Student Newspaper Sued for Thousands of Dollars for Using Creative Commons Photo

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It’s a topic near and dear to the hearts of many and that is a copyright infringement and what to do when it happens.

flat lay photography of black Sony DSLR camera on black surface
Flat lay photography of black Sony DSLR camera on black surface. Photo by Conor Luddy

Today’s story isn’t about a celebrity using an intrusive paparazzi’s photo nor is it about someone stealing photos after a wedding or any number of other scenarios we’ve covered here but, instead, is a good old-fashioned copyright infringement case.

Apparently, a student newspaper “stole” a Creative Commons photo and received a photo demanding thousands in compensation for this deeply illegal act. The only problem is that the student newspaper in question doesn’t believe they stole the photograph but, as SPLC points out, not following a very specific list of requirements not only places the user in danger of lawsuit but also opens up media users of all types to litigation if they aren’t careful.

From SPLC:

“Whatever it says, if you want to use a Creative Commons photo you must take the time to read and comply with the license requirements or risk being sued for copyright infringement. Unfortunately, some photographers and companies are now intentionally taking advantage by including very specific or complex licensing terms that they know most – or at least many — users probably won’t comply with. Let’s call it what is: a trap. And once a user falls into their trap, a demand letter soon follows.”

The artistic work violating copyright in this case? A generic photo of a syringe that “they didn’t read the license requirements further, which required that users also link to a specific page on the photographer’s website and include licensing terms in the photo’s file credits, which they didn’t do. So they were out of compliance with the Creative Commons license and now the photographer is demanding over $5,000 for his simple, generic photo.”

Should monetary awards and punitive amounts be larger to discourage using photographs on the Internet that you don’t have the right to use OR are not clear on whether you have the right to use them? Let us know your thoughts on what should be done to punish copyright offenders in the comments below.

Check out our other photography news on Light Stalking at this link right here.

[SPLC]

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Kehl is our staff photography news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here

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