Benefits / Resources / Articles
August 28, 2018

Copyright vs. Conscience: Why Legal Action Isn’t Always the Right Move

When discussing the topic of infringement and copyright, you may think there’s no excuse for it. Professional photographers are constantly fighting against having their copyrights violated; they dedicate their time drawing up contracts and hiring lawyers to ensure their images aren’t unfairly used, which would subsequently rob them of rightful recognition and thousands of dollars.

However, Blair Bunting tells a different story on why sometimes it’s better to back off than to pursue legal action.

Blair Bunting is an esteemed photographer who often shoots celebrities, so as a byproduct, he’s also an expert in dealing with his photos being unlawfully distributed. He’s constantly fighting to protect himself as well as his clients, so when he woke up one day to find one of his photographs being broadcasted on Fox News without his permission, he was quick to start searching for the source of the unauthorized image.

Bunting found it strange the channel was using that specific image in their story, since the photograph was one he hadn’t published. The featured photo was a simple test shot of an old man, Richard Harrison, wearing sunglasses to protect his eyes from the sun. Bunting sat at his computer and traced the photo back, so he could eventually seek legal action, until he ran upon the photo on Richard Harrison’s son’s Facebook page.

Fox News had ran a story about the old man because he had recently passed away, and his son had posted on Facebook to memorialize and to say goodbye to his father, a man whom had loved him his entire life. The photo Bunting had taken of the old man wearing his sunglasses was the son’s favorite; it was a photo he had cherished for many years.

As Bunting was in the midst of talking to his lawyer on the phone, he realized this was a case not worth following. Richard’s son hadn’t shared the photo to profit off Bunting’s work, but rather, to remember someone he cared about deeply. Bunting ended up giving the family a high-resolution version of the photo, since the only version the son had of it was taken from an old magazine page. When it comes to copyright, there are hundreds of unjust stories of theft, so an unusual story like this reminds you of why you take photos in the first place.

Unfortunately, most stories aren’t like this, and that’s the reason that a Small Claims process can be a game-changer for photographers and creative artists. It will help them enforce their copyright in cost-effective and efficient ways. We need everyone to support Small Claims so learn more and lend your voice today. To read the full version of this article, go to DIY Photography, and if you want more copyright advice, join PPA today!