Cat photographer's intellectual property litigation underway

Artists, songwriters, writers, photographers and others often have a hard time convincing the public that their creations are not free for anyone to use. Even when they sign a contract permitting the use of a work of art, the other party may take advantage of the permission. One New York photographer has turned to intellectual property litigation after an advertising agency allegedly stepped outside the boundaries of their contractual agreement.

Jill Greenberg has a reputation for setting trends in the advertising world as well as in fine art photography. The McGarryBowen advertising agency hired her to take some photographs for an advertising campaign for the Clorox Co.'s Fresh Step cat litter. The photographs were taken from under a sheet of glass on which various cats stood and frolicked. Greenberg's contract with the advertising agency apparently allowed for use of the photos in the ad campaign and specifically excluded them from use in video advertising.

Nevertheless, the photos appeared as fine art in Clorox-sponsored pop-up galleries in New York and other cities promoting cat adoption. The local pop-up was only a block from the photographer's own gallery. Additionally, the photos were used to advertise the charity event on the Ellen Degeneres show as well as on social media, supposedly none of which Jill Greenberg authorized.

Greenberg took the first steps to reclaim her rights by sending a cease-and-desist letter, which the other party allegedly refused to honor. While many New York artists may resist taking the next step of instigating intellectual property litigation, it may be the most effective way of protecting one's property. Reaching out to an attorney is the surest way to obtain the information and answers one seeks.

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