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Warning for Photographers Who Photograph Designer Furniture – Watch Out for The French!

Posted on: February 13, 2012

I just received the lawsuit information below because my Flickr account is associated with Getty Images, and I thought the information was important enough to share with you,  my retro / mid century / mod loving pals, especially if you are a shutterbug like I am.

porch furniture(I’m using this photo of mine as an illustration because I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind of furniture they’re concerned with!)

I’m cutting and pasting the important parts – the bolding is mine:

You may have heard about a recent case (actually more than one case) where Getty Images and some of our photographers have had claims lodged against us in French court for images which include designer furniture, even as a minor part of the image.

This is a serious issue that involves potential liability for you as photographers.

The French courts have found in favor of the Le Corbusier rights-holders who initiated these claims. While we disagree with the decision and we are appealing it, we are very mindful that for now, it is a valid decision. It is critical that you understand that any claim like this one is extremely serious and requires action on your part in order to protect your interests, not just ours. We will continue to fight this decision, but in the meantime we must continue to actively pull content from our site that may be deemed infringing. We simply cannot identify all problematic images as quickly without your active participation. And quick action is vital.

This is only for images you have on the site. We cannot answer questions about images you have posted on Flickr or elsewhere.

Thank you for your help and attention to this very important matter.

Now OBVIOUSLY I can’t link to any photos of the Le Corbusier furniture they’re discussing, and so far this is just for photos associated with Getty. But you might want to review your photos just to be sure! Even if they may not be associated with Getty, it’s good to have a heads up, as you don’t know how far this ruling will extend.

Here’s some additional information from Bloomberg, with a link to an additional article from the British Journal of Photography:

Getty’s Sale of Photos Featuring Le Corbusier Sofas Infringes
Hellman & Friedman LLC’s Getty Images unit is appealing a French court ruling that its sale of stock images of armchairs and sofas created by French furniture designers in collaboration with the artist Le Corbusier constitutes copyright infringement, the British Journal of Photography reported.
The owners of the intellectual property rights relating to the furniture have waged a 25-year war to halt the images’ use in advertising to promote luxury products, according to the journal.

Getty was accused of selling the images without authorization and without crediting the designers, the journal reported.

The stock photo agency told the journal that while it will appeal the court ruling, it has now sent its contributors a list of objects that can’t be featured in licensed content.

I told Retro Roadhusband that I don’t think any of our furniture at the Hacienda is “designery” enough to worry about, but I do recall snapping photographs when we visited the Gropius House a few years back, though I think those photos are still on film.

I’ll keep you posted if I hear anything else!

4 responses to "Warning for Photographers Who Photograph Designer Furniture – Watch Out for The French!"

  1. Lizzie Feb 16, 2012 at 19:31

    Wow, Betty, thanks so much for sharing this. I’m a big supporter of the rights of copyright holders, but I would never have considered that a photograph that I might take might be an infringement! I take photos at flea markets and antique stores all the time, and I’d be clueless about the designer of most furniture, so thanks for the information!

    • Mod Betty Feb 16, 2012 at 21:28

      You know, it struck me as a bit odd at first, but then it started to make sense. Even though the chairs and furniture are so well known, they’re also a “visual shorthand” to convey a certain lifestyle or mood. I can’t help but think I’d feel just as protective if it were one of Retro Roadhusband’s songs being used in the same way.

      In this digital age with a certain “everything is up for grabs” mentality I think it’s good food for thought. Already I’m seeing in Pinterest some photos being repinned by other bloggers who swiped the images from someone else without proper attribution, which is not cool! I’ll chalk a certain amount of it up to simply learning how to use the interface, and luckily was able to direct people to the links to My Own Photos that had been pinned without a backlink. Ah, etiquette!

  2. Petunia Feb 26, 2012 at 08:00

    Isn’t there a big difference between selling an image for profit like Getty and just posting an image? I don’t believe that nonprofit users are in danger of being sued by anyone. Onlt those who,seek to sell something wi a copyrighted image need seek permission or pay a royalty.

    • Mod Betty Feb 26, 2012 at 12:45

      Petunia – I’m not an expert, so there may indeed be a difference. However I thought it was good information to share, especially in these times where images are being shared and used all over the place. You never know!