SPRINGFIELD, Mass. –It is important to know more about intellectual property law than just enough to avoid litigation. Disputes involving intellectual property aren’t always played out civilly within the established legal system. Brawls are erupting in the Wild West of social networking, where threats of litigation don’t have much standing and unconventional is the nature of attacks.
As described in a previous article (A Lesson from the NJ101.5 Case.), a radio station got hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit because it used copyright protected images, stripped the identifying information of the photographer from the image, and posted them on its website inviting listeners to download and alter the images.
The station argued that its usage of the image was in the capacity of “news reporting” — a term which appears in the Copyright Act’s non-exhaustive list of potential purposes of fair use (thereby excusing their behavior from infringement liability). While “news reporting” is in fact a justification for copyright infringement – most cases in which news reporting is argued as a fair use defense fail because it is often misapplied – such as in this instance. The Court disagreed with the assertion that the radio station’s usage was news, ruling that news organizations are not free to use any and all copyrighted works without the permission of the creator simply because they wish to report on the same events a work depicts.