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Court partially dismisses claim over magazine's use of photos

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    NMU         NEW YORK         Copyrights & Trademarks         Jan 25, 2001    

Court partially dismisses claim over magazine’s use of photos

  • A magazine must answer claims that it violated copyright law by allegedly breaching a contract with a photographer.

A New York district court on Jan. 16 granted in part and denied in part a magazine’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit over copyright infringement of photographs.

Joe Marvullo claimed that a magazine violated copyright laws when it published his photographs with an article he did not agree to, cropped the photos without his permission, printed it without captions and failed to give copyright credit or credit to the photographer.

District Judge Robert L. Carter dismissed Marvullo’s allegations of cropping and failure to give credit. He ruled that failure to include credit and copyright notice had little to do with the use of the copyrighted material beyond the scope of the license granted, and was at most a breach of contract. Carter also dismissed the claims for unfair competition as well as demands for statutory damages and attorney’s fees because the alleged infringing occurred before the copyright registration date.

Carter did not dismiss Marvullo’s copyright infringement allegations concerning the use of the photographs in connection to an article that Marvullo did not agree to and contributory infringement against Stern Magazine.

The photographs appeared in a 1998 Stern Magazine article. Marvullo had negotiated with the magazine to provide photographs for an article highlighting White House photographers. In a 1997 letter, the magazine agreed to submit the article to Marvullo for his approval. When the photographs appeared in the magazine, they accompanied an article about President Bill Clinton’s political and personal troubles. Marvullo said he never saw the article that appeared in print.

In billing for the photographs, Marvullo instructed the magazine on how the credit and copyright should appear. The photographs accompanying the article did not credit Marvullo, but someone else. Marvullo also provided captions for the photographs, but they were never used in the article.

(Joe Marvullo v Gruner & Jahr, Stern Magazine Corporation; Media Counsel: Gregory F. Hauser, Walter, Conston, Alexander & Green, New York) EH

© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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