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Mardi Gras Indians seeking copyright protection against photographers

Photo by Chris Bickford (New York Times)

They call themselves the Mardi Gras Indians and they strut around New Orleans in expensive and elaborate costumes, dancing, chanting, singing and posing for photographs.

But now they are filing for copyright protection over their costume

Photo by Chris Bickford (New York Times)


They call themselves the Mardi Gras Indians and they strut around New Orleans in expensive and elaborate costumes, dancing, chanting, singing and posing for photographs.

But now they are filing for copyright protection over their costumes, citing that they want to cash in on any pictures used in advertising, including calendars, posters and prints.

The New York Times analyzes the situation, stating that it would be difficult to put a copyright on the costumes to protect against photographers.

But they fail to mention that any photograph used in advertising without a model release is already a violation of the law that can result in an easy lawsuit.

Editorial use of images, as we know, does not require a model release. And the Mardi Gras Indians state they have no problem being photographed in an editorial sense.

Knowing that there are few legal protections for a person who is photographed in public — particularly one who stops and poses every few feet — some Mardi Gras Indians have begun filing for copyright protection for their suits, which account for thousands of dollars in glass beads, rhinestones, feathers and velvet, and hundreds of hours of late-night sewing.

Anyone could still take their pictures, but the Indians, many of whom live at the economic margins, would have some recourse if they saw the pictures being sold, or used in advertising. (News photographs, like the ones illustrating this article, are not at issue.)

So I really don’t understand why they are not suing for illegally using their images in advertising without consent rather than take a chance on a risky legal maneuver that might get thrown out of court.

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