A copyright battle from the sidewalks of Broadway will go before a federal jury in July.
An announcement Tuesday morning on the Mike Hipple Legal Defense Fund page on Facebook said the trial to hear the photographer’s defense against allegations of copyright violations is scheduled to begin July 11th.
“Is this good?” one supporter on the page asked. For photographer Mike Hipple, that will depend on whether the jury believes the photograph in question (see below) violated another artist’s copyright and, if so, whether that artist should be compensated for the damage done.
The case stems from Hipple’s photographs of the public art known as the Broadway Steps and artist Jack Mackie’s sometimes fierce defense of his copyright related to the City-funded work.
In a blog post from January 2010, Hipple detailed the legal imbroglio he found himself in over a decade-old photo of the Steps:
I took a photograph over ten years ago of a woman dancing along those sidewalks, and some of the “dance steps” were visible in the photo.
Mr. Mackie is now claiming that the photo somehow infringes on his copyright. He insisted that my stock photography agency remove the image, which they immediately did. I assumed that would be the end of it.
I was mistaken. Despite my agency’s removal, Mr. Mackie is now suing me for copyright infringement and claiming the full measure of statutory damages, possibly $60,000 or more. All for a photograph taken on a public sidewalk, showing a woman interacting with a piece of public art, paid for by public funds. And it only depicts a small portion of the artwork at that.
In a legal process that has been playing out since February 2009 when the complaint was first filed, the United States District Court case is now winding its way toward a July trial after a good amount of legal back and forth including new lawyers for Hipple and attempts by both sides to bring the case to a hasty close. Mackie’s arguments against Hipple’s fair use claims were rebuffed by Judge Robert Lasnik – part of the Mambo is still the Mambo — but Hipple’s attempt to have the case dismissed on statute of limitations grounds was also rejected by the court.
Stock photo services Age Fotostock and Publitek are also named in the suit.
Mackie’s case seeks payment of his legal fees and monetary damages that would be determined by the jury:
Meanwhile, here’s Hipple’s legal answer to the suit:
Hipple has also filed a complaint against Age Fotostock saying it “failed to act with reasonable skill and ordinary care when it overruled Hipple’s request to pull the image.”