A Texas appeals court has rejected a photographer’s declare that the unauthorized use of one of his photographs via a country university amounted to a property “taking” by a government entity. The photographer, Jim Olive of Houston, becomes looking for compensation for the alleged belongings taking in a kingdom court instead of claiming copyright infringement in a federal courtroom because governments have immunity from copyright infringement claims. But the kingdom and federal legal guidelines restrict governments from taking property without repayment to assets proprietors.
“We hold that Olive’s takings declare, which is based totally on a single act of copyright infringement via the University [of Houston], isn’t feasible,” the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas stated in its ruling. Olive sued the University of Houston in 2018, alleging unlawful taking beneath the Texas state charter and the U.S. Constitution. The declare concerning the unauthorized use of certainly one of his aerial photos of the metropolis of Houston, which he shot from a helicopter at nightfall in 2005. Olive alleged that during 2012, the University of Houston downloaded the photograph, eliminated copyright and attribution information, and displayed the picture on numerous internet pages of the college’s business college. Olive determined the unauthorized makes use of more than three years later. He demanded the university stop displaying the picture, and the college at once complied.
Olive eventually sued in a Texas district court docket. He sought “just compensation” for the unlawful taking. Olive didn’t sue for copyright infringement because authorities entities have sovereign immunity from tort (i.e., civil) claims, including copyright infringement claims. The university asked the district court docket to throw the claim out when considering that copyright is not considered assets for the country and federal “takings” statutes. And even if copyright is taken into consideration property under those statutes, the university argued, its actions did now not quantity to a taking of Olive’s assets—due to the fact. At the same time, it could have infringed Olive’s copyright; it did no longer take his copyright. (Olive still has control of his copyright to the image in question.)
When the district courtroom rejected the university’s plea for dismissal, the university took its arguments to the kingdom appeals courtroom. In attaining its selection, the state appeals court docket cited that “criminal scholars are divided on whether the copyright has to be protected from authorities takings, and prison authority [on the question] is scant.” But the appeals courtroom determined in want of the university based on numerous previous cases concerning similar claims for “takings.” In one of those cases, the Supreme Court dominated that corporate trade secrets are assets problem to the federal takings clause because the economic impact of a government organization’s disclosure of those secrets is excessive (e.g., an employer can lose its competitive gain and its inventory marketplace fee).
But in some other federal case, an appeals courtroom ruled that patent infringement does not constitute a taking below the US constitution. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case, efficiently upholding the federal appeals court ruling. “Patents and logos, as species of highbrow assets, are greater much like copyrights than change secrets and techniques,” the Texas appeal court mentioned in its ruling for the University of Houston.
“[W]e accept as true with the University that the Supreme Court has never definitively held that a patent holder’s recourse in opposition to the authorities for infringement is constitutional takings claim,” The Texas appeals court docket stated. It introduced, “[T]he litany of Supreme Court selections trusted through Olive did now not apprehend constitutional takings claim for patent infringement.”
The Texas appeals court also played down the harm accomplished to Olive. The photographer “by no means misplaced his right to use or license his image; the University’s infringement value Olive a licensing rate,” the courtroom said. It went directly to evaluate the college’s infringement to “common law trespass—a government’s interference with real assets that might not amount to taking at all.”
Responding to the choice, Olive told PDN via email: “[B]asically this ruling offers the State impunity to infringe on copyrighted cloth…All nation universities, corporations, hospitals, and so forth can use our paintings without repayment or attribution.” But the case increases focus within the innovative community, Olive says, including that he hopes that attention leads to destiny efforts to quit authorities’ use of intellectual assets without just compensation to creators.