Lindsay v. The Wrecked and Abandoned Vessel R.M.S. Titanic
52 U.S.P.Q.2d 1609 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)
Lindsay wanted to make a
documentary about a sunken ship. He tagged along with a salvage team, and
used them to help film the documentary.
Lindsay created storyboards,
specified specific camera angles and shooting sequences, directed, and
produced the film. He remained on the ship while salvage divers in
submarines went down and actually shot the video.
The crew of the salvage vessel
later licensed some of the footage they shot to a tv channel. Lindsay
sued for copyright infringement.
The crew argued that they
were the ones who shot the video, so it was theirs to license as they
Lindsay argued that he was
the actual author of the video, so
he owned the copyright.
The Trial Court found for
The Trial Court found that
even though Lindsay did not hold the video camera, he was the 'creative
force' behind the video, and so was the author for copyright purposes.
The Court likened this
decision to that of Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony (111 U.S. 53 (1884)) where it was held that a
photographer can have a copyright on a photograph even though they didn't
create the thing they were photographic.
In both that case and this
one, it was the selection of what to photograph that was the 'artistry',
not the physical mechanism that captured the images.
This case is misleading
because it was really an oversimplification of copyright law. The crew
could have argued that since multiple parties were involved in the
creation of the work, the work should be considered a joint authorship. It could also have been considered a work
for hire. However, the Court did not
address either of these issues in their decision.