Sunday, February 9, 2014

Playboy Sues Over Kate Moss Photographs

Magazine sues for copyright infringement over unauthorized use of photographs
Kate Moss (By Michel Haddi)
What better way to celebrate your 40th birthday than by having naked pictures of yourself shared on the Internet?  Famed fashion photographers Mert Alas and Marcos Piggott have captured the naked essence of Kate Moss for Playboy magazine.

Harper's Bazaar publisher, Hearst Communications, has been sued for the unauthorized distribution of several images that were scheduled to come out in the 60th anniversary issue of Playboy magazine. Lots of celebration was planned and expected. 

Then, out of the blue, apparently Harper's posted on its website a clothed photo of Kate Moss with a link to another website showing the good stuff:: nude and partially nude photos of the 40-year old super model.

Woo hoo.

Of course, there's nothing new about nude pictures of Kate Moss.  Just use Google and you can have all the nude pictures you want. But this is different.  This is a 40-year old super model. A woman with a couple years under her belt who still looks almost as good as when she was 18; some would say better. 

This case is really about stealing Playboy's thunder.  They wanted to celebrate their 60th birthday by demonstrating to the world that when you're good, age is just a number. Then Harper's steps in and practically ruins the whole thing. What good is a surprise party when the guest of honor has already been tipped off?  Sure, it's still a party; but it's not a surprise party.

And that's what we have here.  Playboy got pissed because Harper's largely eliminated all the hype and anticipation of seeing a 40-year old model in a 60-year old magazine. There's a lot of intangible value to that.  Just ask any soldier or policeman about the element of surprise. Dropping something on someone before they know about it is a huge benefit.

And that's why we have these silly things called "laws" to guard against things like this. I actually had a potential client call me the other day and ask me if I thought it was "ethical" for a rights-owner to try and protect its intellectual property rights. I didn't know what to say. Is it ethical to get an advance copy of highly secretive images and publish them to the Internet just to garner some pre-publicity for yourself?

Propriety aside: There are laws to which society must adhere. What happens when someone decides that silly "murder" law shouldn't be complied with? What happens when someone likes your stuff more than theirs? We are a nation of laws; they should be respected and enforced even-handedly.

People should be no more persecuted for minor indiscretions than they should be for the willful disregard of the rights of others. Is it right to demand $100,000 from everyone who made an unauthorized use of your copyrighted material?  Not always, but sometimes yes. Undeniably, yes.

Good luck to Playboy in this case.  I hope they make Harper's pay.