When someone snaps a photo of a celebrity, who owns the rights to the photograph? When a professional photographer takes the shot, he or she generally owns the rights to reproduction of the photo unless someone purchases those rights. Legally, photographs are artistic works the same way that a painting or drawing is, even when the subject of the photo is famous. One recent example that New York artists may find interesting is the civil claim against professional basketball player LeBron James. He has been accused of violating copyright law after posting a professional photographer’s photo of him to social media without permission.
The photographer, his multimedia company and his management company have all named James in a copyright infringement suit. The suit says that James posted a photo of himself on Facebook that the photographer took. The photo was taken when James was playing in an NBA game against another team. The photographer says that James did not pay him for using the photo or even ask permission to post it.
The suit requests damages for each violation of copyright as well as any profit generated by the Facebook post. James has not publicly commented on the suit, nor have any of his legal representatives. This is not the first time that a celebrity has been accused of this kind of violation.
Though many people may assume that the subjects of photographs are the ones who own the rights to them, that assumption is often incorrect. Photographers and other artists with concerns about how to legally protect their work may want to reach out to a copyright law attorney here in New York. Just because this part of the law is often misunderstood, it is still important and artists deserve fair compensation for their work.