When Seattle-based photographer Mike Hipple took this stock picture, at left, of a 1979-vintage, public-arts-financed, sidewalk piece called “Dance Steps on Broadway” by artist Jack Mackie, he had no idea that he had just stepped in the worst s—-t the sidewalk can dish up.
Because Mackie is suing Hipple to the tune of $60,000 for copyright infringement.
Now, we all know the economy sucks. And I usually reserve my outrage for predatory corporate entities bent on the economic pillaging of the individual content producer.
But now, things are apparently so bad, that it’s content-producer eating content-producer…a veritable Lord of the Flies scenario for image-makers.
In the words of the ill-fated Simi Valley motorist Rodney King, “can we all just get along?”
Hipple’s stock agency, upon receiving notice from the “artist” and his legal team, took the picture down from their site. But that wasn’t good enough. Mackie, who had wisely registered his piece, is now seeking punitive damages to the tune of the aforementioned $60 grand.
For more information on how this case is playing out, and how you can help (this affects each and every one of us who shoots travel pictures in public places), hit the jump.
Here’s Hipple’s statement on the case:
Now if this doesn’t qualify as fair use of the sculpture, I don’t know what does. “Fair Use” is a legal concept that allows a certain amount of copying of someone else’s work—you can get a fuller idea of how it works at the Stanford Fair Use Project website.
Think of it this way: if Mr. Mackie is correct and this isn’t fair use, then he can file a $60,000 law suit against anyone who, when strolling along Capitol Hill, thinks the dance steps are nice and takes a photo or video. He may not find you if you just leave the image on your camera or computer, but as soon as you post it to Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, etc., he can (and apparently will) sue you.
We’ve had cases like this before. When Anish Kapoor’s Cloudgate sculpture (aka “The Bean”) was first displayed in Chicago’s Millenium Park, they tried to prevent any professional photography of the publicly financed and displayed artwork. That lasted about a year or so before it was knocked down.
In the meantime, Hipple has set up a legal defense fund site to which you can contribute. If you are a member of ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers), write to your local chapter to see if we can get the organization’s Legal Action fund (to which I am a regular contributor) to adopt Hipple’s case. And if you can’t afford to do either, send Mike an email of support.
This is an important case and from what I can glean, Hipple doesn’t have the means to fight it. But if somebody doesn’t come to his aid, one thing is for sure….
Photographers are going to get walked over….again and again.