To what degree are two photos similar enough to have both parties get involved in court? This question is asked frequently in the copyright law world, and is the subject of a case involving Esquire magazine’s cover of famous contemporary boxer Sonny Liston in 1963 and if the 1998 cover of Sports Illustrated with the then-popular boxer Evander Holyfield infringed on Time Inc.’s copyright. At face value the image can be copyrighted, but when dissecting the individual elements of the image apart, what remains is a weak argument to justify copyright protection.
The copyrightable element of the 1963 image should be covered under American copyright law, but the content of the image, including originality and use that need to be defined. Elements that should be protected include the photograph itself. This includes “selecting and arranging the costume, draperies, and other carious accessories in said photograph, arranging the subject so as to present graceful outlines (Burrow-Giles Lithographic Co. v. Sarony, 45, 48 (4 S.Ct. 1884)).” In the 19th century, this declaration was the first time the question of a photograph’s inherent copyright was explained, and is now a standard in the Copyright Act of 1976, where all “two-dimensional and three-dimensional works of fine, graphic, and applied art, photographs, and prints…that can identify separately from the utilitarian aspects.” (17 U.S.C. § 101) are considered pictorial works and protected under copyright. Now that it has been