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At What Point Does Inspiration Turn Into Copyright Infringement?

Ridiculous lawsuit by one photographer against another: At What Point Does Inspiration Turn Into Copyright Infringement? discusses

a lawsuit recently filed by photographer Janine Gordon against photographer Ryan McGinley. Gordon claims that 150 of McGinley’s images — including some used for a Levi’s ad campaign — are “substantially based” on her photos. In the three pairs of disputed images shown above, the ones on the left are by Gordon and the ones on the right by McGinley.

Of course the pictures are not the same at all. And so what if McGinley’s work was inspired by Gordon’s? So what? There is nothing wrong with competition, emulation, inspiration, learning, or even copying (not that there appears to be any proof of copying or even emulating here). Photographers are notoriously pro-copyright, and this dispute is just the predictable outcome of the horrible pro-IP mentality. And this post is a bit confused: it starts off asking “At what point does inspiration turn into plagiarism?” Plagiarism is distinct from copyright infringement. They are not the same; neither implies the other. The post quotes “Rob Haggart over at A Photo Editor” as saying “this is where copyright hurts photographers.” Right. And the rest of the time, photographers use copyright to hurt everyone else. The false dichotomy here is the implication that we have to choose between “inspiration” (presumably permissible) and “plagiarism” (presumably by this they mean copyright infringement). The answer is that some inspiration is permitted by the law, while some is prohibited by copyright. There’s a word for this: censorship.

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To the extent possible under law, Stephan Kinsella has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to C4SIF. This work is published from: United States. In the event the CC0 license is unenforceable a  Creative Commons License Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License is hereby granted.