Campaign IP Violations Part 2 – Trump Sued for Copyright Infringement

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In December, we blogged about the unauthorized use of copyrighted songs by political campaigns. Well, those campaigns should also double check the images they are using. Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. was sued in federal court in New York last week for copyright infringement by two nature photographers, Wendy Shattil and Robert Rozinski. They claim that the Trump campaign is using their image of a bald eagle staring straight at the camera to promote Trump’s campaign. “Plaintiffs’ particular [image] complements the direct and unflinching persona that Mr. Trump seeks to project to the American public,” the suit says.

The most prominent image copyright dispute in the recent history of political campaigns involved the iconic Obama “Hope” poster by Shepard Fairey. Fairey admitted that he based his image on an Associated Press photograph taken by Manny Garcia. In 2009, Fairey filed a declaratory judgment action to attempt to prove his creation was protected from copyright infringement by the fair use defense. After the judge suggested the AP was likely to prevail in court, the parties settled the claims without a final determination.

The lesson when choosing images to promote a candidate is simple: a little due diligence goes a long way. Just like with music, campaigns must be sure to get permission in advance before using copyrighted images.

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