A jury took less than an hour to decide Monday (Aug. 7) that the Mercury News didn’t violate a photographer’s copyright when it used his photo to illustrate a book review. The newspaper didn’t need the photographer’s permission to use the picture because its use constituted “fair use” under copyright law, the Merc reported today.

“This is a classic example of how newspapers use material that is sent to them every day,” said James Chadwick, the Merc’s attorney. “If a photographer or photo agency had veto over the use of these kinds of images, then newspapers would just stop using them and readers wouldn’t get the visual information. … This is the kind of information that newspapers are supposed to provide to the public.”

The plaintiff, Christopher Harris, is a photojournalism professor at a college in Tennessee. According to the Merc, Harris filed a lawsuit against the New Orleans Times-Picayune under identical circumstances, but the case was settled for an undisclosed amount. Instead of settling, the Merc took the case to trial — which lasted a week — and didn’t have to pay Harris a dime.

Presiding over the trial, in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, was Judge Charles Breyer, brother of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer.

SF Press Club News

One Comment

  1. I didn’t see a word about this case in the Merc until this story ran on Monday. That’s terrible. The Merc is contantly railing about open courts and open records, yet doesn’t print anything about this case until its over. If some other business were on trial before a jury, would the Merc completely ignore it until the verdict came in? — STW

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>