The legal battle between a photographer and the creator of some of Capitol Hill most popular, well known and notorious public art is over. In a statement posted to his blog and Facebook account, photographer Mike Hipple announced that the case brought against him by artist Jack Mackie has been settled only days before it was scheduled to go to a jury trial in Federal court.
I am writing to let you know that I have settled Jack Mackie’s copyright claim against me. I believe I have good defenses but have come to understand that he has good claims. I also believe now that the financial stakes are such that it is not worth continuing to fight.
I understand Jack Mackie’s ardent desire to protect his copyright in Dance Steps on Broadway. I, too, want to protect my own photography copyrights. Mr. Mackie’s Dance Steps is a Seattle icon and a well known work. I understand why he is so protective. I did not intend to attack his copyright when I took my photo, and I did not realize then that selling a photograph which includes part of a copyrighted public artwork can violate that copyright.
I did not intend, in defending myself in the lawsuit, to attack Mr. Mackie personally. I intend to let this matter go and urge my supporters to do the same.
Specific terms of the settlement were not announced.
Mackie’s case sought payment of his legal fees and monetary damages that would have been determined by the jury. In what would have been a peculiar setting for a Federal trial, the jury would have also possibly made a field trip to Capitol Hill. Mackie’s lawyers did not oppose a request from Hipple’s legal team that the jury be taken to the site of the Dance Steps on Broadway to see the artwork in person.
The settlement guarantees the case won’t provide any further precedent for future fair use and copyright disputes involving public art. In the meantime, the Steps remain an iconic element of the Broadway streetscape and are regularly featured in photography and video created in the area. Given the outcome of this two-year legal battle, photographers probably won’t stop shooting pictures. They’ll just want to be careful with what they do with them.