Alert to Photographers…your work may be in jeopardy…

February 24th, 2012

For the most part in my sparse photo-blog, I try to stay away from legal and political views, but a series of recent legal battles has prompted me to step up to the soapbox.

The ordinary assumption of anyone who takes photos is that you have a legal right to take any photo you want provided you are on public property (or your property), and that you have the creative right to manipulate or arrange your photos as you see fit. This also covers videography.


This may now not be true due to this British court ruling and this French court ruling.

The gist of the British court ruling is that if you take a photo, on public property, that possibly uses a similar “theme” to someone else’s photo, you could be sued for copyright infringement. The French court has ruled that if you take a photo that contains even a part of a copyrighted object, you could be sued for copyright infringement.

The number of ridiculous possibilities is enormous. For example…I could take a photo of an airliner flying over my property and be sued on both counts (if Boeing decided the shape of their airliner was copyrighted, and another photographer felt that my image had a similar “style” or “theme” like theirs).

Finally, in a Federal US court the judge allowed a photographer’s claim to move to lawsuit over whether someone could create a similar mood that mimicked a photographer’s work. (Warning, viewers, some images in this link may not be everyone’s cup of tea).

The last argument is still silly, I think. Maybe it is because I’m not a world acknowledged photographer, but it still opens dangerous and ludicrous opportunities. For example…if someone went to some of the same locations as Ansel Adams and used photographic technique to mimic his photos, could the copyright holders of his estate sue for infringement? It is certainly possible if this goes to trial and the photographer wins.

So…here’s my suggestion, and probably the only possibility of any sanity reigning over these farces of legal justice. Call, email or write your local politician expressing your dissatisfaction with these claims and that politicians work to make better legislation in this world of instant digital reproduction.

And for those of you who may not feel that you have an axe to grind (because you just snap pictures of vacations, friends and family on your cellphone)…you could just as easily be targeted if you accidentally mimic someone’s work or include some object in the background that someone deems to be copyrighted.

And the next time you are in London around Big Ben, and a bus drives by…make sure you don’t take the photo and desaturate everything except for the bus…because that “style” is now copyrighted by one person.

Stupidity reins…

P.S. By the way…the image above where the background has been desaturated around a racecar is now one of my “styles”. Infringer Beware!


  1. Butch G says

    Any update on the above?

    June 18th, 2012 | #

  2. admin says

    Not sure, Butch…haven’t heard anything about it, but if I do I’ll certainly update here!

    June 20th, 2012 | #

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