Kotaku sued over Dante’s Inferno picture

Here’s an interesting piece courtesy of THR: an artist is suing Gawker, owner of games new site Kotaku, for alleged copyright infringement relating to a painting the artist had done of Dante’s Inferno and which Kotaku posted as part of a feature on the EA game called…Dante’s Inferno.

The allegedly offending post by Kotaku is here.  THR haven’t published or referenced any details of the lawsuit, which is brought by the artist Lindsey McCulloch, so treat the above with a grain of salt until there are concrete details of the lawsuit. 

However, as a general observation, linking to or posting to other peoples’ copyright works on the net is often a bit dicey legally.  There’s no question that reproducing someone else’s paintings constitutes ‘copying’ under the copyright laws of most jurisdictions, but where different countries take very widely different positions is to what extent that copying is legally permitted and when it turns into (illegal) copyright infringement.

For example, in the USA there is a fairly wide legal principle of “fair use”, which (partly for freedom of expression reasons) protects a wide ranging of copying which otherwise would constitute copyright infringement.  However, in the UK there is no such general concept of fair use and instead you have to try to rely upon much more limited categories of protection, such as the ‘research’ or ‘news reporting’ defences to copyright infringement.  In most countries of course, what is really important is why you are copying someone else’s copyright works: is it for your own commercial benefit?  Have you given due credit to the original author?

Or to boil all that down even further: there is no one size fits all rule about when you can copy someone else’s work on the net (or anywhere else), and when you can’t.

Postscript: some people on the internets have already speculated why the artist isn’t taking action against EA for somehow copying her work when they published the Dante’s Inferno game itself.  All I will say about that is that, very generally, it can be straightforward to ‘copy’ someone else’s work in your game if you do it properly – there’s a lot more on that here.

Second postscript: for once, I have not linked a picture for this post. I wonder why?

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