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Photographer's copyright claim v. website shows difficulty in applying law to Web

The Internet is great for many things. After all, where would we be without Amazon, Priceline or Perez Hilton? Unfortunately, the Internet is also a hotbed for copyright infringement.

As Sacramento readers can understand, when law and technology intersect, it can be tricky to figure out which way is up. Let's look at a recent case that provides a good example of one such tricky situation.

The case starts with two websites, Mediaite.com and Styleite.com, that are owned by Dan Abrams, a television legal correspondent. Abrams' company, Abrams Media Network, was sued by a fashion photographer after it allegedly posted photos she took without her permission.

Mediaite.com and Styleite.com took the photos down after the photographer sent Abrams Media Network a cease-and-desist letter, but it replaced them with links to other sites that still had them up.

The photographer now claims that because Abrams Media Network directed viewers to sites that infringed on her copyright, it is liable for "contributory copyright infringement." That essentially means she believes Abrams Media Network knowingly assisted someone else in infringing on her copyright.

In the pre-eminent contributory copyright infringement case, Perfect 10 v. Google, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that Google's displaying thumbnail images of Perfect 10's work was fair use (i.e. a small, inconsequential use for a legitimate purpose that does not substantially impair the copyright holder's rights).

However, that did not settle the issues because the court also held Google might be contributorily liable it if knew it were providing access to infringing images, could take simple steps to stop that and then did not take the steps. (That issue was never decided in Perfect 10 v. Google).

Based only on what you have read here, what do you think? Is Abrams Media Network cheating a hardworking professional, or is the fashion photographer being over-sensitive?

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, "Fashion Photographer Sues Mediaite Over Photographs of Kate Moss' Sister," Eriq Gardner, July 2, 2012

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