Miami Heat minority owner Raanan Katz didn’t like a photo of him that has been published, so he’s suing the blogger that put it online as well as Google alleging copyright infringement.
The complaint maintains that Katz first pursued a remedy via the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (twice), requesting that Google remove the “unflattering” image in question from the Google-owned Blogspot blog, but that Google declined to do so (twice).
The complaint alleges that Katz owns the copyright in the image and that Google has been “contributory” in the alleged copyright infringement. Katz seeks to have the image removed and destroyed and requests actual damages and any profits of Google.
Copyright, however, does not normally remain with the subject of a photograph, but rather with the photographer, unless the photo is a “work-for-hire,” that is, when someone had hired the photographer specifically to take the photo.
“In this case, Mr. Katz does not appear to own the copyright to the photo,” Attorney Carolyn E. Wright of Photo Attorney told LegalZoom. “However, he has rights as the person in the photo, which is a right separate from the copyright.”
Wright is talking about privacy rights, which can restrict the use of photos taken of people out and about in public. Wright explained to LegalZoom, however, that Katz doesn’t even seem to have a valid claim under any of the four types of privacy rights, either.
For starters, Wright noted, there doesn’t seem to have been an “invasion of privacy,” or the entering of another’s private domain to take this photo. Moreover, no personal facts have been publicly exposed in the photo, Katz hasn’t been portrayed in a false light, and his name or likeness has not been commercially appropriated (commonly known as the right of publicity). (Katz’s claims against Google would seem an attempt to plead otherwise.)
Wright concluded that since the First Amendment allows photographers and publishers to publish a person’s photograph “when used for newsworthy or other editorial purposes . . . Mr. Katz likely has no right to complain.”
As reported by TechDirt, this is actually the second time Katz has been engaged in a legal dispute with this particular blogger, identified as Irina Chevaldina in the complaints; the first go-around involved an allegation of defamation.
In the defamation suit, Katz’s attorneys seek to stop Chevaldina from publishing legal documents pertaining to his business. On the blog called RK Associates, Chevaldina “presents publicly available information about RK Centers (former RK Associates), including court records, media publications and opinions.”
Defamation suits are notoriously difficult to prove where the allegedly defamed person is a public figure. Because of this, Katz’s attorneys have argued that he is not a public figure, which will be a tough mountain to climb since, among other things, Katz has a street and an “official day” named for him.
What do you think of these lawsuits? Should you be able to sue over “publication of bad pictures?”
Update 6/28/12: The complaint asserts that “Katz is the owner, by assignment, of . . . all copyright rights.” It’s possible the photographer/original copyright owner signed these right over to Katz, but the complaint provides no info on the alleged transfer. If the transfer did take place, then Katz may sue for copyright infringement.