Jury Finds Unauthorized Use of Photo=Fair Use

In a tragic decision for photographers, The San Jose Mercury News defeated Christopher Harris’ copyright infringement lawsuit in August. The jury in the federal court in San Francisco took one hour to decide that the newspaper’s use of Harris’ photograph constituted fair use, despite the newspaper’s removal of Harris’ copyright notice before publishing the photo with a book review.

Background of the case can be found on my January 10th blog. A summary of the case with the closing argument by the defense team is available from an ABA journal.

After the verdict, The Mercury News’ lawyer explained:

This is a classic example of how newspapers use material that is sent to them every day. If a photographer or photo agency had veto over the use of these kinds of images, then newspapers would just stop using them and readers wouldn’t get the visual information. . . . This is the kind of information that newspapers are supposed to provide to the public.

This is not the kind of protection that copyright law is supposed to provide to photographers. This is an erosion of rights that photographers should be afraid of . . . very afraid.

Take my advice; get professional help.

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