CBS sues photographer for posting screenshots of 1958 TV show on social media

Nov 2, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

CBS sues photographer for posting screenshots of 1958 TV show on social media

Nov 2, 2017

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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CBS Broadcasting has filed one of the most unusual lawsuits I’ve ever heard of. They are suing photojournalist Jon Tannen for copyright infringement because of the screenshots he posted on social media. The screenshots are from a 1958 episode of the TV series “Gunsmoke,” and CBS seeks $150,000 in damages.

The lawsuit from CBS came after Tannen sued them for using his images without permission. So, it looks like a “retaliatory strike,” as Ars Technica describes it.

As Torrent Freak writes, it started with the lawsuits against big studios such as CBS, NBC, and Warner Bros. They were accused of using copyrighted photos without the permission from the authors. According to Torrent Freak, these lawsuits have resulted “in hundreds of settlements this year alone.” In February 2017, Tannen sued CBS Interactive for the same reason. Reportedly, they used one of his photos on the website 247sports.com without paying him. Although the case against them was strong, CBS decided to fight back.

CBS filed a lawsuit against Tannen for using a screenshot of “Gunsmoke,” which aired on CBS from 1955 to 1975. Reportedly, the screenshot in question is from a 1958 episode “Dooley Surrenders.” In their complaint, CBS describes Tannen’s legal action as “hypocritical:”

“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.”

In the lawsuit, CBS doesn’t specify the amount of damages. They request statutory damages, which can reach $150,000. However, as Torrent Freak writes, they aren’t likely to win the lawsuit and make Tannen pay that. Reportedly, this is only a way to try and reduce the damages they might pay for their own alleged infringement.

The CBS’ complaint was filed very recently, on October 27. So I’m sure there will be some time before this case is sorted out. Personally, I think it doesn’t make much sense to file a lawsuit over a screenshot, as it’s almost always considered fair use. And I think this complaint makes even less sense considering that CBS had reportedly made the mistake first, and used Tannen’s copyrighted images without the permission. Under these circumstances, I don’t think CBS can win the lawsuit, and I don’t think they should. What do you think?

If you’d like to read more details, you can read Tannen’s lawsuit here and CBS’ complaint here.

[via DPReview, Torrent Freak]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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7 responses to “CBS sues photographer for posting screenshots of 1958 TV show on social media”

  1. Patte McCarthy Avatar
    Patte McCarthy

    Interesting how this has become an eye for an eye type situation or shall we call it a circus?

  2. David Campbell Avatar
    David Campbell

    I am sure that CBS has lawyers on retainer and an annual budget earmarked for exactly this sort of thing, whereas Mr. Tannen does not. One of the services attornies provide is steering the case toward a judge who will rule a certain way. This is transparently a retaliation against Tannen, and any ruling that does not support him will be a result of big business wielding big money.

    It comes down to terrorism, really. CBS wants to send the clear message, “Don’t fuck with us or we will fuck with you.”

  3. Karen Padilla Avatar
    Karen Padilla

    Copyright protections are different for copyrights prior to 1978 and when the photo was first published by CBS. I’m disappointed that CBS would do this. It’s such a petty thing to do. The photographer had a legitimate claim against CBS. Gunsmoke photos are all over the place including museums throughout the Old West. Other than my husband, does anyone really care about Gunsmoke anymore?

  4. Christopher Pang Avatar
    Christopher Pang

    Isn’t there a law where you’re entitled to use at most 8 seconds of footage without being entitled to copyright?

  5. Marko Avatar
    Marko

    Here you go fellow photographers, it starting. To be honest, why should’t they? If photographers start suing left and right why not others sue photographers for the same thing?

    Courts have to make the standards for copyright much higher so it is not so easy for anyone to just sue. Companies and photographers alike.

  6. Brant Dempster Avatar
    Brant Dempster

    Isn’t it ironic that CBS has millions of dollars made off the back of advertisers – who make their money from you – but they are so willing to steal a $100(?) image without a thought of paying you for it. Maybe CBS should be more diligent with the ownership of their property and remove ALL of it from the public eye…Wouldn’t hurt my feelings a bit. I bet if there were a Gofundme for Jon Tannen – and everyone boycotted CBS we could shut them down. Does anyone even watch CBS?

  7. Aaron M. Avatar
    Aaron M.

    They could have issued an apology to the photographer and settle this out of court. Instead, they created a new PR nightmare with this lawsuit. You would think business would understand the concept “Never Assume”

    https://youtu.be/cxbW2cc_NV4