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November 13, 2006
Is Painting Still Like Photography?
In the days before photography permitted instant capture of a scene, arists would be paid to sketch or paint an event or scene and copies of that rendition would appear in broadsheets and other newspaper predecessors. Even today we have sketch artists on courtrooms where photographers are not permitted.
So the question, then, is this: if a painter depicts an actual event or scene is that creative work protected in the same way as a photograph of the event would be?
This is the question being asked by painter Daniel A. Moore, because he is being sued by the University of Alabama which claims that his paintings of Alabama football game scenes violate the University's trademark "crimson and white color scheme".
Moore has been painting football scenes for years, so it's not clear why he's being sued now. He claims to have made millions from paintings and reproductions of them; the University won't comment but seems to have taken umbrage at Moore's move into more merchandise-like things such as mugs and calendars.
Moore doesn't stand on the gridiron sidelines and paint as the action happens - he works from photos and his own experience of the event. One of the contentions raised by the University is that this means his paintings contain no (or not enough) original content to be protected by separate copyright.
Just about everyone in the Times story seems to think this is a dumb lawsuit but mostly on social grounds; it's not clear to me where this falls out from a purely legal standpoint.
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