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Significant Photography Copyright Cases

Photography Copyright Review: Some of The Most Famous Cases in Photography History

At Sanders Law Group, we represent photographers worldwide in all types of copyright matters. We can help register copyrights, draft and enforce licensing agreements, and file lawsuits when someone infringes on your copyright.

Our vast experience handling copyright cases is coupled with in-depth knowledge of the domestic and international laws that affect photographers’ rights. Here, we share with you some of the most well-known rulings, courtesy of, that have substantial impacts on photographers and their rights.

  1. Photographer John Mannion photographed NBA star Kevin Garnett for a magazine. Coors recreated the photo for a billboard ad for its beer. The court ruled in favor of the photographer, stating that copyright can protect the look and feel of a photo. Factors like originality, rendition, timing, and creation of the subject matter in a photograph can have an effect on copyright infringement.
  2. A Hassidic man sued a photographer for publishing a photograph of him without his permission. The court ruled that the first amendment allows photographers to publish, sell, and display “street photography,” without asking permission from the subject.
  3. According to a UK court, using a photoshop technique to retouch images might result in copyright infringement. An English tea company photoshopped an image to depict a red bus driving over a gray-colored rendition of the Westminster Bridge. The image was allegedly identical to one created by a souvenir company. The judge ruled that the individual photography techniques used by the souvenir company – i.e., taking a black and white photo and inserting color or combining the image of a double-decker bus driving over the bridge, when combined created a new “intellectual creation.” The judge determined that the tea company reproduced the “combination of visual contrast features,” violating the rights of the original photographer. This “red bus ruling” remains a controversial one.
  4. Lara Jane Colton was beginning a career as a professional photographer when she learned a DVD company took one of her self-portraits and was using it on the cover of a pornographic DVD. Colton won her case for copyright infringement. It was one of the first cases to demonstrate how easy it can be to steal photographs online and how important it is for photographers to enforce their rights and protect their copyrighted materials.
  5. Property owners sought injunctive relief and penalties for trespassing after a photographer took a picture on their private property and sold it. The court found in favor of the photographer on the issue of copyright, declaring that taking a picture on private property does not transfer copyright to the owner of the property. Copyright remains with the photographer, even if he or she is trespassing.

These are just some of the cases that re-enforce the rights of photographers. There are issues that remain at the forefront of copyright litigation and require photographers and their lawyers to be persistent and diligent when it comes to enforcing legal rights.

Photographers Call Sanders Law Group, When They Need Help Enforcing Copyrights

Call our copyright lawyers today at 888-348-3090 for a free evaluation of your copyright infringement lawsuit. We handle copyright cases for photographers and other creative professionals around the world. If you need assistance with a registration issue, license agreement, lawsuit, or other copyright claims, call Sanders Law Group.


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