Tomelleri v. Taunton Rod and Gun, Inc. d/b/a Bears Den Fly Fishing Company (19-cv-12469).

Joseph Tomelleri charges Bears [sic] Den, a fly fishing shop, with copyright infringement and false copyright management information, accusing the shop of using his copyrighted fish illustrations without permission.   Tomelleri is a biologist/artist who has created more than a thousand illustrations of fresh-water fish which can be seen at his website, http://www.americanfishes.com. He asserts that Bear’s Den has reproduced and displayed modified versions of his illustrations, with Tomelleri’s copyright management information removed and Bear’s Den copyright information substituted in its place. Tomelleri cites the access that his site provides along with the “striking similarity” of the illustrations as proof of copying. This type of proof strikes me as problematic, given that Tomelleri’s illustrations are in a highly realistic, Audobon Society-type of mold, such that it would be difficult to determine whether an accused illustration is really a derivative of his work as opposed to an independently-created illustration (or, for that matter, a copy or derivative of someone else’s independent creation). In addition to this suit, Tomelleri filed three similar suits in Michigan, as well as suits in Arizona, Arkansas, Utah and West Virginia. The Massachusetts case has been assigned to Judge Gorton.

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