Copyright Rules in France – Whack.

I read an interesting post on Thomas Hawk’s blog about a French ruling against Getty Images based on photos of designer furniture being sold as stock photography.  The company is apparently asserting copyright infringement on essentially any photograph that includes the furniture.

Looking through the judgement, the basis seems to be any activity that “amounts to a communication to the public of this furniture” (as translated into English on the Getty site as part of their notification to their contributors).  That is an astoundingly broad concept, and one that would seem to be incredibly hard to enforce.  I’d guess the nuance here is any commercial work including their design, but even that would be very hard to enforce.  If you look at the images included in the complaint, many are clearly a model of some sort seated on their oh-so-precious furniture.

Seriously?  How could this be enforced?  ANY commercial work that happens to include this couch?  What about a designer dress?  What about the rights of the architect who designed the building?  Can any photograph be created in France for commercial purposes that includes a sculpture or another piece of art, incidentally or otherwise?

I’m not an expert in US Copyright law, but I’m fairly sure that the images included would be considered “fair use” but it seems like that and/or other similar exceptions would apply.  Even in the EU, it would appear that the second of the “Berne Three Step Test” rules would be the point: “(2) It shall be a matter for legislation in the countries of the Union to permit the reproduction of such works in certain special cases, provided that such reproduction does not conflict with a normal exploitation of the work and does not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author.

If the photos in some way replaced the commercial value of the couch, I get it.  If they were for the express intent to enable someone rip off the design and create knock-offs, I get it.  But a photograph of a model on the couch?  Seriously?  If their laws (or US laws) make this kind of thing an infringement, it is a completely unenforceable travesty.  I’d hope US law would protect Getty, and more importantly photographers of all kinds from this kind of silly legislation.

I’m all for protection of the artist in their work, but unless I’m missing something, that isn’t what is going on here…

By the way, I got a good laugh from page 14, where the LC3 armchair is described as “the only attractive item in this photograph.”  (if you want to view the complaint and the images, Getty has posted a translated version here, or the original French with better photos is here.)

Anyone understand US or French copyright law well enough to offer some insight?  Thoughts?  Anyone moving to France?

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One thought on “Copyright Rules in France – Whack.

  1. I don’t think any of this is new. I have been doing some stock photography for years and in many cases you have to have a property release before you can use an image for commercial use. I do know that you can not use images of the Eiffel Tower at night and I seem to remember reading that you can not use images of the Flat Iron building in NYC for commercial/stock use either.

    When it comes to more obscure items, you have to also be careful if items can be identified. I can’t use a picture of a camera as a stock image if I can recognize it as a Nikon or a Canon.

    I am also no expert in copyright, but base this only on past experience and articles that I have read on the subject.

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