Fish & Richardson Helps Boston-Area Photographer Protect His Copyright

Friday, June 12, 2015 - 10:27

Fish & Richardson is representing professional photographer Bimal Nepal in a pro bono copyright case over the unlicensed use of one of his copyrighted images on the prime minister of India’s official Facebook page. Nepal owns the copyright in the photograph and has registered it with the U.S. Copyright Office. Fish became involved in the case through the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) of Massachusetts, which provides legal services, advice, and education programming to artists and cultural organizations in Massachusetts. 

Nepal created the photograph – an artistic line of illuminated, glowing yellow candles – with his daughter’s help on the dining room floor of their home in Cambridge, MA. After Nepal posted the photograph on his Flickr page, it appeared on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Facebook page with a “Happy Dhanteras” message to his followers during festival month in India. Prime Minister Modi shared Nepal’s photograph with his 23 million followers, and the content went viral with 496,000 likes, 45,000 shares, and 16,000 comments.  

Nepal says that while he is honored, he is also concerned that the prime minister’s office did not request his permission to use the photo and did not credit him as the photographer.  “Copyright is an essential protection for individual artists,” Nepal said.  “We work hard at our craft, and others, no matter how prominent and powerful, should not be permitted to misappropriate the fruits of our labor and skill.”

Fish recently sent a letter to the prime minister’s office on Nepal’s behalf, offering to license the prime minister’s use of the photograph in exchange for an acknowledgement crediting him as the photographer and a nominal license fee. 

“Bimal admires Prime Minister Modi, and recognizes that this is a noncommercial use of his copyrighted image. He is pursuing this issue because it sends an important message about artist’s rights and respecting intellectual property,” said Adam Kessel, the principal at Fish & Richardson who is handling the case pro bono.  “Bimal is a professional photographer and an accomplished visual artist whose work has been published in National Geographic and other prominent venues. As an independent photographer, license revenues from his photographs are a substantial part of his professional income. He is standing up for all artists who deserve to have their intellectual property protected.”

Fish has worked with the VLA of Massachusetts for many years, and has handled over a dozen different matters and dedicated over 1,000 pro bono hours assisting VLA clients. Fish attorneys provide pro bono representation to artists of many disciplines, ranging from music to photography to visual art to literature.