Famous Copyright Cases

25 September 2018

It is partly due to our eponymous hero of Hogarth's Progress and his determination that we now have copyright law to help protect artists, writers and creators of all kind. William Hogarth was so instrumental in creating this law that it is nicknamed Hogarth's Act! Copyright law gives creators control over how their work is used and to ensure they get the recognition they deserve - but who owns the copyright can often be up for debate. Read on to discover some interesting copyright disputes...

David Slater VS PETA

If a monkey takes a picture with your camera, does the picture belong to you or the monkey? That's the question... Naruto the macaque from Indonesia took selfies with wildlife photographer David Slater's camera and the photographs became a sensation. He included the images in his book entitled Wildlife Personalities.

Blog Techdirt and website Wikipedia used the pictures without Slater's permission because they deemed the image ineligible for copyright as 'copyright cannot vest in non-human authors' and 'when a work's copyright cannot vest in a human, it falls into the public domain'. Slater argued that he put a lot of work into preparing the photo and was even holding the tripod when Naruto pressed the shutter. However, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) sued David Slater on Naruto's behalf claiming the the copyright for these images belonged to the primate.

After much debate in court, it was deemed in April 2018 that the copyright belonged to Slater and animals cannot have legal authority to hold copyright.

Robin Thicke & Pharrell Williams' VS Marvin Gaye

Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams' hugely successful Blurred Lines was the subject of a huge lawsuit when the family of the late Marvin Gaye accused the pair of copyright infringement. They claimed the catchy walking bass used for the pop hit was taken from Gaye's 1977 funk song Got to Give it Up. In the end, the jury sided with Marvin Gaye. Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay the Gaye family $5.3 million and 50% of all royalties for the song, one of the biggest payouts in music copyright history. 

PUBG VS Fortnite

Since we've entered the technological age, copyright law has now extended to software design. Online game creators Bluehole released battle royale game PlayerUnknown's Battleground in March 2017. 100 players are parachuted onto a deserted map with nothing but the clothes on their back and they have to fight to stay alive whilst scavenging for weapons, protection and sustenance. Epic Games released their free game Fortnite later that same year. In Fortnite, 100 players are parachuted onto a deserted map with nothing but the clothes on their back and a pickaxe and they have fight to stay alive by scavenging for weapons and protection or building forts with materials found on the island. Bluehole filed a lawsuit against Epic Games alleging copyright infringement and was concerned about the similarities between the two games. Fortnite continued to soar in popularity during the dispute. Bluehole dropped the lawsuit but it has never been announced why and whether the companies agreed on any kind of settlement. 

Hogarth VS Sprackling

William Hogarth finds himself in a copyright dispute of his own in Hogarth's Progress... how will infamous murderer Sarah Sprackling react when she disapproves of Hogarth's sketch of her the night before she heads to the gallows? A sketch he plans to sell to everyone in London! Check out the first play in the double bill, The Art of Success, to find out...

Hogarth's Progress runs at the Rose Thu 13 Sep - Sun 21 Oct. To find out more click here

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