If you haven’t gotten permission to use copy or pictures that you did not create, or have created for you by an employee or a third-party with a proper work for hire agreement, stop, just stop and go get permission or buy the rights or get a license.
A good reminder – Vrachovska v. 8 Degrees Plato Beer Company.
You can read the complaint in this case here. The plaintiff, a photographer, brought suit against the craft brewery for copyright infringement alleging the brewery’s website used a picture the plaintiff had taken of a statue of Plato sitting outside the Academy of Athens in Greece. The plaintiff had registered the photograph with the Register of Copyrights and claimed the brewery lacked permission to utilize the photograph.The brewery tried to dismiss the case arguing the photographer had not properly plead copyright infringement, but the court rejected that argument and denied the motion to dismiss leaving the brewery facing the copyright lawsuit:
As alleged in the complaint, 8 Degrees Plato appears to have merely taken Vrachovska’s photograph and zoomed in on the statute’s head and shoulders. This alleged action surely implicates protectible elements of the copyrighted work. Because of the striking similarity between the works, Vrachovska has met her burden as to both access and similarity…. Her copyright claim may proceed.
You can read the order here. The parties then stipulated to dismiss the lawsuit (perhaps because they resolved their disagreement out of court) shortly after the motion to dismiss was denied.
The Takeaway: Dealing with potential statutory damages, attorneys’ fees, and the publicity generated by such a suit can easily be avoided if you perform adequate clearance and ensure those working for you do the same.