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The unauthorized use of a third party’s photos

By Vanessa Bouchara - Expertise Blog

Photographers have the rights over their photos provided that they can justifty their originality.

Jurisprudence has long dealt with this issue concerning the unauthorized use of third party’s photographs, when for example photos are directly used by the photographer, or when the photographer’s rights are transferred to a company like Getty Images, Shutterstock, Corbis etc. A recent decision from the Court of Appeal (Pôle 5, 1st Chamber) on 19th February 2014 concerned a photograph of a princely family which was intended for use on a greeting card.  The Court considered that the personal decisions of the photographer, in particular the decision to have a structured, carefully selected sober shot with uniform color codes as well as the lighting gave this snapshot an individual character which was distinctive from other photographs of the same kind and it undeniably left the creative mark of the photographer on it.

As a consequence, the use of th photograph outside of the context in which it was intended to be used, and without giving credit to the photographer in the press, constituted an infringement of the photographer’s rights including his moral rights, notably authorship. Furthermore, the use of the photo in the press constituted an infringement of the right of respect of the photographer’s work and was a violation of the work’s integrity. This was especially true because it was cropped to the left hand side of the page and was masked by a zoomed-in shot of a ring.

It is therefore important to be vigilant when using a photograph, in whatever form, without first ascertaining that the use does or would not violate either the creator’s rights or those of the company that has obtained the intellectual property rights to it.

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