Copyright Dispute Over Miss Hawaiian Tropics Bikini Photographs

Blair sued the various business entities that comprise Hawaiian Tropic, the popular tanning-product company that sponsors Miss Hawaiian Tropic contests across the globe. Hawaiian Tropic would hire Blair to take photographs of models at various Miss Hawaiian Tropic events. Hawaiian Tropic paid his expenses, but they never issued him a W2 or provided employee benefits. While at these events, Blair took pictures of the models when they were not competing.

After the events, Blair would send all the images to Hawaiian Tropics on computer disk. Blair claimed they had an oral agreement that Hawaiian Tropics could used the photographs in calendars if they provided him a photographer’s credit and that he would own the copyright. Hawaiian Tropics claims they own the photographs because Blair is a Hawaiian Tropics employe. Alternatively, Hawaiian Tropics claims they had a license to use the photographs as they chose and published a number of the photographs in calendars without giving Blair credit. He filed suit for copyright infringement and both parties moved for summary judgment.

The court denied the motions for summary judgment. The court held that Blair was not an employee of Hawaiian Tropics and owns the copyright to the photographs. As to the existence of a license, the court held that an issue of fact existed for the jury to determine.

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