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Photographer Catherine McGann filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Bruno Mars and his record label, Warner Music, after the singer posted a childhood photo of himself on Instagram and other social media platforms.

Photo by Gallks

Over 1,2 milion

That is how many times the photo has been liked on just Instagram. It is a pretty huge number. Reportedly McGann was shocked when she saw that.

The black and white photograph presents Mars when he was 3 or 4 years old working as a tiny Elvis Presley impersonator. Apparently Bruno Mars has been giving Elvis impersonations since he was a toddler. TMZ reports that photographer Catherine McGann took the shot of Mars back in 1989 when he was hardly known to the world. How is this a copyright infringement?

Without permission? A copyright infringement?

Now, 28 years later, in June 2017, the famous singer revealed the photo to the public via his social media stream in a “Way Back Wednesday”- themed posts. Unfortunately, the picture was uploaded without the license to share or even without any kind of permission from  McGann. She was so shocked that she decided to sue the Grammy-winning artist.

Photographer claims she still owns the copyright to the photo she took when Mars was a child. Therefore, the Plaintiff is asking the court for statutory damages for copyright infringement. In such cases there is also possible to recover the profits Defendant gained from such unlawful usage.

What’s that buzz

Since the news came out it created a lot of buzz not only among social media users. There is as many opponents as defenders of both the photographer and singer.

In this case, copyright law arguments are in favour of protecting the rights of the photographer. Mars is a famous and worldwide known pop singer who creates his image on the Internet and who did not get permission to share the photograph. This is exactly why he was sued in the first place.

On the other hand, in such cases there is always a problem of  abuse of substantive rights which manifests itself in the fact that McGann simply wants to use Mars’ recognition to gain money.  Critical voices have repeatedly cast doubt if the photograph is original and expresses personality of the author and if the use of this photograph is considered to be commercial indeed.

One way or another, these are the issues which should be the subject of court evaluation. Court has to balance between the rights of the photographer and the rights of the model presented on the photograph. Although the case is probably going to be settled out of court as other similar cases before. Let’s hope that at least it will help raise awareness about copyright law infringements all over the world.

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