A recent ruling by the Paris Court of Appeals (June 26, 2013) highlights some interesting features of copyright law as applied to photographs and catalogues thereof.
In this case a suit was brought against ARTPRICE.COM by a company called CAMARD ET ASSOCIES and a photographer, the former alleging infringment in its copyright in the catalogue of pictures and the latter infringement in the copyright of the photoghraphs themselves.
On the issue of originality of the catalogue, the Court found in favour of the plaintiff, holding that:
"... a catalogue can only be considered a protected work within the meaning of Section L.112-3 of the Intellectual Property Code insofar that the selection, classifying and presentation reflect the author's personality".
Finding that this was indeed the case (for certain catalogues), the Court notes the originality in the composition, the way in which the pictures are presented in accordance with a certain order and method, the choice of quotations and biographical information and their drafting. All of this translated into an aesthetic choice bearing the stamp of an author's personality.
As regards the photographer's separate claims regarding copyright infringement in the photos themselves, the Court recalled the essential requirement for copyright protection: there must be intellectual creation reflecting the author's personality in his choices in posing the subject and the environment, the angle of the picture, the play of light and shadow, the framing and the timing of the precise moment of taking the picture. With regard to a certain number of pictures at issue, it concludes that they are indeed original and entitled to protection.
CAMARD had also raised grounds of unfair competition and parasitical conduct (freeriding). The Court rejects the former, noting that the two companies did not have the same business activities. However, it allowed the latter finding that the defendant had indeed used elements contained in CAMARD's catalogues to source its database without spending its own money and thereby attracting customers.
Link to ruling here