Copyright & Law

5 Questions to Consider Before You Sue a Copycat

November 13, 2015

By Nancy E. Wolff, Partner, Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, LLP


ABOVE LEFT: Louis Sahuc’s “Decatur St. Gate"; ABOVE RIGHT: Lee Tucker’s “Breaking Mist.” 

A federal court ruled that Tucker did not infringe Sahuc’s copyright—despite the identical subject matter—because the framing, lighting and feeling of the two photographs are different.

What does copyright really protect when it comes to photographs? Photographers often complain that someone stole their picture, or their idea—not by reproducing the actual photograph, but by creating something very similar. The question is whether the copying is based on inspiration—and legal—or is too similar and infringing under copyright law. Where and how the line between inspiration and illegal...

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