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3 Famous Copyright Cases

We’ve all heard of copyright strikes and the troubles caused by copyrighting laws, but how much do you know about such significant legislation on our creatives? Keep reading to find out more about copyright laws through internationally infamous legal cases which have made history in the space.

The Associated Press VS. Fairey

One of President Obama’s posters in his first campaign for the presidential election made headlines for its artistic quality and iconic value. Having been dubbed the ‘Hope poster’, the artwork (made by street artist Shepard Fairey) became a symbol for the President not only during the 2008 presidential election, but also during his entire term as President of the United States of America.

However, despite the poster’s success as a political symbol, it was not free of copyrighting claims. The design for the poster was said to be based on a photograph by freelance photographer Mannie Garcia, who claimed that he had not received credit for inspiring Shepard Fairey’s design.

Although the dispute never ended up going to court, the legal matter was settled privately, with both parties acknowledging the work of the other and distributing credit. Despite the case not having significant legal outcomes, it showed the importance of giving credit wherever and whenever due, and the potential scale of complications that may come as a result of ignoring such rules.

Vanilla Ice VS. David Bowie and Freddie Mercury

Another example of a copyright case involving the arts space is the song ‘Ice Ice Baby’ against Daivd Bowie and Freddie Mercury. The song by Vanilla Ice was a global hit in 1991 and found much success for an otherwise unknown artist – however, it was later revealed that the song was sampled from another, named ‘Under Pressure’ by David Bowie and Queen. Despite first denying the allegations and claiming originality, Vanilla Ice admitted to sampling when faced with a lawsuit by the songwriter duo.

Similar to the Obama Hope poster case, the case was settled privately out of court, and Vanilla Ice was made to pay an undeclared sum of money to Bowie and Queen, and also had to credit the two on the track. The case taught members of the public that failing to credit sampled music in songs can lead to serious copyright infringements, and that such illegal actions will always be revealed eventually.

Davidson VS. United States of America

In 2018, there was a copyright case in the United States involving a US postage stamp which featured a photograph of the Lady Liberty replica statue in Las Vegas. The USPS failed to credit the sculptor of the statue, nor ask permission to use a photograph of it as a post stamp, causing a fine of $3.5 million plus interest. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled in favour of Davidion, citing that his work was original and that ‘the Postal’s Service’s use of it was not permitted’. Now that we’ve learned more about a few famous cases of copyright infringements around the world, we can see how serious and monetarily straining such cases can get – especially if they are brought to court. In order to make sure you are not infringing on any copyright laws with your business’s creative products, it is best to consult with a legal advisor on the issue.

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