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Case Review: Photographer v. Artist (2013)

Screen shot 2014-01-14 at 12.44.01 AMBy Irina Tarsis, Esq.*


Update: In 2014, Greenfield v. Pankey was transferred out of Souther District of New York to Western District of Texas and settled shortly thereafter. Terms of the settlement are confidential.

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Chasse away Cariou v. Prince! Filed on December 20, 2013 with amended complaint submitted on the New Year’s Eve, Greenfield v. Pankey had the making of another exciting photographer v. artist case. Plaintiff, Lois Greenfield, a dance photographer, alleged that Jill Pankey, a painter, was basing some of her canvases on Greenfield’s photos.

Screen shot 2014-01-14 at 12.43.37 AMAccording to the complaint, Greenfield is “one of the country’s foremost dance photographers” who does not photograph dance performances but instead “directs and composes unique dance imagery in her studio.” Defendant, at one time art faculty at Texas State University, allegedly used Greenfield’s photographs in more than 20 of her paintings. After a third party noticed that Pankey’s works were based on Greenfield’s photos,Pankey admitted to using photos of dancers as inspiration for her paintings and tried to secure Greenfield’s permission to copy her work.

While Pankey is not a New York resident — she resides in Texas — New York Federal Court seems to have jurisdiction to decide the dispute because Defendant promoted her work to New York residents and exhibited her paintings in Manhattan gallery shows.

Screen shot 2014-01-14 at 12.33.27 AMCases involving copyright infringement are increasingly frequent, see for example Gray v. Koons (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 2015), Graham v. Prince, 1:15-cv-10160 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 2016), and where there are allegations of willful copyright infringement, infringer may be subject to maximum statutory damages, actual damages and litigation costs as well as injunction against using underlying copyrighted materials not to mention the possibility of distraction of the infringing works or other disposition.

Source: Complaint, Greenfield v. Pankey, 1:13-cv-09025-PGG  (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 27, 2013)

*Disclaimer: This article is intended as general information, not legal advice, and is no substitute for seeking representation.