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OU-alum photographer sues Perez Hilton for stealing his work

Posted by Kitty McConnell on July 11, 2013

Robert Caplin, an award-winning photographer with Ohio ties, made national legal news early this month when he sued celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton for copyright infringement and DCMA violations

A graduate of the Ohio University School of Visual Communications, Caplin is well-regarded among professional photographers in Central Ohio. Based in Manhattan, Caplin is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TIME and Newsweek. His corporate client roster includes Columbus-based American Electric Power and Abercrombie & Fitch

Caplin’s complaint (read full filing here), filed in the California Central District Court, centers around photos of Glee actor Darren Criss that Caplin shot for the New York Times. Caplin published 32 of the shots on his website, complete with watermarks and security software preventing drag-and-drop/right click image copying. Mario Lavandeira (aka Perez Hilton) allegedly took screen shots of Caplin’s work, added his own watermark and published them on his blog.

Caplin called Lavanderia, asking him to remove the photos. He received an apology, but no remedy or response to his subsequent take-down request. Caplin is being represented by Nevada-based attorney Carolyn Wright, an intellectual property attorney whose primary clients are photographers.

Damages sought for multiple federal Title 17 violations range from $25,000 to 150,000 per infringement, plus legal fees. The suit seeks to  prohibit Lavandeira from future infringements on Caplin’s work.

Should the case go to jury trial, it will be of interest to professional photographers, writers and artists with an interest in protecting their work on the internet. Also worth following is The Photo Brigade, an online community for photographers founded by Caplin and his wife, graphic designer Laia Prats. Photo Brigade features podcasts with photo editors and professional photographers across the country, including OU photography alums. 

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