Virginia Federal Court's decision has widespread implications
A Federal Court in Virginia, USA has potentially opened a can of worms by ruling that a photograph taken from the Internet without permission and used on a website was 'Fair Use'.
American photograher Russell Brammer discovered in 2016 that one of his images of Washington D.C. was being used on th website for the Northern Virginia Film Festival. Brammer issued a Cease and Desist order which Violent Hues Productions, the company behind the festival, co-operated with and removed the image. However, Brammer continued with legal action and sued Violent Hues for copyright infringement on two counts: using the image without his permission, and image alteration (cropping) and copyright information removal.
An Eastern District of Virginia judge stated that photographs are 'factual depictions' and as such, the copying of them is 'Fair Use', even for commercial purposes.
Virginia Federal Court's ruling
In his summing up of the court's decision, Court District Judge Claude M. Hilton stated that:
- whilst Brammer's photograph had been used on a commercial website, it had not been used for commercial purposes but rather for informational use,
- the image was in the public domain as they could not see any copyright information,
- the image was 'factual' and not creative in that it showed 'a depiction of a real-world location',
- the image had been published without any copyright information elsewhere and so the image could be reproduced,
- the image was cropped and only a portion that was absolutely necessary was published, and
- Brammer did not suffer financially from the image being published.
It has been claimed that various aspects of the Copyright Act were ignored by the judges in reaching their decision. If this is so, then this could spell bad news for photographers everywhere who face an ever increasing uphill battle to protect their intellectual property.
Featured image by Timokefoto on Pixabay