Who Gets The Copyright On The Photo Of A Beaten Gaddafi, Captured Off A Cameraphone

from the copyfraud? dept

The AFP news agency (with its partner Getty) has a bit of a history with some rather odd copyright claims. You may recall the lawsuit that AFP was involved in after it yanked photos from Twitpic of the devastation after the Haiti earthquake without permission, credited the wrong photographer and uploaded them to Getty. Amazingly, once the real photographer called out AFP for this, AFP sued the photographer... and lost big time.

You might think this would lead AFP and Getty to be a bit more careful in how they attribute photographs and claim copyright over them... especially on breaking news stories. And yet... you might have heard how ex-Libyan dictator Gaddafi was caught and killed yesterday. You also might have heard that his capture and beating were captured on video by some of the rebel soldiers who helped capture and kill him. Now, the pictures and video can be pretty graphic, so don't click on the following link if you're a bit squeamish. It's a link to a Getty Images page of a screen capture of the mobile phone video. In the info, however, the cameraphone operator is not named.
If you can't see that, it's the metadata beneath the photo, which notes that it's a video grab from a mobile phone of a National Transitional Council (NTC) fighter... but then says that the credit, if anyone uses the image, should go to: "AFP PHOTO/PHILIPPE DESMAZES (Photo credit should read PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)."

Now, to be fair, according to the AFP, Desmazes was, in fact, on the scene, and took a photo of the cameraphone screen to get the shot:
"I was covering the fall of Sirte and heard gunfire a little further west of where I was. The rebels explained to us that Kadhafi’s men had tried to break out at night a little further west. There had been fighting but this sounded more like celebrations than fighting," said Desmazes. "So I asked the fighters to take me there. When I got there, they showed me big concrete cylinders in which they said Kadhafi had been hiding when he was captured. A little further on, I noticed some fighters gathered around a phone. I was lucky because I was the only one to notice them. The owner of the phone showed me the arrest of Kadhafi which he had filmed a few minutes earlier. Given the ambient light, it was very difficult to take a screen grab. The fighters gathered round and gave me enough shadow to take the shot. I was really lucky," he said.
So it's not as if he's just claiming credit for something he had nothing to do with, but it still seems a bit questionable that Desmazes/AFP/Getty have any real claim here. It would seem like this is a very derivative work from the original, without much creative input that would give a copyright to Desmazes. At the very least, it seems like they should give credit to the guy who shot the actual video. Obviously, it took some effort for Desmazes to get his shot of the cameraphone screen (and I must admit, the quality of the image is surprisingly sharp if it's a camera shot of a smartphone screen), but is that enough to get a separate copyright?

And if we take this thought process to the logical conclusion, since Desmazes/AFP get to claim a copyright for taking a photo of a cameraphone screen, if I take a photo of my computer screen showing that same photo, and crop it appropriately, now I could claim to be the copyright holder on the same image? That seems like quite a slippery slope.
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Filed Under: copyright, gaddafi, philippe desmazes, screenshots
Companies: afp, getty

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  1. identicon
    William, 21 Oct 2011 @ 12:45pm


    Actually, no he doesn't. He stole a copy of a copyrighted photo. SO if we ignore Libyan law, no one matters, but if we follow say, US law, it's illegal. You can't just pick and choose your laws.

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