Harney v. Sony Pictures Television, Inc., No. 11-1760 (1st Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, a freelance photographer, took a photograph of a man, who called himself Clark Rockefeller, and the man's daughter. Later, it was discovered that the man had abducted his daughter and that his real name was Christian Gerhartsreiter. The photo was used by the FBI in a "Wanted" poster and was distributed in the media. Appellee Sony Pictures Television, Inc. subsequently produced a movie based on Gerhartsreiter's identity deception. In the movie, Sony pictured the photo using an image similar and pose and composition to Plaintiff's original. The photo, however, was different in a number of respects. Plaintiff filed this infringement action, alleging a copyright violation. The district court granted summary judgment for Appellees, concluding that no reasonable jury could find substantial similarity between Sony's recreated photo and Plaintiff's original. The First Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that no jury could properly conclude that Sony's adaption of the photo infringed Plaintiff's copyright in his work.