Court: Sony owes Beacon Hill photographer nothing for using likeness of his photo of Clark Rockefeller and his daughter

A Beacon Hill Times photo of a grinning German faker and his little daughter leaving church one Palm Sunday may be iconic, but Sony did not violate any copyright laws by using a replica in a TV show because it removed the elements that made the original photo unique, a federal appeals court ruled today.

Donald Harney, who took the photo on April 1, 2007 as the pair left the Church of the Advent, sued Sony because it didn't try to pay him for a similar photo it used in a made-for-TV movie about the faux-Rockefeller.

In its ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston agreed with Harney that Sony copied his work, with a photo of actors posed like Rockefeller and his daughter.

But, it continued, Sony removed the palm leaf from the actress's hands and the church from the background, so the main similarity that remained was that of a father holding his daughter, which is so commonplace it's hardly copyrightable.

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