Friday, October 12, 2012

"The thing with gentlemen’s agreements is that gentlemen tend to disagree, in retrospect, over what they meant."

The Observer's Rozalia Jovanovic reports on a copyright infringement lawsuit by photographer Rodrigo Pereda against artist Ivan Navarro.  Josh Baer expressed what's probably a pretty widespread view last week, writing that the suit "doesn’t seem to make much sense to me on the surface" because Pereda is suing "over the use of copyrighted photos of NAVARRO’s own sculpture."  But there's no doubt that a photograph of a work of art is an independently copyrightable thing; the artist isn't automatically entitled to use it.

Navarro's team seems to be setting up a work-for-hire defense, but, as the Observer piece notes:

"'If the photographer was in fact the artist’s employee, ... that’s probably a work made for hire and the copyright belongs to the sculptor,'" said Christopher Sprigman, a professor of intellectual property law at the University of Virginia. But if the photographer was an independent contractor and not an employee, Dr. Sprigman said it’s not a work made for hire situation unless there’s an agreement that says as much."