No artistic merit: Belarusian photographer loses out in state TV propaganda case

No artistic merit: Belarusian photographer loses out in state TV propaganda case
(Image: Anton Motolkovo, 2016)

14 September 2016

A Belarusian court has ruled that images by a local photographer have “no artistic merit whatsoever”, after state-run television used the photos without permission.

Anton Motolkovo’s stunning images of the Northern Lights — taken in mid-March — quickly went viral after he posted them on social media. Much to the photographer’s dismay, Belteleradiocompany, a state-run television network in Belarus, featured the images the next evening without asking permission or crediting him. During the broadcast, the network compared the colours in the photographs to the red and green Belarusian flag.

According to Motolkovo, Belarusian state TV is a serial culprit for using images without permission. This case, however, particularly angered the photographer.

“They used these photos like a f****ing government propaganda symbol,” he said in a statement to Radio Liberty, alarmed that his images had been used in a way he had never intended.

The current national flag, brought back in by President Alexander Lukashenko in 1995, replaced the red and white flag used by the Belarusian People’s Republic in 1918 and after Belarus’ independence in 1991, which is seen as a symbol of the opposition.

Motolko’s decision to sue, which ended up becoming a matter of principle rather than financial gain, was to no avail.

“I was asking for about 1,000 euros ($1,100),” he said, but later reduced the damages to less than $0.01. “I wanted to be clear that this wasn’t about the money, that I just wanted professional respect.”

Belteleradiocompany’s case rested largely on expert claims that Motolko’s images lacked “any signs of creative freshness, originality, uniqueness, or exceptionality” and were simply a record of a “social event”, making copyright protection not applicable.

Source: Radio Liberty