A recent federal appeals court ruling reversed a highly controversial lower court ruling on a copyright case.
Photographer Russell Brammer had sued Violent Hues Productions LLC for publishing one of his photos, a time lapse of a Washington, DC, neighborhood, without his permission. The production company claimed their use of the photo fell under the “fair use” doctrine, as they did not realize it was a copyrighted work, had cropped it., and were using it for a different purpose than the photographer. See a summary by the U.S. Copyright Office here.
Due to a variety of unusual circumstances in the case, detailed by attorney Edward Greenberg and photographer Jack Reznicki of The Copyright Zone, the lower court ruled in favor of Violent Hues Productions, LLC. That ruling sent shock waves through the artistic community, as it appeared to fundamentally weaken copyright protections.
In overruling that decision, the appeals court noted that “it is clear that the copying here fails the ‘ultimate test’ of fair use: Violent Hues’ online display of Brammer’s Photo does not serve the interest of copyright law,” and sent the case back to the lower court to reconsider. See the more detailed summary here. And, although it’s not settled yet, the decision to send it back to the lower court should make creatives breathe a big sigh of relief.
Did you know that NANPA is actively involved in representing and protecting “the rights of nature photographers on a wide range of copyright and intellectual property issues?” Through NANPA’s Advocacy Committee and participation in a variety of coalitions, we’re working to improve laws and protect the rights of photographers and other visual artists. Learn more here.