A few photos of the exterior of a hotel turned into a multi-year legal battle for Brian Harness, a commercial photographer based in Dallas.
From a set of prints shot for an architectural firm, one photograph found its way onto more than 1,400 web pages without Harness’ permission, according to Harness and his attorney. Harness recently won a copyright infringement settlement from the hotel operator and an Internet service for about $135,000, he says.
The case, while not precedent-setting, is a reminder of the importance of registering photographic work with the U.S. Copyright Office. Photographers stand to benefit when they can prove they registered an image before it was published.
“When you have to defend your copyright, it is stressful at times and it is time-consuming,” Harness says. “But it is worth it. You have to do it.”
It isn’t cheap to fight a copyright case. Harness’ legal bills exceeded $55,000, according to a memorandum provided by Harness’ attorney, Dana LeJune. And there was a risk that if he lost, he might have to pay the defendants’ legal fees.
LeJune says he took Harness’ case in part because Harness had registered the photos with the copyright office, which made the case stronger. In 2000, Harness shot several images of the Bradford Lincoln Park Hotel in Dallas for the firm that designed the building, Merriman Architects.
Harness registered the images with the copyright office and Merriman purchased prints of the photos for promotional purposes. Later that year, Harness met with John Wilson, an officer and director in Intervest, the company that manages the hotel. Wilson had seen Harness’ pictures of the hotel in the architect’s office and decided to purchase prints from Harness, according to documents provided by LeJune.
Read the whole article by Daryl Lang here.
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