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August 09, 2018

European Union Strengthens Copyright Protections in Landmark Ruling

In early July 2018, a Virginia federal court ruled that it was OK to use an image obtained on the internet without permission, due to "fair use". This decision caused an uproar in the copyright community since it violated the basic grounds of copyright protection and effectively chipped away at the rights many creators have been fighting for.

Just as a reminder, the "fair use" doctrine is a four-part test that may seem fairly simple to apply, but in reality is surrounded by vagueness, confusion, and controversy. When determining if something is fair use, the Court will look at:

  • The purpose and character of your use
  • The nature of the copyrighted work
  • The amount and substantiality of the portion taken
  • The effect of the use upon the potential market

Applying the above test, many federal courts in the United States have come up with their own interpretations, and have further muddled the definition of "fair use". Interestingly enough, our friends across the pond in the European Union have taken a large step in protecting creators from infringement via the internet.

On August 8th, an EU court decided "[A]ny use of a work by a third party without such prior consent must be regarded as infringing the copyright of that work". The court basically goes on to say that just because an image is publically available on the internet, does not mean you are free to use the image however you like. Getting permission prior to the use of that image is absolutely necessary.

After the decision came down, one copyright attorney went on to say, "…the idea is that we as a society should appreciate and protect copyrighted works. The overall intention of the Commission, European Parliament, and the court is to create respect for copyright."

Of course, the decision made in the EU will not have an effect on court decisions in the United States, however, we hope that the United States will follow the lead of our friends across the pound and protect creators from copyright infringers.

Read the full article about the EU case here. And please show your support for the creation of a copyright small claims process to protect photographers in cases of infringement at