For some time now, famed jewelry retailer Tiffany & Co. has been a staunch defender of intellectual property and an adversary to a free and open internet. You will recall that this is the company that wanted eBay to be held liable for third-party auctions of counterfeit Tiffany products. The company also lent its support to censoring the internet via the seizing of domains it didn’t like, as well as its support for COICA (which was the predecessor of the bill that eventually became SOPA). COICA, among other things, was a bill that would have allowed the DOJ to seize so-called “pirate” websites that infringed on others’ intellectual property.
And because this always seems to happen, it’s noteworthy that despite wanting to completely shut down websites due to infringement, Tiffany is now being sued for copyright infringement for using a photograph without permission or attribution.
Tiffany & Co. is in a bit of hot water over a photograph it is using in connection with one of its jewelry lines. Last Friday, New York-based photojournalist Peter Gould filed suit against the famous jewelry company in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, a federal court in Manhattan, citing copyright infringement.
According to Gould’s complaint, the Tiffany & Co. website “features the photograph to sell [the company’s] Elsa Peretti Jewelry.” The complaint further states that at all times Gould “has been the sole owner of all right, title and interest in and to the photograph, including the copyright thereto.”
Perhaps more significantly, Gould also alleges that Tiffany & Co. didn’t merely use his photograph of Peretti without his permission, but also actively stripped out the copyright information on the photograph to relieve him of any attribution for it as well. That, of course, is a federal no-no spelled Section 1202 of the Copyright Act. Given its vehement defense of intellectual property in the past, the complaint says Tiffany & Co. knew or should have known that such removal of copyright attribution would be seen as an attempt to slide its infringement of Gould’s photograph under the legal radar.
Given that the photograph is being used on its website, I’m sure the folks at the company would understand if tiffany.com were seized by the government over such allegations, should they prove to be true. Right?