A friend recently shared a link to “The Idealist” Facebook page where photographer Joey L‘s copyrighted image “Vijay Nund Morning Puja” had been posted June 1, with text imposed over the image, but no credit or acknowledgment was given to the photographer (nor permission requested). The message “Do not regret getting older. It is a privilege denied to many.” resonates well, but is it OK and fair to appropriate an image, modify it (crop it and paste text onto it) anytime we see something we like? This image on the artist’s website, and other sanctioned host sites, is clearly copyrighted, but does co-opting it “for the greater good” make it acceptable, and should it be seen simply as a reverse form of flattery or online tribal dues? It is oh-so easy to grab an image and play with it, at what point should there be a definitive line drawn, what unauthorized uses are OK?
An interesting counterpoint is the 2011 copyright infringement case where French artist Theirry Guetta was ruled guilty of infringing on photographer Glen E. Friedman’s copyright by a federal judge. Guetta was accused of using a well-know Friedman image of hip-hop pioneers RUN DMC as the basis for several artworks, including “posters, lithographs, paintings and other art,” according to the complaint filed by Freidman and his lawyers in a California district court.
“To permit one artist the right to use without consequence the original creative and copyrighted work of another artist simply because that artist wished to create an alternative work would eviscerate any protection by the copyright act,” said Judge Harry Pregerson in his ruling. Pregerson serves on the US Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit.
Related story on Photo District News: Photog Glen E. Friedman Suing Artist For Infringement of RUN DMC Image
“Uploading or downloading works protected by copyright without the authority of the copyright owner is an infringement of the copyright owner’s exclusive rights of reproduction and/or distribution. Anyone found to have infringed a copyrighted work may be liable for statutory damages up to $30,000 for each work infringed and, if willful infringement is proven by the copyright owner, that amount may be increased up to $150,000 for each work infringed. In addition, an infringer of a work may also be liable for the attorney’s fees incurred by the copyright owner to enforce his or her rights.
Whether or not a particular work is being made available under the authority of the copyright owner is a question of fact. But since any original work of authorship fixed in a tangible medium (including a computer file) is protected by federal copyright law upon creation, in the absence of clear information to the contrary, most works may be assumed to be protected by federal copyright law.
Since the files distributed over peer-to-peer networks are primarily copyrighted works, there is a risk of liability for downloading material from these networks. To avoid these risks, there are currently many “authorized” services on the Internet that allow consumers to purchase copyrighted works online, whether music, ebooks, or motion pictures. By purchasing works through authorized services, consumers can avoid the risks of infringement liability and can limit their exposure to other potential risks, e.g., viruses, unexpected material, or spyware.”
~ Above question & answer is from the U.S. Copyright Office site: http://www.copyright.
New Tool for REVERSE IMAGE SEARCHES: TinEye.com
Wondering where else your images might be? TinEye.com offers one way to search for other postings of the image.
“TinEye is a reverse image search engine. You can submit an image to TinEye to find out where it came from, how it is being used, if modified versions of the image exist, or to find higher resolution versions. TinEye is the first image search engine on the web to use image identification technology rather than keywords, metadata or watermarks. It is free to use for non-commercial searching.”
photokunst licenses images for many of the artists we represent, and there are nuances to making licensing agreements, a good idea even when permission is granted for image use to cause-related projects, etc – we will dedicate a blog to licensing language and considerations soon. These issues are ones we watch closely, and welcome ongoing conversation “for the greater good.”