Photo Co. Sues On Copyright

A Canadian website calling itself a “leader in social news and citizen journalism” is being sued for allegedly copying photos without permission. Digital Journal Inc. yesterday did not comment on the federal lawsuit.

“I wish we didn’t have to do this,” said Larry  Minden, president of Minden Pictures Inc. of Aptos, Calif. “Nobody likes to become the enforcer, but it’s my photography business. It’s my fiduciary responsibility to try and protect copyright.”

Minden Inc. in a Federal Court application accused the Toronto-based Digital Journal of republishing five copyright photos for a period of three to five years. The website removed the photos last December 8 only when contacted by the owners, according to Court documents. Images were copied without payment or permission, said Minden.

“Those who use our pictures without authorization run the gamut from companies that are founded on the principle of grabbing what they can online and using it to attract eyeballs, to those who have no idea or understanding of copyright law,” said Minden. “It’s all over the map.”

Minden’s Court application said the stock image supplier typically charges US$500 a year for use of a single photograph. The company seeks $12,701 in damages from Digital Journal Inc.

“The creation of the photographs required an exercise of skill and judgment that necessarily involved intellectual effort,” Minden’s lawyer wrote the Court. “Minden has not been compensated for the unauthorized use of the photographs in which it holds copyright.”

“We’re not out there to beat anybody up,” Minden said in an interview. “It’s much like the issue with music or film. If everybody would license this material, then everything would be hunky-dory.”

Digital Journal in a 2009 feature Experts Advise Citizen Journalists On Copyright Law wrote, “Media law can be confusing”; “One of the more difficult decisions a citizen reporter must make concerns uploading images. What photos are copyright free?”

“According to media law expert Michael Geist, the Canadian law is unclear, so far,” the feature continued. “‘There is no specific rule relating to third-party uploading of content’”; “Based on a number of past suits, the site owner will unlikely be responsible for third-party infractions,” Geist was quoted.

Prof. Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, was appointed to the Digital Journal board in 2010.

By Jason Unrau

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