Kristen Pierson’s Facebook page describes her “as an internationally published music and portrait photographer specializing in concert photography and band portraits”. A New England community newspaper used one of Ms. Pierson’s photographs in an article about a Rhode Island-based singer. Ms. Pierson contacted the newspaper to tell them the photo belonged to her. She also sent the newspaper an invoice with a license fee for using the photograph.
In a reply voice-mail message to Ms. Pierson, an editor of the offending newspaper revealed a deep misunderstanding of copyright law. (You can listen to the voice-mail message here.) Here are the reasons the editor used to defend the newspaper’s use of the photograph – and why those defenses are wrong:
A Third Party Gave the Photo to the Newspaper. The photograph was emailed to the newspaper. Since the photograph was given to the newspaper and the newspaper didn’t take it from somebody, it was okay for the newspaper to publish the photograph.
WRONG! Receiving material from a third party does not eliminate your responsibility for checking the copyright status of the material and verifying that you have permission to publish the material.
Pierson Received a Credit. The publication of the photograph included Pierson’s watermark crediting the photo to her. The editor’s implication is providing a credit made the use permissible.
WRONG! Credit is irrelevant. Giving a credit or other attribution does not impact your infringement of someone else’s copyrighted material when you use it without permission.
Public Domain. The photograph is in the public domain because it was on Facebook. Hence, it was okay for the newspaper to use the photograph.