Even if you’ve spent a lot of time and money developing ideas or researching facts, those ideas and facts are not protected by copyright. Instead, copyright only protects the manner in which you creatively express those ideas and facts.
Please visit the latest issue of Valley Business Front August [PDF link] for a case study on this topic.
Presidential Candidate Donald Trump has found himself in hot water over the unauthorized use of a UK-based photographer’s photograph in his campaign advertisements.
In September, Donald Trump Jr. sent out the following tweet and the attached image:
Photographer David Kittos, a former refugee himself, immediately recognized his photograph, which had been published to media-sharing site Flickr with the rights designation, “All rights reserved.” Kittos says he never gave Trump or his campaign permission to use the photograph.
So he did what any miffed copyright holder would do: he filed a lawsuit against the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.
For those abiding by U.S. Copyright Law, here’s how it usually works: a campaign contacts a copyright holder to license the image for commercial use, usually in exchange for some sort of fee. In this case, however, Kittos claims he would not have provided a license for use of the image, given the advertisement’s text and Kittos’ own background.
The plaintiff also alleges secondary infringement, claiming the campaign strategically used the image on social media platforms to incite “an epidemic of third-party infringement of the photograph.” Use of social media reflected the intention of the Trump campaign that the photo would be widely shared through re-tweets which would reproduce the image and accompanying text on Twitter and other social media platforms like Facebook and Pinterest, and indeed the plaintiff alleges that “thousands of individuals” re-published the advertisement without authorization from the copyright holder. “The effect of this iterated unauthorized reproduction and redistribution is the rampant viral infringement of Plaintiff’s exclusive rights in his Photograph,” the complaint reads.
Kittos now asks for unspecified damages–monetary damages totaling actual damages and any profits relating to the unauthorized use– and, seemingly more importantly on a personal level, seeks an injunction for further use of the photo, according to the complaint filed October 18.
What makes matters worse is that in June Trump’s camp settled a suit over the unauthorized use of a photograph of a Bald Eagle with two Denver-based photographers. The settlement terms have not been disclosed.
The moral of the story is this: If you value your work, file a copyright so you can protect it. Make sure ALL members of your marketing team, from directors down to interns, know the do’s- and don’ts of copyright law. And if you need help explaining it, come see us here at The Creekmore Law Firm.
The law can protect internet services against copyright suits over content that their users upload. One thing that an internet service has to do to be protected is to take down infringing material as soon as it receives a takedown notice. You don’t get any protection if you don’t designate an agent to receive takedown notices. The law requires you to appoint an agent, to put the agent’s contact information on your web site, and also to file the contact information with the U.S. Copyright Office. You can just fill out a form and send it in. There’s also a fee of $105. Appointing an agent won’t protect you retroactively. You have to appoint the agent before the copyright infringement occurs. If you don’t, then the copyright owner can sue you directly for the infringing material that your users uploaded to your site.
Please visit the latest issue of Valley Business Front April [PDF link] for the full discussion of how to shield your web content from copyright lawsuits.
And if you’re interested in learning more about how to keep your business’s digital both public and protected, join us at our next round of Shark Bites this month.
Continuing our series on copyright law, we turn to the matter of copyright infringement (a previous topic here, here, and here). An important subject for creative business people of all kinds, popular culture is often a prism through which we can examine the concepts fundamental to American copyright law. The underlying premise is simple: society benefits when authors are given a monopoly to exploit their works. Without such a monopoly, authors would have no incentive to unleash their creative genius to the public, since anyone could simply profit from the hard work of the author. As a consequence there would be no Superman, Harry Potter, To Kill a Mockingbird, or even Star Trek. That last endearing American work has now become the subject of an interesting copyright lawsuit pushing the boundaries of fan engagement and copyright ownership.