I’m Gonna Sue!

[by Jim Cavanaugh]

When I was a Chapter President, I would often get calls from angry members who found that one of their photographs had been infringed. They wanted the name of a copyright attorney so they could sue the infringer. I was always stunned when I asked about what the person said after they contacted them about the infringement. In virtually every case, I got the same answer, “Oh, I didn’t contact them, they used my photograph with out permission, I’m gonna sue them!”

Well, in 35 years as a working photographer, I’ve never been in a courtroom except to photograph it. I have made it 35 years without suing anyone. And I have had countless images infringed during the same time. I simply look at situation differently.

If someone “stole” one my images,  it seems to me that they liked my image or they would not have used it. Are they a potential new client? Can a negative be turned into a positive? Filing a law suit certainly will not let that happen.

Before you run to an attorney, contact the company and let them know that you are aware that they have used one of your copyrighted photographs without the required permission and payment and that you would like to resolve the situation fairly so that they may continue to use the image. And, perhaps license more in the future.

By Jim Cavanaugh | Posted: February 26th, 2010 | 5 comments


5 Responses to 'I’m Gonna Sue!'

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  1. [...] Cavanaugh has a great blog entry over at the Strictly Business Blog about why you might want to try to work with the infringer rather than immediately hiring an [...]


  2. “No one wins lawsuits”, is a true statement apart from extremes. The chances of YOU being one of those is very, very small. Yet, I find myself coming very close this year.

    - A two year old invoice.
    - Registered Trade Mark
    - Proof that they’ve been using it for 2 years
    - Iron Clad contract
    - Email Trail of communication with client
    - Legal ground work establishing a foundation and exhausting every other option.

    This is what it takes and even then, at best, I will get the original contracted price + legal fees + interest if I’m lucky!

    By Bruce DeBoer | Feb 28, 2010


  3. Bruce,

    This scenario may not be a copyright issue but a contractual issue. My post addresses an unauthorized use. It seems that you had an agreed upon use and price and simply failure of the client to pay you for what your client agreed.

    Many photographers will add a clause to their agreements that states “license for use is not granted until payment in full is received”. In essence saying that using an image and failing to pay is a copyright violation. Unfortunately various courts have come down on both sides of this issue, some saying it is a copyright violation while others have said it is a contractual issue.

    After two years, I would agree that this dispute may leave no option other than seeking legal remedies.

    By Jim Cavanaugh | Mar 1, 2010


  4. Sometimes though, court is the last response and resort. In 1987 I found a publisher for a Calgary, Canada coffee table book for the upcoming Olympics. The publisher had the current mayor agree to write a ford, took 97 original transparencies to his office so he could have some idea of what to write. Said mayor and publisher went to lunch, transparencies left on the mayor’s desk. On their return, the transparencies had disappeared.A frantic search found nothing. I hired a litigation law firm; in Canada cities have legal departments, no insurance. It took 6 years to settle, my lawyer against 14 lawyers for the city. They settled at the last minute before proceedings were to start. I also sued the publisher and won that one out of court.Sometimes it is the only solution.

    By Ottmar Bierwagen | Mar 4, 2010


  5. Ottmar,

    Sometimes it is the only solution. I just want to try and make it the final solution.

    By Jim Cavanaugh | Mar 4, 2010



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