Monday, January 9, 2012

Photographer's Rights

I have written before about the rights of photographers and the difficulty they have in protecting their copyrights. So, it was no surprise to read about a recent lawsuit filed by the heirs of the late rock and roll photographer, Jim Marshall, against a boutique owned by the designer, John Varvatos.

I am a big fan of Jim Marshall’s photography. I have a book of his work in my library. I wish I could re-produce some of his iconic images here (like Johnny Cash shooting the finger at San Quentin Prison), but I can’t because Marshall’s copyrights gave him the exclusive rights to control the public display and distribution of his work.

Varvatos was friend of Marshall’s. In fact, Marshall was supposed to speak at Varvatos’ store the night he died. Varvatos displayed several of Marshall’s photographs in his New York store in tribute to his friend. Apparently, he also made copies and displayed them at all of his stores in the United States, including those located inside of Bloomingdales, now a co-defendant in the suit. Marshall’s estate is seeking statutory damages of up to $150,000.00 for each infringement.

This kind of blatant misuse of someone’s intellectual property seems almost unbelievable in this day and age, but it is a reminder that the intrinsic value of photographer’s work is often severely misunderstood. I had this impressed upon me early in my career by a photographer friend of mine, and I have never forgotten the lesson. Having represented several photographers over the years, I see that it is important to remind the world of their intellectual property rights, especially in this digital age.

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