Monday, August 07, 2006

Photoshopping - IP issues Photoshopping - IP issues

This whole thing about the Reuters Photoshopped picture in Lebanon is interesting from an IP point of vew. First, the verb "photoshop" is coming into common usage. This is a classic case of trademark dilution and genericification. The federally trademarked name of one of Adobe's flagship products is becoming the generic verb used to describe photo-editing. If they don't start extremely agressively policing this, they stand to lose their trademark - if it is not already too late.

A second issue is the copyright in an edited photo. It isn't really a copyright issue if the same (legal) person is the author of both the photo and the editing. But the photo could potentially pick up additional authors, and, therefore, additional copyright claimants, if they are different. Then, you get into the question of whether or not the photographer authorized the editing (i.e. authorized the creation of a derivative work).

Theoretically, this could become a major problem, as co-authors each have the legal right to license a work, and if photo editing is common place in the news industry, submission could be taken as implied license to do such editing, and, thus, implied license to either become a co-author, or, probably more likely, the author of a derivative work. In both situations, the photographer could probably sell the photo elsewhere, but in the case of a joint work, he may be able to sell the edited version too. But if the photo editing were under implied license and it was considered a derivative work, then it is probably more likely that the edits would be the property of the person(s) editing the photo.

Addendum: Here is Adobe's policy on trademark usage, and its list of trademarks.

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