Media Companies Should Start to Worry About Infringing Photos


While the internet provides endless entertainment and news, it’s also a breeding ground for copyright infringement (which means it’s potentially a rather ripe legal industry).

Media companies and websites are under constant deadline pressures as the online news cycle never really ends. That means producing a high volume of content. Unfortunately, sometimes editorial judgment is lacking and unlicensed photographs get published. When that happens, the photographer may have a meritorious claim of copyright infringement. But in this day and age, finding an attorney to file that claim could be costlier than many photographers can afford.

However, as detailed in Slate’s brilliant story, one New York attorney is working on changing the copyright infringement legal industry hundreds of cases at a time.

Fear the Big Leibowitz

Attorney Richard Leibowitz, who has only been licensed for a few years at this point, is quickly becoming the champion of photographers. That’s because he’s willing to file copyright infringement matters over a single misused photograph against the big media companies, and while that’s nothing too special, he does it on a contingency basis.

In his few short years practicing, he’s already filed hundreds of cases and has become a scourge for media companies to avoid. He’s been called a copyright troll, and plenty of other choice phrases, but to the photographers he seeks justice for, he’s righteous.

Justice for Photogs

For photographers across the country, the explosion of online media was both a boon and a curse. The internet provides an amazing platform to share photos, but one fact photographers know all too well about the internet: Photographs that get posted online get stolen everyday. Often, a photographer’s work will be stolen and repeatedly posted without permission.

Unfortunately for the photography industry, along with the internet, smartphone cameras have turned nearly every individual with a steady hand into an amateur photographer. This has led to a big devaluation in the work of photojournalists and photography in general. But copyright law allows for large statutory damages awards, which Leibowitz leverages to settle the majority of his cases and get more justice for his clients than media companies likely want to pay.

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