A cat with a violin

A few issues came to my attention last night. Even as it is great to have a 9 month summer in Sydney, yet when you are in a Victorian house and the temperature inside the room is 10 degrees more than outside, you tend to forego a little sleep that tends to be the nature of the beast between Christmas and the end of February. So as I saw ‘Why celebrities are being sued over images of themselves‘ (at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-47128788), I woke up a little more than I was comfortable with. You see, the issue is given with “A number of well-known celebrities, including Jennifer Lopez and model Gigi Hadid, have had lawsuits filed against them for posting paparazzi images on their social media accounts.” This is true; the creator owns the copyright, so in that case the paparazzi. This gave me the idea that we can finally use the law to stop the unacceptable amount of invasion of privacy (as well as public harassment). This is seen when we consider one small part of the copyright act where we could change the game.

In the UK there is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. Here we see in section 20: “(1)The communication to the public of the work is an act restricted by the copyright in—
(a)a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work,

As well as:

(2) References in this Part to communication to the public are to communication to the public by electronic transmission, and in relation to a work include—
(b) the making available to the public of the work by electronic transmission in such a way that members of the public may access it from a place and at a time individually chosen by them.

These parts give the right exclusively to the creator (the paparazzi), yet we can counter this with the idea of ‘Where the work is the product of a collaboration, the copyright may be jointly owned.

It is stated in section 10 with:

Works of joint authorship.
(1) In this Part a “work of joint authorship” means a work produced by the collaboration of two or more authors in which the contribution of each author is not distinct from that of the other author or authors.

As such, when we set the stage that unless clearly documented, any photographic work is automatically a joined authorship. It would be a first step in culling abusive paparazzi’s. It would give rise to less trespass on others people privacy. There is little we can do in the public environment, because that remains a real stage and there are decent paparazzi’s, and they seem to limit their activities to the red carpet events. It does not completely solve the issue as there if a gap between what the Paparazzi can do and the direct invasion of privacy which is protected through torts in pretty much every common law nation.

Yet we can in part stop these activities by making every photographed person a joint owner of the image. It still allows for the photographer to do their work, because most models sign a contract/ agreement including one that hands over the rights of the photos through a release agreement, which at that point hands the rights to the photographer/modelling agency. For them nothing changes, yet the paparazzi would get culled as the model could publish images on their own channel (any social media) diluting the value of their image to €0.01. Giving the paparazzi that feeling that he has been working for the cat’s violin that day (an expression that means ‘for naught’). A few of these events and he/she will find becoming an Uber driver to be a more profitable vocation.

By adding:

(2)In this Part a “work of joint authorship” means any artistic work where the photograph included a person, who as the model becomes author through collaboration as a contributor, in which the contribution of the work is seen as an equal to the actual creator (the photographer) of the artistic work.

If the paparazzi claims that this is not the case loses as the model becomes co-owner unless there is a release agreement. It would solve a lot of issues for many models and celebrities in one go.

I also agree with the quote: “Neel Chatterjee, a US lawyer who specialises in high-profile intellectual property disputes, says social media has created an “enormous amount of complexity” in the field.” This is true, but I also believe that the matter could have been simplified a long time ago and I wonder why this step had not been set in motion a lot sooner. It was not that complex, was it?

Still, time is needed to consider and test the addition, whether it holds water and what else is affected, I believe that culling the paparazzi is a decent choice of lifestyle and in addition to that, there is a decent chance that we can nip the entire “copyright trolling” in the behind before it takes on a size that clogs up the court system (especially in the US and UK). In addition it would not impact players like Getty Images as they tend to remain at the red carpet events, even better (for them) their need might increase over time, or perhaps better stated they will grow the foundation of their workflow and I am not against that, to be honest I think that it will not affect any paparazzi that limits themselves to a decent place at the red carpet line. Those moments are for the celebrities to market their work, their albums, movies and charities.

Even as we can all agree with: “defence in regards to paparazzi copyright complaints remains complex and largely untested in case law“, Mr Chatterjee is right yet I feel that we could try and defuse the situation before it is too late and a long term precedent will have been created.



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Filed under Law, Media, Politics

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