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Copyright Victory Against Local Bank for Photograph Use

Indiana Lawyer-Photographer Wins Copyright Infringement Victory Against Bank

A copyright lawyer and photographer in Indiana was victorious in his copyright infringement lawsuit against a local business. Richard Bell, according to The Indiana Lawyer, sued “after discovering in late 2017” that Merchants Bank of Indiana “was using a photo he had taken of the nighttime Indianapolis skyline.” Indiana Southern District Judge James Patrick Hanlon ruled that the bank infringed on Bell’s copyright but that the infringement was not willful.

In court documents, Bell established that the photo, used on the bank’s website, was registered with the US Copyright Office. He claimed that neither the bank or the bank’s website developer, Sonar Studios, Inc., obtained a license to use the picture. The bank removed the photo from its website and the website’s media library after Bell notified the bank that he held the copyright to it. Bell filed the infringement suit after that, and the parties requested summary judgment.

The judge split his decision between the parties. Hanlon ruled in Bell’s favor, writing that “Bell proved ownership” of the picture and that the bank infringed on his copyright. The judge ruled in favor of the bank, however, on the issue of willfulness.

Photographer-Lawyer Established His Ownership of the Picture Used on Bank’s Website

In this case, the bank tried to use a 2019 court decision to back up its claim that Bell did not have ownership rights to the picture. In that previous lawsuit containing similar allegations to this one, Bell ” was found not to have a valid copyright for a contested photo of the Indianapolis skyline.” That photo, however, was taken during the day. The photo at issue here was taken at night. Judge Hanlon determined this was an important distinction.

Judge Rules That Bank Infringed on Photographer’s Copyright, But Not Intentionally

In Judge Hanlon’s summary judgment in the bank’s favor, he determined that there was no evidence that copyright infringement was willful. The bank employee who chose the photo from the online media library of the bank had no control over what was stored in the library – it was the web developer who provided the image to the bank. He stated, “there was nothing in the Photo itself, such as a watermark or copyright symbol, suggesting it was copyrighted material.”

Call Our Copyright Lawyers Helping Photographers Protect Their Rights

At Sanders Law Group, our practice is dedicated to protecting copyrights of photographers and other creative artists.

If you need assistance with a copyright issue such as filing a copyright infringement lawsuit, drafting licensing agreements, or pursuing recourse after someone violates your legal rights, call our office. You can reach our copyright infringement lawyers at 888-348-3090.


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