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Good News! Appeals Court Says Copying Internet Photos is not ‘Fair Use’

As a photographer, just the act putting your pictures online can be a bit nerve wracking. Not only are you busting your ass trying to get hired, but you have to worry about people stealing your pictures and then claiming it was ‘fair use.’

You may recall the story from last year about photographer Russell Brammer who found a picture he’d taken of Washington D.C. on a commercial website for a film festival.

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A district judge ruled that the case WAS fair use and that it passed the four fair use factors and did no damage to Brammer’s commerical market for the photo…

Well, today, the district appeals court released their decision:

Brammer Decision 04-26-19 by on Scribd

Here are a few highlights from Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz’s decision:

“We conclude that none [of the fair use factors] weighs in favor of Violent Hues. Considering these factors together, it is clear that the copying here fails the ‘ultimate test’ of fair use: Violent Hues’ online display of Brammer’s Photo does not serve the interest of copyright law. […]

“We reach our conclusion with the recognition that the Internet has made copying as easy as a few clicks of a button and that much of this copying serves copyright’s objectives. Many social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are specifically designed for the participatory ‘sharing’ — or copying — of content. We express no opinion as to whether such sharing constitutes fair use. We note, however, that Violent Hues’ use is not of this kind. […]

“Violent Hues did not comment on the Photo, promote the Photo, ‘remix’ the Photo, or otherwise engage with the Photo in a way that might stimulate new insights. What Violent Hues did was publish a tourism guide for a commercial event and include the Photo to make the end product more visually interesting. Such a use would not constitute fair use when done in print, and it does not constitute fair use on the Internet.”

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So, yea…you can’t just grab a photo off the internet and use it for your business.

What do you think of this decision? Let us know in the comments.

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The Nerdy Photographer
The Nerdy Photographer

With more than a quarter century as a professional photographer, The Nerdy Photographer's goal is to spread knowledge and laughter throughout the photo industry. Please follow along on social media and subscribe to the podcast.

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