Townsquare Media, the owner of WGBF-AM,  has been involved in some legal activity lately over the use of a photo on one of their New Jersey radio station's websites, and things have taken an interesting turn.

 In the current print edition of TALKERS magazine, Harrison Strategies senior partner Matthew B. Harrison analyzes the copyright infringement case in which Townsquare Media’s New Jersey 101.5 was involved. Here’s the quick version of the back story: A photographer was hired by New Jersey Monthly to photograph former PM drive hosts Craig Carton and Ray Rossi for a piece on the duo. The station then used the photo to which the photographer retained the copyright for a caption contest on its website. The photographer sued. Harrison writes that in arguing its case, the station claimed its “usage of the image was ‘news reporting’ –– a term which appears in the Copyright Act’s non-exhaustive list of potential purposes of fair use. The court disagreed. News organizations are not free to use any and all copyrighted works without the permission of the creator simply because they wish to report on the same events a work depicts. In order for a work to be determined fair use as news reporting, the news outlet must create a new work that, in part, comments on the original work and uses such pieces of the original in the process.” Harrison explains that the court determined most commercial usage could not be considered fair usage – another blow against the station since it never argued the usage wasn’t commercial. But aren’t most media enterprises commercial? Harrison states, “Obviously, quality content -- as a whole -- dictates marketability, but the argument needs to be made that no particular piece of content is necessary to commercial marketability.” Read Harrison’s entire column in the current print edition of TALKERS magazine.

So, no matter how the above case turns out, be safe-not sorry, and use Getty Images or another subscription image service before you go grabbing other peoples property from this or that website. It might come back to bite you.

Talkers Magazine