Online Intellectual Property Law: Can You Now Use Any Image Found Online?

July 23, 2018

Online business lawyers are buzzing about the Brammer v. Violent Hues Productions LLC ruling. The case involved a photo that was lifted, without permission, from a photographer’s Flickr page and then used on a film festival’s website. Contrary to established case law, the presiding judge sided with the site citing fair use.

Let’s dissect the Brammer online intellectual property case and extract some business lessons from it.

(Did you land here in search of an online intellectual property lawyer or online business attorney? If yes, and you have a copyright or trademark matter with which you need an attorney’s hand, get in touch.)

Online Intellectual Property Law: The Brammer Flickr Fair Use Case

The Northern Virginia Film Festival’s website once included a snapshot of the trendy Washington, DC enclave of Adam’s Morgan taken by photographer Russell Brammer. The only problem: Nobody from the festival secured Brammer’s permission to use the graphic. Upon discovery, the photographer asked the organization to remove the picture.

The film festival folks complied. But Brammer — as was his right as the copyright holder —sued for infringement.

Legal watchers assumed that Brammer would easily walk away with the win. But the bench came back with a surprising verdict. Judge Clause Hilton deemed that the film festival used Brammer’s photo in an “informational” capacity that did not directly generate revenue (even though the website solicited donations).

Brammer did include an “all rights reserved” warning alongside his work. However, in the eyes of Judge Hilton, the photographer was not financially wounded by the incident, especially since the website removed the photo as soon as the issue was brought to its attention.

Online Intellectual Property Case: Takeaways For Businesses

This online intellectual property ruling doesn’t mean that all graphics and photos discoverable online are now yours for the taking. (Slaps away hand.) But the Brammer ruling does open up new litigatory avenues for digital copyright cases.

Again, this ruling doesn’t mean you can use any picture floating in the ether, claim fair use, and get away with it. Play it safe and assume that every photograph you stumble upon is protected by copyright laws unless it is marked as a Creative Commons (CC) license, which can be freely distributed in almost all cases.

However, under the right circumstances, businesses accused of online copyright infringement may have a new line of defense if the Brammer ruling holds.

This case also serves as a reminder to formally register your business’ intellectual property. Doing so gives you more protections under the law. If you need assistance with any registration hurdles, by all means, give the online business lawyers at Gordon Law Group a call. We handle local, state, national, and international copyright and trademark matters.

Connect With An Online Intellectual Property Lawyer

The Gordon Law Group regularly works with affiliate marketers, online businesses, and artists on various copyright and trademark matters. Whether you need assistance with securing content or an experienced attorney to handle a conflict, we’re here to help.

Get in touch today. The consultation is on us. We have the answers to your questions.

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