“Seattle photographer Mike Hipple […] received a letter from the lawers of a sculptor named Jack Mackie. Apparently a photograph that Mike took 10 years previous and was selling as stock, featured a woman dancing along the sidewalk with a portion of Jack’s sculpture ‘Dance Steps on Broadway’ visible. Mr. Mackie claimed copyright infringement in the letter.” (story)
Of course, if you’re in the movie business, you know this situation very well. Next time you watch some Hollywood movie, stay seated when the credits roll. A few of those 100+ people working on the movie will very likely be experts who clear the rights and/or check such cases. I forgot what they are called, but they’ll be listed (and you might be surprised how many there will be).
Rob’s suggestion that “In an era where photographs are easily copied I think fair use needs a stronger definition” I couldn’t disagree with more. Do you really want the people who are currently trying to being Americans health care sit down and define what “fair use” is? Remember, this is what this comes down to - it’s a law, and a “stronger” definition of what fair use is would have to be put into law.
I’ve argued before - and I’ll happily do it again - that leaving cases of fair use to the judges (and to politicians who write the laws) is the worst possible solution for art.