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Latimer v. Roaring Toyz, Inc., et al.

The plaintiff photographer filed suit against a motorcycle customizing shop, a motorcycle manufacturer and a magazine publisher for using photographs the plaintiff had taken of several customized motorcycles. The defendants claimed that the plaintiff’s photographs were derivative works based on the original art work painted on the motorcycles and that the plaintiff did not have a license from the creator of the art work to make a derivative work. The court disagreed, noting that the Copyright Act requires a derivative work to recast or otherwise transform the original work, and that the plaintiff’s photographs did not transform the original art work. Furthermore, the court found that the plaintiff had demonstrated originality in his arrangement of the motorcycles and therefore did have a valid copyright in his photographs. The court also rejected the defendants’ argument that the plaintiff was a joint author of the photographs with two other people who were present at the photo shoot, noting that there was no evidence that the parties intended to be joint authors and that the other men’s contributions – such as holding the motorcycles up because they did not have kick stands – were not substantive contributions to the creation of the photographs. However, the court granted summary judgment to the magazine publisher and the motorcycle manufacturer on the copyright infringement claim because the plaintiff orally granted the motorcycle manufacturer permission to use the photographs to promote the motorcycles, which included using the photographs in a media kit sent to magazine publishers.