A South Florida photographer was paid $820 in 2010 for taking photographs of an event for a local magazine. Under the agreement she had, the magazine were able to use the photographs they had paid for in one issue of the magazine – the usual procedure for a freelance photography professional.
Shortly afterwards however, she saw her photographs in another edition so sent an invoice to the magazine for usage; reasonably enough despite the fact that the magazine had done so without her permission or paying a license fee. The magazine was also using her images online. Her invoice was ignored.
And the magazine continued to use her images. Repeatedly.
The photographer continued sending invoices. Eventually she was told by the magazine that the photographs belonged to them, as they had paid her original fee.
Wrong. As a freelance photographer, she retained the copyright unless the magazine has specifically paid for that copyright or for perpetual usage. Obviously, with a fee of just over eight hundred dollars, they had not.
For every day that the photographs remained in use the photographer sent invoices for $500 per image per day. Still they were not removed from the website. Still the magazine continued to use her work.
The case has now gone to federal court and the magazine is being sued for copyright infringement to the tune of $3 million. The magazine’s attorney calls the suit ‘absurd‘ and ‘comical‘. Oh, is it really?
I am a magazine too. I am bigger than you, I am richer than you and I have great attorneys. Every month, I am going to steal as many articles as I can from your publication – word for word – and publish them in my own. And guess what? You have no recourse whatsoever. You can’t sue me. You can’t do a thing. Why? Because in the words of your own attorney to do so would be absurd and comical.
Big tough magazine that also doesn’t mind stealing creative work from others.
How would the magazine feel if their creative work was stolen? They shot themselves in the foot. Their own attorneys said that it would be absurd and comical for them to sue.
The magazine would be well-advised to settle out of court. They have infringed copyright law and this is a huge subject at the moment, thanks to social media. A test case is just what’s required and a judge may very well decide that he or she would like to be the person to provide one.
Then watch the floodgates open…