Trump Organization Sued by New Orleans Photographer for Copyright Infringement

Julie Dermansky's photo at center of Trump lawsuit

Another day, another Trump lawsuit. This time President Trump is being sued by a New Orleans-based photographer for publishing her photo without her permission.

According to court documents obtained by the Daily Mail, Julie Dermansky is suing the Trump organization for copyright infringement and is seeking $150,000 and a trial by jury.

In her lawsuit, Dermansky claims the Trump organization illegally profited off of her photo and violated the Copyright Act. Dermansky shot the photo at a 2016 Trump rally in New Orleans. The photo was then, without her permission, published on President Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump Instagram page.

The photo Trump posted does bare Dermansky’s watermark, however, she was not tagged in the picture. The photo shows five women wearing shirts with the words ‘Make America Great Again #Trump’. The post on Trump’s Instagram page received over 27,000 likes.

You might be thinking, “hey, lots of people share and repost other people’s pictures on Instagram all the time” and you’re right. However, Instagram’s Terms of Use does not allow sharing of pictures when it violates someone else’s intellectual property rights, including copyright and trademark.

Dermansky accuses the Trump Organization of “willfully, intentionally and purposefully disregarding her rights.” The photo has since been deleted from the @RealDonaldTrump Instagram page, but the damage was done.

Under copyright law one violates a person’s right of publicity when, without permission, they use a photo of a person for your own benefit. The “editorial” use of a photo is not considered a use of the person’s image for your own benefit. However, “commercial” use is different because the use benefits the photographer or their employer who hired the photographer (in this case Donald Trump). In that case, the photographer needs the person’s consent to use their image. If the photographer gets a model release signed by the subject, then they are free to use the image commercially, i.e., for advertising.

On the other hand, if an image is used in a newsworthy item then that constitutes an editorial use. In such cases, a person’s rights are evaluated in light of constitutional interests. “Newsworthiness” is a First Amendment, freedom of the press interest and is broadly construed. Courts traditionally have defined public interest or newsworthiness in liberal and far-reaching terms, not limiting it to the dissemination of news in the sense of current events. They have extended it well beyond that to include all types of factual, educational and historical data, even including entertainment and amusement and other interesting phases of human activity in general. Most likely Donald Trump’s lawyers will use this argument.

In her lawsuit, Dermansky is also seeking all profits, gains, and advantages the company received by illegally using her work along with an injunction ordering the Trump Organization LLC to cease using her photo.

You can read Dermansky’s copyright infringement lawsuit in full below.

Court documents obtained by reveal Dermansky filed the complaint on June 22. Her photo was posted on the Instagram page in January of 2016
Dermansky’s Copyright Infringement Lawsuit



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