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Maximum Damages for MaximImages?

Photographer Sues Rutgers for Alleged Unauthorized Use of Photograph

In April 2024, a new copyright infringement case was initiated in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Plaintiff Alex Vladimir Maxim (“Maxim”), a Canadian professional photographer who conducts his business online by selling his artistic photographs on a website named MaximImages, filed a lawsuit against Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (“Rutgers”), alleging violations of 17 U.S.C §§ 106(1).

Photo by Tomwsulcer via Wikimedia Commons (CC0)

Rutgers, a prestigious public university established in 1766, stands as the eighth oldest university in the U.S. In May 2023, Maxim discovered Rutgers was using one of his photographs without permission on one of its websites. He claims that this use of his copyrighted work served a commercial purpose, specifically “selling Defendant’s study programs in Japan through its International Students & Global Programs” (Complaint, pg. 4). Furthermore, Maxim alleges that Rutgers has been utilizing, reproducing, and publicly displaying the image for at least three years.

busy Tokyo intersection
Maxim's Image used by Rutgers, © 2014 Alex Maxim.

Upon discovering the unauthorized use of his copyrighted work, Maxim contacted Rutgers to demand they acquire a license for the image’s use. However, the university refused. As a result, Maxim is now seeking statutory damages, which could amount to up to $150,000 for each instance of infringement.

Rutgers has 21 days to respond after the filing of the Complaint, and a judge has yet to be assigned to the case. We will continue to provide updates as new developments arise in the proceedings.