Artist Sues Photographer For Transformative Photo Of Public Artwork, Even Though Photographer Took Down The Photo
from the step-on-this dept
A whole bunch of you sent over yet another story of copyright law gone wrong. An artist named Jack Mackie, who created a piece of artwork made up of bronze shoeprints buried in a sidewalk in Seattle (I’d post a picture, but we’d probably get sued) apparently got upset that a photographer took some photos of it. Remember, it’s on a sidewalk. In a public place. And it’s a piece of artwork, so people are going to take photos. In this case, the photographer, Mike Hipple, took a photo that was a clear transformative work, rather than a straight copy. The photo, which you can see here, featured someone’s feet standing on the art installation — something you would imagine makes a lot of sense as a commentary on the artwork (since the work itself is of of shoeprints). Cool, right? Not according to Mackie. Hipple posted the photo to a stock photo website — which does no damage whatsoever to Mackie’s work — and should only call more attention to it. No matter, Mackie sent a legal nastygram. But here’s the thing: Hipple complied. He took down the photo and erased it. He no longer has a copy of it. So he complied with the nastygram.
And Mackie sued anyway. He actually waited a year, and then sued, even though the photo had been gone since just a few days after the nastygram was sent. It seems like this should be a clear transformative use. It wasn’t just a photo of the artwork, but added a different element that acted as a bit of commentary on the work itself. It’s hard to see how this would have even the slightest negative impact on the actual work or the artist. This is just the sort of ridiculous situation that arises when people are told that they “own” something that cannot be owned.