Photographer Jana Romanova is suing VICE Media for using a photo from her series Waiting without permission… again. This is Romanova’s second copyright infringement lawsuit agains VICE over the same photo series.
According to PDN, this second infringement happened on VICE Media website Motherboard on Feb 14, in an article titled “Love is Strange.” The article used Romanova’s photo of an expecting couple sleeping together—a photo registered with the US Copyright Office, and which the photographer claims VICE neither licensed nor asked for permission to use.
The current version of the article includes a bold credit line that reads “Image: Jana Romanova”, and links to a VICE feature of the Waiting series from 2012. Whether this is a defensive move, standard policy, or an attempt to point out that they did, at least at one time, have permission to use the photo, we don’t know. But Romanova’s credit line is conspicuously large—several times bigger than the author’s byline.
Bold credit line aside, what makes this particular case of infringement stranger than most is the fact that it happened once before.
In November, Romanova sued VICE for infringement after their main website published one of her Waiting photos above an article titled “What It’s Like to Be a Millennial in a Sexless Relationship.” VICE settled that case, so why would they willfully infringe the copyright of the same photographer again… using a photo from the same photo series?
The media company is not coming off in a good light here. In a Facebook post from November of 2016 about the first infringement, Romanova says she “asked [VICE] to make a public apology on Facebook to the couple in the photograph. Because it’s not only stealing the image, but also a libel of the couple’s sexual relations.” In response, VICE wrote her, “we are under no obligation to publicly apologize to you or to the people in the photograph.”
The terms of the previous settlement are confidential, so we have no idea what VICE was required to pay out to Romanova for the use, but this second infringement could result in “significantly higher” damages according to her lawyer, Richard Liebowitz.
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