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10-25-2016, 03:25 PM   #1
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Photo sparks intellectual property battle with University of Houston

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The university not only used the image, a photo of the Houston skyline, but even removed the credit of the photographer, Jim Olive. When Olive sent a bill for $41,000 - $16,000 for its frequent use of the photo and $25,000 for stripping off the credit - the university, which has a $1.6 billion operating budget, refused to pay. And when Olive threatened the legal action, the university, a public institution, said it would claim sovereign immunity, a well-established legal principle that protects a state from getting sued.



10-25-2016, 04:06 PM   #2
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I'd have let the use of the photo go - any publicity is good publicity - but removing the photographer credit was IMO deliberate malice, and I don't think sovereign immunity should protect them. I hope he cleans them out.
10-25-2016, 05:02 PM - 2 Likes   #3
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Just another example of the entrenched establishment using power and access to its benefit at the expense of the individual. Liberty, Rights, Self-Determination, Rule Of Law - all these things mean less each day as we lower our independent, exceptional selves to a paternalistic global standard.
10-25-2016, 05:42 PM   #4
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It seems blatantly, obviously wrong. . . and yet, a careful reading of the article reveals how this could be possible. (Fair warning: I am not a lawyer! I don't even play one on TV. But I am interested in stuff like this.)

From the article. . .

QuoteQuote:
Steven Mitby, a Houston lawyer who specializes in intellectual property . . . added that government institutions should not be above the law. "Your ability to protect your property shouldn't depend on who is trying to steal it," he said.
But there's a problem with that. The university isn't trying to steal his property. They're infringing his copyright. That's two different things, no matter how much some people try to conflate them.

But wait, you say! Copyright infringement is still against the law, isn't it? It may not be theft as such, but it's a civil infraction, and it's something that you can sue over. Right?

Normally, yes. The article goes after this, but doesn't quite hit the mark. . .

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Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court sided with raisin farmers who argued they shouldn't be forced to give up part of their crop each year to the government under a program designed to maintain price stability for agricultural products. The court agreed with the farmers who claimed their raisins were personal property and protected by the same constitutional principle that protects real estate owners.
The US Constitution doesn't allow you to be deprived of your property without due process. However. . . The catch here is that copyright isn't real estate and it isn't raisins. Intellectual property is not property that you own; it's a set of economic privileges arbitrarily assigned to you by the state for the benefit of the public. (That you, as copyright holder, may also benefit is merely incidental. It's a means to an end, not something you're organically entitled to.) And since copyright is assigned by the state, and the state sets the rules and conditions of copyright, and the University of Houston is an arm of the state, then anything they do with the photos becomes legally valid. At worst their actions may violate the government's own internal policies, and it may (and IMHO should!) get them in trouble with with higher-ups, but it's not something you can sue them over.

The other thing he might look into is sending the university a DMCA notice. DMCA provides criminal penalties for some forms of copyright violation (although I'm not sure if it's applicable to this), and sovereign immunity won't shield them if they've committed crimes. The problem there is, who's going to prosecute that? It seems unlikely that the State of Texas would go after that, and the FBI is, realistically, only interested in your case if somebody is dead, missing, or has stolen $1,000,000+.

10-25-2016, 06:20 PM   #5
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If he registered the image with the Copyright office, he should.
1. Issue a DMCA take down --- Federal Law outweighs state law.
2. Contact a Lawyer to conduct a Copyright Infringement suit ($30,000) at a minimum. Federal Law outweighs state law.

Oh, I re-read the article, this is in Texas, Federal Law is just something else to ignore. He should move out of that country.
10-25-2016, 06:51 PM   #6
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Did the university strip off the photographer's name, or did someone else do that and post it online? I think that's an important distinction and I didn't see it in the article. The university may have found the photo posted in the public domain someplace else. That doesn't eliminate the photographer's actual copyright but the university may have been deceived into thinking it was free to use.
10-25-2016, 07:07 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by DeadJohn Quote
Did the university strip off the photographer's name, or did someone else do that and post it online? I think that's an important distinction and I didn't see it in the article. The university may have found the photo posted in the public domain someplace else. That doesn't eliminate the photographer's actual copyright but the university may have been deceived into thinking it was free to use.
A TinEye reverse image search of the image shown in the article gives Jim Olive's stock website as the first hit:

206 results - TinEye
Aerial view of downtown Houston from the north side | Stockyard Photos

They either didn't make much of an effort to determine if it was free for the taking or just didn't care.
10-25-2016, 08:06 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Tony Belding Quote
and the FBI is, realistically, only interested in your case if somebody is dead, missing, or has stolen $1,000,000+.

Sadly, not anymore, it seems.

10-25-2016, 09:22 PM   #9
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So does this mean copyright means nothing anymore? If someone or some entity can blatantly steal someone's work and tell them there isn't a damn thing they can do, then where do we go from here. How do we protect our work?
10-25-2016, 10:40 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by btnapa Quote
So does this mean copyright means nothing anymore? If someone or some entity can blatantly steal someone's work and tell them there isn't a damn thing they can do, then where do we go from here. How do we protect our work?
Copyright infringer does not have the ring of Thief. Here is an overview of what and how this has happened - from 2000. It's long and somewhat interesting. It is going to take Congress to fix the situation (but it's been 16 years since the date of the link - so it not happening any time soon). The one last alternative is to apparently sue the person who performed the infringement as an agent of the state, since as an agent of the state, they are not permitted to break laws in the performance of their duties. Or at least that is my read of it.

I guess that bad publicity is the only recourse..._____________________

Here is a much better and shorter summary of the situation.

Last edited by interested_observer; 10-25-2016 at 10:50 PM.
10-26-2016, 08:52 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Copyright infringer does not have the ring of Thief. Here is an overview of what and how this has happened - from 2000. It's long and somewhat interesting. It is going to take Congress to fix the situation (but it's been 16 years since the date of the link - so it not happening any time soon). The one last alternative is to apparently sue the person who performed the infringement as an agent of the state, since as an agent of the state, they are not permitted to break laws in the performance of their duties. Or at least that is my read of it.

I guess that bad publicity is the only recourse..._____________________

Here is a much better and shorter summary of the situation.
Thanks a bunch. Great stuff and a "lawyerly" input.
10-27-2016, 02:58 AM   #12
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A highly placed and respected member in the music industry once told me: Good business, is theft.
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