Oscar Winner Sues BBC & CBS For Copyright Infringement Of His Photo

from the something's-missing dept

THREsq has an interesting story about how the guy, Louie Psihoyos, who won an Oscar for best documentary this year for The Cove, apparently has a pretty quick legal trigger finger against anyone using a photograph he took 15 years ago. He’s sued a bunch of companies over the years, and the latest is the BBC and CBS. He claims that it cost him $100,000 to create the photograph, which can be seen here:

Psihoyos Image
And, yes, THREsq is showing the photo as well. In these two cases, it seems like clear fair use, since we’re both reporting on the photo itself. However, where the BBC potentially got into trouble is in using the same photo to illustrate an article about Intel betting on TV and video content. What’s odd, however, is that the reason CBS is being sued is “that CBS Marketing appropriated it for commercial display at the 2009 Intel Developers Forum.” This makes me wonder if CBS Marketing used the image at the event that the BBC was reporting on, leading the BBC to believe it had the ability to use that image. That could make the legal fight a bit more interesting.

However, the article also notes that Psihoyos has sued a bunch of times in the past over this photo as well. For example, a year ago, he sued Apple for the second time over this photo. While that lawsuit was eventually settled, the details suggest that Psihoyos was barking up the wrong tree on that lawsuit. It wasn’t a case of Apple using the image, but a random iPhone app developer. You would think that Apple would have a clear DMCA safe harbor response, which would protect it from such a lawsuit, so I’m a bit surprised they ended up settling.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: bbc, cbs, intel

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Oscar Winner Sues BBC & CBS For Copyright Infringement Of His Photo”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
cc (profile) says:

$100k to create a photograph?? What a terrible waste of money, for something that can be done for a tiny fraction of that using 3d (easily available in 1995).

And what business sense does it make to spend $100k to create a photograph? None, because it’s unlikely you’ll ever recover all that money — unless you use it to sue the world for massive damages, that is.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Easily doable in 1995? Not in the slightest, 3d software was rare and very expensive, machines that could run it even more so and people with good skills to do it rarest of all

People seem to regularly forget how far computing has come in the last 15 years

No – it was easily do-able in 1995. A flick through the SIGGRAPH conference proceedings from the preceding 15 years (1980-1995) should easily convince you of that.

It could have been done using POVray on a moderate PC by anyone who had done a degree level graphics module and spent a month learning the syntax.

Crosbie Fitch (profile) says:

The work is not the copy

I daresay NASA spent a bit setting up the Space Shuttle. Does that make photos of it expensive?

Similarly, you could set a briefcase containing a million dollars alight in order to photograph it. Does that make the photo worth more than it cost to print it?

Work is not transferred into a recording. The recording is just a recording. The recording itself may have involved some work, but that’s independent of the work being recorded, and independent of the cost of making a copy of the recording.

Copyright has got a lot to answer for.

The sooner it’s abolished the better.

Darcy from Arcy says:

Re: The work is not the copy

“I daresay NASA spent a bit setting up the Space Shuttle. Does that make photos of it expensive?”

The sole purpose of setting up the space shuttle was not to take a picture of it.
I daresay the sole purpose of setting up all the TVs was to take a picture of them. Even if he did want to try to catch everything on TV at that moment.

I daresay the rest of your points are reasonable though.

JackSombra (profile) says:

No safe harbour for the app store

How would apple have DMCA safe harbour protection?

Anything and everything that can appear on the app store has to be approved by them beforehand (and they charge for this) and then they make a direct percentage based profit from any sales of that app.

This very process removes their safe harbour protection and makes them a retailer, not a “service provider” which is who the safe harbour protections were designed for

Vic B (profile) says:

The back and forth argument over the Photoshop suggestion is pointless. That’s what art work is, choice to create any which way you want and this guy wanted to do this real.
Should he have the right to sue anyone who uses his pic without authorization? I think so, particularly if -as in this case- it is a business using it to promote one of their activity/product.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That’s what art work is, choice to create any which way you want and this guy wanted to do this real.

Maybe – but the point is that the value of the work and the rights of the artist don’t depend one little bit on how much it actually cost to make. So the artist’s protestations about how much it cost are the thing that is pointless.

hmm says:

$1000 for the photo set-up and $99,000 to pay the guy in the centre (it’s Elvis isn’t it?!!?)..

or possible $1000 for the photo then $99,000 to destroy the tv screens afterward (otherwise re-selling/renting the screens would have reduced the cost quite a bit)…

Third option…$1000 for the photo, and £99,000 to edit out the girl that had her head in the guy’s lap….

Cyberpoint (profile) says:

His artwork

I’m with this guy, actually, which surprises me.

Go to any stock image site and you’ll find hundreds of vaguely similar photoshopped or rendered images for sale. You’ll find plenty for free as well.

But the point is this guy created it; he owns it. It doesn’t matter whether anyone else thinks it has any artistic merit, or whether they believe his claim for how much it cost him to create, or whether they think he was a dumbass for not doing it with 3d animation; it’s his.

So I think he’s entitled to try and stop people like the BBC and CBS using it as a free stock image to illustrate unrelated stories.

For what it’s worth, it looks to me like he really did hire a studio, set up 500 TVs, tune them in and probably take scores of photos to get the perfect one. Nice job.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...