Capturing just the right photograph, often is the result of countless hours of time, effort, attention, planning and preparation. While capturing the photograph can represent countless hours, stealing the photograph off the internet takes only seconds. In today’s digital world, many photographers try to promote their best work on the internet where they can showcase their best photographs. However, in some cases, other internet users feel that the cost of paying for a photograph is too much, so instead of paying the artist for their work, sometimes people just take the photographs. The law disfavors stealing.
That is effectively what happened last month when a jury awarded almost a million dollars to a company whose images were stolen by a competitor and used to promote the competitor’s products.
In the case, Under a Foot Plant Co. created a series of images to promote its plants. The copyright infringement lawsuit was filed after a competitor took and used these images on their website, posters and in brochures. After many years of trying to prevent the unauthorized use, a federal jury awarded a photographer almost a million dollars in actual damages based on the unauthorized use of 24 copyrighted images.
The jury calculated the copyright damages based on 133 separate acts of infringement which occurred repeatedly from 2011 until 2014, when the lawsuit was filed.
Despite many attempts to resolve the matter, including sending cease and desist letters between 2011 and 2014, the infringer continued to use the stolen photographs, forcing the copyright owner to sue for copyright infringement, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. The federal jury awarding the photographer the option of either $900,000 in actual damages or $300,000 in statutory damages.
If you believe someone has stolen your photographs or artwork, please contact a copyright attorney at 913.345.0900 or 816.363.1555 to discuss your rights and potential claims.