What's the price to pay for posting photos of museum art on your Flickr account? The World Erotic Art Museum wants $2 million.
They sued Thomas Hawk after he allegedly posted photos on Flickr that he snapped during his trip to the erotic museum, which prohibits photography. According to a response from the WEAM, Hawk falsely claimed to be a member of the media in order to obtain permission to take the photos. Of course what makes a person a member of the media is always a difficult question.
The World Erotic Art Museum filed suit in federal district court in the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit accuses Thomas Hawk of infringing on their copyright and unfair competition. The unfair competition cause of action is alleged despite the fact that Hawk says he isn't selling the pictures, the Daily Examiner reports. The museum is concerned that visitors to Hawk's Flickr account will somehow assume that he and his page are officially affiliated with the museum.
According the lawsuit, as soon as Hawk snapped the photos, he committing trespassing by "acting outside the terms of the license for admission," the Daily Examiner reports.
However, Hawk gave his side of the story in a blog post. Hawk says that the museum knew he was taking photos, and that a museum guard gave him permission after inquiring about what he planned to do with the photos. The blog post has now been taken down, probably upon the advice of Hawk's attorney.
The museum has also complained to Flickr, which has removed the photos from Hawk's account due to notice of copyright infringement. It is a strange case because under federal copyright law, taking a photo of a work of art does not infringe on copyright. However, the museum is making the claim under common law, partially on the argument that Hawk broke the law by ignoring the sign.