Category Archives: Copyright

Artist v. Artist

The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. v. Lynn Goldsmith Et. Al.

Fair Use broadens in Artist Works

A recent court decision in the Second Circuit solidified the expanding and evolving scope of fair use in appropriation art, showing that obtaining a license to use other copyrighted works as artistic inspiration is not always necessary. In the opinion, published on July 1, 2019, Manhattan Federal Judge John G. Koeltel held that Andy Warhol’s use of a photograph of Prince as “source art” is fair use and requires no license, credit or compensation to the original photographer.

Original Warhol works

The history of the case is as follows. In 1984,Vanity Fair obtained a $400 license from celebrity photographer, Lynn Goldsmith, to supply her portraits of Prince as source art to another artist for one of their upcoming articles, none other than Andy Warhol. Warhol took the portraits Goldsmith had taken of Prince years prior and used them as inspiration to create sixteen new works – twelve silk-screen paintings, 2 screen prints on paper, and 2 drawings. In classic Warhol fashion, the works cropped the original photo and added bright, unnatural coloring to Goldsmith’s black and white originals. One of the pieces was chosen to accompany a Vanity Fair article about Prince titled “Purple Fame,” and the magazine included a small source credit to Goldsmith.

Above: Goldsmith’s portrait; 1984 Vanity Fair article 

When Prince passed away in 2016, Vanity Fair republished the Warhol work; this time, without a license and without giving credit to Goldsmith. According to Goldsmith, it was not until this 2016 republication that she became aware of the Warhol works based on her photograph. Soon after, Goldsmith notified the Andy Warhol Foundation (AWF), which manages Warhol’s works, sharing that she believed there had been an infringement of her copyright. In disagreement, AWF filed a motion for declaratory judgement that the Warhol works do not constitute copyright infringement under the affirmative defense of fair use. She counter-sued for infringement.

Vanity Fair 2006 reprint of Warhol’s work

According to Goldsmith, her black and white portraits were intended to capture Prince’s vulnerability and demeanor as “not a comfortable person.” Meanwhile, the court found that the Warhol works transforms Prince “from a vulnerable, uncomfortable person to an iconic, larger-than-life figure.” Such transformation is essential to the outcome of this case.

To analyze a fair use defense and allow for circumvention of traditional copyright requirements, courts will balance the following factors (The Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. §107):

  1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work.

In the decision, Judge Koeltel emphasized that the more transformative a work is, the less important each factor becomes and the more likely it is that a work is covered by fair use. In this case, the purpose and character of Warhol’s work was to accompany a commercial article discussing Prince’s fame – not his vulnerability. The purpose of the work was so transformed that the works are not substantially similar or likely to be confused. Similarly, although substantial use of an original can weigh against a finding of fair use, the court emphasized that a transformative work, by nature, needs to copy a substantial amount of the original in order to transform it, justifying Warhol’s substantial use of Goldsmith’s work as source art.

Ultimately, while the Warhol works in this case merely cropped and added colors to Goldsmith’s original portrait, the court found that the overall result was transformative such that there was no copyright infringement issue. Giving rise to public controversy, the court also considered factors outside of fair use, such as the public benefit of having access to Warhol’s works and the fact that Warhol’s works are immediately recognizable as his own.

Fair use is decided on a case by case basis, no two cases are alike. How one judges whether a use is transformative and non-infringing or derivative and infringing can be a close call. It is helpful in comparing works to consider the following. Is the purpose of the final product or project similar to the original? How much of the copyright-able elements (e.g., lighting, positioning, imagery, etc.) of the original will be retained? Would the other work create legitimate and direct market competition to the original work, including a license for a derivative? If the new use is a work of visual art and does not retain much of the underlying copyright-able elements of the original, it is likely that the use will be considered transformative and non- infringing, especially if created by Warhol.

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To read the full case, see: https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/new-york/nysdce/1:2017cv02532/472094/84/

 

Case Act Takes Big Step Forward

June 24, 2019 — DMLA board member Rick Gell, spoke briefly with Nancy Wolff, DMLA’s Senior Legal Counsel, who has been in the trenches fighting for the CASE Act on behalf of our content licensing community. The Case Act just took a big step in Congress.

Nancy, briefly, what happened last week?

The Case Act was marked up by the Judiciary Committee of the Senate and will now move to the full Senate. We are still waiting for the House Judiciary Committee to mark up a similar bill.

I know a thing or two about IP Law, but nothing about Small Claims Courts. Can you provide a little background?

Because copyright is a federal law, copyright disputes can only be resolved in federal court, which is an expensive forum for the typical disputes involving the misuse of images and video. Just to start a claim, the filing fee is $400 and you need to use an experienced federal court attorney. Litigation can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Small claims courts most people are familiar with cannot be used because they are only for claims that can be brought in state court.

The UK established a copyright Small Claims Court in 2012 which is dedicated only to copyright cases. What is being proposed in Congress is to have claims of relatively lesser value resolved by a special tribunal at the Copyright Office. You would not need to have a lawyer and the claims could primarily be resolved on paper or by telephonic calls, without travel expenses.

So, if I understand this correctly, in a proposed copyright small claims court, both parties agree to appear before this tribunal and wave a trial by jury, therefore it is “voluntary”?

Yes. You can bring a claim in the copyright Small Claims Tribunal, and the other side can agree to use the tribunal or “opt out”. If the other party opts out, it can still be sued in federal court.

It creates a new pathway for those who allege their copyright has been infringed and those who are facing a claim of infringement. If your copyright claim is less than $15,000 for each instance, $30,000 in total – you are eligible.

When did the idea of using a Small Claims Court for IP start?

Many of us, including myself, have worked on enacting a copyright Small Claims Court for over ten years. The Copyright Office began studying this issue, conducted hearings and wrote a report in September 2013 recommending a separate copyright tribunal. The DMLA has been working with a coalition of associations of visual artists for many years, as well as the Copyright Alliance, Songwriters Guild, Authors Guild and many others, meeting with Congress and encouraging grassroots efforts by members to obtain sponsors for the CASE Act in both the House and Senate and to ultimately get this bill passed.

Who will the judges be?

The US Copyright Office will create a panel of three officials, who are experts in copyright law to oversee the process. This should encourage registration as there may finally be an affordable venue for enforcement.

There has been some recent opposition, primarily from the Electronic Frontier Foundation about encouraging copyright trolls. Can you speak to their concern?

The CASE Act in both the House and Senate have precautions against abuse and excessive filings. Creators are entitled to enforce copyright when their works are infringed. The use of the terms copyright troll is often misused and attributed to anyone trying to enforce copyright. Courts have generally reserved this term for attorneys who file a high volume of cases without trying to settle first, in order to obtain higher fees than are reasonable. It is not likely these attorneys will participate in this tribunal. If creators have a viable option, they can bring standard copyright claims in this tribunal without attorneys.

As the tribunal is optional, the EFF should not have any concerns as anyone can elect to opt out. The EFF often portrays copyright infringement as infringing on free speech, without properly recognizing copyright owners legitimate right to control the use of their works. The DMLA and our members are strong supporters of free speech and the Copyright Act provides limited use without permission under the fair use doctrine in keeping with the First Amendment. Copyright enforcement and free speech are not mutually exclusive and copyright infringement is not equivalent to censorship.

What is the next step?

When the full senate returns from vacation, hopefully Mitch McConnell will bring the measure to the floor for a full vote. Then on to the House.

PicRights Further Develops Global Copyright Enforcement Network with Expansion into Africa

New team in Johannesburg provides deep experience and a gateway to the African continent

 

June 4, 2019 – PicRights, a global leader in copyright enforcement, has added a new partner in Johannesburg, South Africa to monetize copyright infringements for the world’s leading news agencies, stock image agencies and independent photographers. No other copyright compliance service offers its clients as much geographical coverage of key markets around the world.

Stock Options, a well-known full-service production and footage house in Johannesburg with close ties to the stock licensing industry will handle copyright enforcement in South Africa, joining PicRights’ long established network in major markets in Europe, North America, South America and the Middle East.

“Copyright enforcement that works cannot be a purely technological solution; it relies heavily on the human expertise of our teams on the ground. Our chosen partner in South Africa has not only extensive experience in licensing content, but also a deep understanding of copyright and intellectual property. They will be an invaluable asset,” says Alfred Hoefinger, CEO of PicRights Europe.

“PicRights streamlined system allows enforcement teams, legal counsel and content owners to collaborate and exchange information quickly, regardless of location or time zone, which is a big plus for my team,” says Margi Sheard, Managing Director of Stock Options.

Geographically, this provides a foothold for future growth as Africa is home to several emerging markets. “Stock Options has a considerable history in South Africa when it comes to producing and licensing both still images and footage and are perfectly positioned to act as a gateway to Africa for our copyright enforcement activities,” adds Geoff Cannon, VP of Sales for PicRights.

PicRights handles the challenging business of monetizing copyright infringements, allowing copyright owners to focus on their core business. Using state-of-the-art technology to identify infringements and a team of professional QC staff to qualify them as enforceable, PicRights delivers actionable cases to the appropriate enforcement unit for settlement and collection of licensing fees.

PicRights Europe GmbH

CONTACT: Geoff Cannon, VP Sales

PHONE: +1 416 816 5700

EMAIL: geoff.cannon@picrights.com

Permission Machine Announces the Opening of its French Office

 

 

 

Permission Machine bvba has continued its international expansion by opening an office in Lille, France. It follows the opening of Permission Machine’s Los Angeles office in the U.S. last year.

It will strengthen Permission Machine’s image search and infringement enforcement for all of its global clients. The new office will handle all French cases directly. As Nico Matthijs, head of the French operations says, “Being local, knowing the laws and speaking the language is the recipe of Permission Machine’s success. The Lille office and its French staff is crucial for us to successfully expand our operations in the French market.”

About Permission Machine

Permission Machine was established in 2013 by Ywein Van den Brande, a Belgian intellectual property attorney with degrees from Leuven University, UCLA and Rouen University. He founded the company to pursue infringements ethically, offering the service free of charge to photographers and agencies. Permission Machine’s proprietary technology ensures its clients see accurate filtered results to ensure their intellectual property rights are protected. The company has seen tremendous growth over the past three years with success based on achieving quick negotiated settlements.

For more information about our services, please contact Michael Masterson at michael.masterson@permissionmachine.com.

 

PicRights Advances Global Copyright Enforcement Network With New Partner in India

Team in Hyderabad joins long established network to monetize infringements for content owners

PicRights Europe GmbH, a global leader in copyright compliance, has once again expanded its enforcement network. To monetize copyright infringements for the world’s leading content owners, PicRights has added an experienced team in Hyderabad, India as the newest enforcement partner. This will augment PicRights’ long established network in major markets in Europe, North America, SouthAmerica and the Middle East, further cementing PicRights’ dedication towide-ranging geographical coverage of key markets around the world for its clients.

The new location is strategic. India remains the fastest growing major economy in the world. By 2024, India will have the largest population in the world and willexperience a 4x growth in consumer spending in the next ten years.

“Many of our current image collections have been available for licensing in this region for decades, but without the benefit of dedicated copyright enforcement. Our chosen partner in India will provide our clients withexcellent opportunities to further monetize their content,” says Alfred Hoefinger, CEO of PicRights Europe.

Conceptual Pictures, an experienced stock image licensor located in Hyderabad will be responsible for cases in both India and Singapore. “With the established expertise of my team and the PicRights state-of-the-art system, we were up and running on Day 1 in India,” says Ramji Ravindran, Founder and CEO of Conceptual Pictures.

Geoff Cannon, VP Sales of PicRights Europe, adds “As content owners know, copyright infringement is a huge challenge nearly everywhere, including in emerging markets like India. The addition of India to our already extensive enforcement network allows us to provide a robust global solution to our customers.”

With their end-to-end service, PicRights handles the difficult business of monetizing copyright infringements, allowing copyright owners to concentrate on their core business. Using state-of-the-art technology to identify infringements and a team of experienced staff to qualify them as enforceable, PicRights delivers actionable cases to the appropriate enforcement unit for settlement and collection of licensing fees.

 About PicRights:

PicRights Europe GmbH is headquartered in Switzerland with enforcement operations and professionalcompliance officers in central and northern Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Benelux andScandinavia), London (for UK and Ireland), the Middle East (Emirates and Saudi Arabia), Toronto (for USAand Canada), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Hyderabad (India) and Johannesburg (South Africa).

PicRights Europe GmbH

CONTACT: Geoff Cannon, VP Sales

PHONE: +1 416 816 5700

EMAIL: geoff.cannon@picrights.com

DMLA Needs Member Support for CASE Act

Dear Members:

May 2, 2019 was a big day for copyright advocacy in Washington D.C. as two companion bills (H.R. 2426 and S. 1273 ) were introduced in both the House and the Senate creating an alternative forum for hearing copyright infringement cases of relatively lesser value entitled the Copyright Alternative in Small Claims Enforcement Act (CASE Act).  The legislation, creates a small-claims process for creators and businesses whose work is infringed to be heard by a tribunal within the Copyright Office, without the need for attorneys, or personal appearances. The monetary limit  is $30,000 for two works

These bills have bipartisan support, which  is rare and very encouraging. The bill  is backed by the group of creative associations that DMLA  has been working with over the last 10 years including, ASMP, APA, ASCRL, the Copyright Alliance, GAG, NANPA, NPPA, and PPA. So, we’re off to a great start, but we need to build momentum, and that’s where you come in. DMLA has already written the relevant members of the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate in support of the CASE Act. However, getting a bill passed is hard work. We need to build as much support as possible for the CASE Act before Congress takes its summer break in August. The Representatives and Senators need to hear from their constituents to know that this bill has grass root support in their states and districts.  So, we are asking you to do the following:

  1. Send the attached letter (which you may modify) to your Member of Congress through their contact page
  2. Encourage your photographers to add their voices at the web portal copyrightdefense.com/action
  3. Tweet/use instagram and/or Facebook to show your support for the CASE Act

Thanks so much. We know we can count on you to make sure this important legislation gets all the attention it needs from our DMLA Membership.

Warm regards,

Nancy Wolff, DMLA Counsel                                                                                                                       Cathy Aron, DMLA Executive Director                                                                                                       DMLA Legal Committee

PERMISSION MACHINE AND THE COPYRIGHT ACT: WHEN YOU CREATE IN-DEMAND IMAGES, YOU NEED PROTECTION.

“The Congress shall have Power…To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Tımes to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

United States Constitution, Article I, Section 8

An image that speaks to the viewer, and tells a story without words is the ultimate goal for any photographer. And because of that, it is not surprising that there is an untold number of photographer’s images that are coveted and borrowed without the photographer’s knowledge or consent. As a result, there is an increasing need to protect the rights of creators and their work.

Permission Machine

In an increasingly digital world, it is becoming harder and harder to keep track of your imagery. It is not uncommon to find images being used that were not licensed. I wanted to learn more about how photographers could protect themselves and what recourse might be available for those that have instances they’d like remedied and spoke with Michael Masterson of Permission Machine. Permission Machine works to resolve infringement issues and are able to work with both registered and unregistered images. However, the below information will show, registering images will provide for protection and fewer headaches when seeking to recover fees.

When I spoke with Michael, he shared with me the services they provide which include image scans using proprietary reverse search engineering, filtering of images, reporting, in-house legal services, and finding new revenue streams. I liked that there is no upfront cost to the photographer. When a photographer uses Permission Machine’s services, and a case is pursued and settled, the “proceeds are divided equally among the client, the lawyer and Permission Machine with 33.3% going to each.” Michael explained that they routinely get four and five-figure settlements on registered images. “Money that’s just left on the table if not pursued vigorously.”

Copyright Protection

Copyright protects your creation so that you get credit for your hard work and creativity. There are several sources to consider when obtaining copyright information.

  • Copyright law is covered under Article 1 of the Constitution. The US Copyright Office offers guidance specific to photographs, including instructional videos.
  • The Copyright Alliance is a Washington, D.C. based copyright advocacy group who provides information on issues and policy, details on copyright law, resources, news, and education.

Consider two particular chapters within the Copyright Act, Chapter 5 and Chapter 12.

  • If the infringement occurs before an image is registered, you can’t get statutory damages. Under Chapter 5, you need to register before the infringement.
  • If the infringer knowingly removed the copyright or someone else did, then it falls under Chapter 12 whether it’s registered or not.

And if you want to read more about what we have written about copyright, link here.

We recognize photographers work tirelessly to bring their vision and creations to life. Those creations should be protected. Please visit the above sources for Copyright information and check out Permission Machine for timing, a trial, and pricing.

**Permission Machine is a Sponsor of DMLA.

Fourth Circuit Rules in Favor of Stock Photographer Russell Brammer

In October 2018 DMLA filed an amicus brief in support of photographer Russell Brammer’s appeal to the Fourth District over a questionable Virginia district court decision, which held that production company’s use of his stock photo of a Washington, D.C. neighborhood on a website promoting a film festival was fair use.

Our focus was on the extent of the market harm -and the impact the lower court’s decision would have on the licensing industry if this type of fair use of an image became widespread. Other visual artists associations as well as the Copyright Alliance, submitted amicus briefs on behalf of the photographer addressing other factors. This is great example of the industry coming together to correct a decision that if left to stand, could adversely affect the rights of content owners and members of DMLA if other courts followed the lower courts fair use analysis.

In the decision released on April 26, 2019, the Fourth Circuit determined that Violent Hues Productions, LLC’s use of a cropped version of photographer Russell’s photo of Adams Morgan in a list of tourist attractions on a website promoting the Northern Virginia International Film and Music Festival did not qualify as a fair use.

This is also another good example of DMLA’s advocacy and how we use your dues monies to work for the benefit of the industry and your business.

Read the entire article here

Fourth Circuit Rules in Favor of Stock Photographer, Overturning Questionable Fair Use Decision (Brammer v. Violent Hues Productions, LLC(4th Cir. 2019))

By Sara Gates and Nancy Wolff CDAS

The rights of a stock photographer were recently vindicated when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit overturned a questionable Virginia district court decision, which held that a production company’s use of a stock photo of a Washington, D.C. neighborhood on a website promoting a film festival was fair use.  In the decision released on April 26, 2019, the Fourth Circuit determined that Violent Hues Productions, LLC’s use of a cropped version of photographer Russell Brammer’s photo of Adams Morgan in a list of tourist attractions on a website promoting the Northern Virginia International Film and Music Festival did not qualify as a fair use.

The case focuses on the photograph “Adams Morgan at Night,” which Brammer shot from the rooftop of a building in the Washington D.C. neighborhood in 2011.  Experimenting with various shutter speeds and aperture combinations, Brammer photographed a busy street full of passing cars that appear as trails of red and white lights.  He published a digital copy of the photo on his website and on Flickr with a “© All rights reserved” notice, and later licensed the photo for online use.

Years later, in 2016, Violent Hues downloaded the photo—presumably from Flickr, while overlooking the rights notice—and proceeded to crop out the negative space before posting it on http://novafilmfest.com, necessitating the litigation.  After the district court absolved Violent Hues of liability under the fair use doctrine, Brammer appealed the decision, asking the Fourth Circuit to set the record straight.

The Fourth Circuit did just that when it engaged in a thoughtful analysis of the fair use factors and considered the arguments raised by each side.  Its decision is instructive as it adds to the wealth of case law on how to interpret the complex and nuanced doctrine of fair use.

Purpose and Character of the Use

For the first factor, the Court considered whether Violent Hues did anything to transform the work.  The Court rejected Violent Hues’ suggestion that the analysis should focus on the subjective intent of the parties and instead compared Brammer’s photo and Violent Hues’ use, as it appeared on the website, side-by-side.  The only obvious change, the Court noted, was the cropping, which generally is non-transformative.

The Court also rejected Violent Hues’ contextual argument, in which they claimed that they transformed the photo by putting it on a list of tourist attractions.  While courts have found minor contextual changes to be sufficient in two specific instances—raw material for technological functions and documentary uses—the Court found that Violent Hues’ copying did not fall within either category.

As Violent Hues’ use of the photo was also for a for-profit film festival, and Violent Hues’ did not have to pay the customary fee for its use of stock image, the Court found this factor ultimately weighed against fair use.

Nature of the Copyrighted Work

The Court’s consideration of the second factor focused on the thickness versus the thinness of the author’s rights, noting that some works are closer to the core of intended copyright protection that others, which should be entitled to only thin copyright protection.  Here, the Court found the photo was entitled to “thick” protection, considering Brammer’s many creative choices, such as the location, shutter speed and aperture combinations, uses of vivid colors, and birds-eye-view angle.  The Court noted that photos are generally viewed as creative, even if they capture images of reality, and have long received thick protection.

Additionally, the Court noted that publication status of the photo was not relevant fair use analysis.  Unlike in the case of literary works, where the right of first publication is paramount, photos are often intended for repetitive viewing, so the publication consideration is different in the area of photography. The Court summed it its point as follows: context matters.  Accordingly, the Court found that this factor also weighed against fair use.

Amount and Substantiality of the Portion Used

The Court’s analysis of this factor was straightforward, as it was clear that Violent Hues used roughly half the photo by cropping out the negative space, but kept the most expressive features, i.e., the heart of the work.  While a substantial taking can still constitute fair use, if it is justified (requiring the Court to look back to the first factor), here, the taking was not justified.  This factor also weighed against fair use.

Effect on the Market

For the fourth factor, the Court consider both the extent of the market harm and whether Violent Hues’ conduct, if widespread, would result in a substantially adverse impact to the photos’ potential market.  Here, the Court found a presumption of market harm, which exists when commercial use is not transformative, but amounts to a mere duplication.  Though Brammer was not required to present any evidence to show the negative effect on the licensing market for the photo, given that the Court found the presumption applies, he did so, showing that he received a $1,250 fee in one instance.  The Court noted that Brammer would have missed out on this fee if the company that decided to license his photo had instead opted to act like Violent Hues. Thus, this factor weighed against fair use as well.

As all four factors weighed against fair use, the Court’s balancing test was fairly easy: no fair use.  The Court signed off with this reminder the there is no difference between copying photos for print use versus online use: “What Violent Hues did was publish a tourism guide for a commercial event and include the Photo to make the end product more visually interesting. Such a use would not constitute fair use when done in print, and it does not constitute fair use on the Internet.”

DMLA’s Interest

DMLA filed an amicus brief in favor of the photographer, specifically addressing the fourth factor – extent of the market harm -and the impact the lower court’s decision would have on the licensing industry if this type of fair use of an image became widespread. Other visual artists associations as well as the Copyright Alliance, submitted amicus briefs on behalf of the photographer addressing other factors. This is great example of the industry coming together to correct a decision that if left to stand, could adversely affect the rights of content owners and members of DMLA if other courts followed the lower courts fair use analysis.

 

Ninth Circuit Addresses Outstanding Copyright Issues in VHT, Inc v Zillow Group

The Ninth Circuit recently addressed a number of outstanding copyright issues between Zillow, the popular apartment hunting website, and VHT a provider of real estate photographers’ photos, and VHT, although it left the question of whether database registrations offer statutory damages for each image, or if all the images in one application are limited to one award of statutory damages.  Read the article here