’s work.
- Calumet Photo (website now down) filed for bankruptcy, leaving employees without pay or explanation. Calumet served as the only local photo rental house in many markets around the US, so their absence will be sorely felt by many working photographers. Calumet also did camera repair work, and many customers have been left wondering what will happen to their gear that was in for service at the time of the bankruptcy. Others had rented gear and now don’t know how or when to return it.
- The defamation lawsuit against Institute photographer and documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield brought by the subjects of her excellent documentary Queen of Versailles (wiki) has been thrown out. An arbitrator for the Independent Film and Television Alliance stated that “Having viewed the supposedly egregious portions of the Motion Picture numerous times, [the Arbitrator] simply does not find that any of the content of the Motion Picture was false.” By the way, I recently saw Greenfield speak, and she provided a fascinating and revealing look at her process and how her work, from this documentary to her early work on the French aristocracy to girl culture to rich children, fits together. If you’re near one of her lectures, I’d strongly recommend going.
- The 9th District Court of the United States recently ruled that Alaska Stock had valid copyright registration for images in its collection, despite only listing some of the image authors and titles. This one deals with the nitty-gritty of copyright registration, but it’s a departure from an earlier ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York regarding Corbis’ copyright registration on behalf of its contributors. You can read an explanation of all of this at Photo Attorney.
- A police officer forcibly removed Baltimore Sun photo editor Chris Assaf from public space outside the scene of a police-involved shooting. The Sun’s Darkroom blog has the story about what happened, and it fits right alongside other cases in which police have overstepped their bounds in limiting press access in public areas.
- The Beastie Boys and GoldieBlox have reached a settlement regarding the unauthorized usage of the Beastie Boys’ song Girls in a GoldieBlox ad (the music has now been replaced) that went viral last year. The ad was for a product that encouraged young girls to build and construct, and at the time, commentators felt that it was a positive appropriation of a misogynistic song. People argued “fair use” or that the Beastie Boys should just let it happen, despite a stipulation in Beastie Boy Adam Yauch’s will that read “in no event may my image or name or any music or any artistic property created by me be used for advertising purposes.” The settlement requires that GoldieBlox post an apology on their website (now visible at the bottom of the homepage) and donate a percentage of the company’s revenues to “one or more charities selected by Beastie Boys that support science, technology, engineering and mathematics education for girls.” That strikes me as a great solution: the Beastie Boys’ art is not used against their will and donation achieves GoldieBlox’s (and hopefully everyone’s) goal of getting young girls interested in topics usually dominated by boys.