BB King Lawsuit the Latest in Photo Copyright Infringement Cases

By: Ronald Bienstock

Will the BB King lawsuit affect the future of photo copyright infringement suits?

Recently, photographer Glen Craig brought a copyright infringement lawsuit against the estate of B.B. King and Universal Music Group. Newsday reported that, in the lawsuit, Craig claimed that photographs on several of B.B. King’s albums dating back to 1971 were used without permission. This included several photos used on albums that came out since King’s passing in May 2015. The plaintiff cited 40 examples in which photographs were used by King’s estate and Universal Music Group without his consent. Craig is seeking damages and a jury trial.

The BB King lawsuit could set a precedent for other photo copyright infringement suits.

Significance of the case

This case has significance because it not only involves a music legend, but a rash of photo copyright infringement lawsuits have surfaced in the last year alone. This phenomena has prompted the phrase “copyright troll” to be used by some intellectual property attorneys, who see some of the claims as opportunist.The estate of Notorious B.I.G. and singer Azealia Banks were involved in photo copyright infringement suits recently after their images appeared on various media publications and platforms without consent of the photographers.

In the case of Notorious B.I.G., Dana Lixenberg, a Dutch photographer, brought a copyright infringement suit against Spotify. The Hollywood Reporter found that the plaintiff claimed that Spotify used a photograph she had taken of Notorious B.I.G. without her consent. The complaint alleges that the photograph was given to Spotify by All Media Network, who is also named as a co-defendant in the suit. According to the lawsuit, the photograph in question had substantially similar “elements, composition, colors, arrangement, subject, lighting, angle, and overall appearance.”

The lawsuit involving Azealia Banks, on the other hand, was brought by a New Jersey photographer who sued iHeartMedia for $150,000. Billboard reported that in the suit, the plaintiff claimed that WWPR New York radio used a photo of Azealia Banks, which had previously appeared in The New York Post, without consent.

Moving forward

These are just two more recent examples, but they serve as possible precedents for similar cases going forward. As more and more social media platforms use images, there is the misconception that these images are all in the public domain, which presents opportunities for copyright infringement issues. Due diligence as to using the proper agreements may lessen these the occurrence of these issues.

Have you found yourself involved in a photo copyright infringement lawsuit? Would you like to discuss this issue further? Please contact me, Ron Bienstock, for more.

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Over the past quarter century, Bienstock & Michael, LLC has served as a full-service entertainment and intellectual property law firm, with offices in New Jersey and New York. Since our inception, we have helped our clients grow and succeed in their business, professional, and personal lives. FULL BIO HERE >>
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