CBS Broadcasting is suing photojournalist Jon Tannen for doing something you (and most people you know) have probably done: sharing screenshots from an old television show on social media. The lawsuit is being characterized a ‘retaliatory strike’ by some, since Tannen filed his own copyright infringement lawsuit against CBS Interactive back in February.
The whole story came to light on Torrent Freak, and serves as a cautionary tale for photographers who are thinking of pursuing infringement claims against the big studios—CBS, ABC, FOX, Warner Brothers, etc.—in court. Often the evidence in these cases is strong and a settlement is reached, but sometimes… the studios fight back.
That was the case with Tannen, who sued CBS Interactive in February of this year over the unauthorized use of two copyrighted photos on the website 247sports.com (the second time this had happened). But what might have turned into a quick settlement has instead been met with a countersuit by CBS Broadcasting, who found screenshots from the television show Gunsmoke (1955-1975) on Tannen’s social media.
The CBS lawsuit brands Tannen a ‘hypocrite’ and seeks $150,000 in damages for willful infringement—the same amount Tannen wants per infringement of his own work.
“This copyright infringement action arises out of Defendant’s unauthorized use of Plaintiff’s valuable intellectual property,” reads the CBS complaint. “Tannen hypocritically engaged in this act of infringement while simultaneously bringing suit against Plaintiff’s sister company, CBS Interactive Inc., claiming it had violated his own copyright.”
It will be a while before these lawsuits sort themselves out, but CBS’ retaliation against Tannen is raising eyebrows because this kind of image use is so prevalent online, and almost always assumed to constitute fair use. Of course, whether or not the countersuit has any legal ground to stand on may be irrelevant… → continue…