Anti-salmon farming activist to sue Netflix for copyright infringement

Editorial Staff

Corin Smith is seeking damages to be established at trial and disgorgement of profits from the series.

Anti-salmon farming activist photographer Corin Smith has accused streaming giant Netflix and Oceanic Preservation Society (OPS) of unauthorized use of his video footage in the documentary, “You Are What You Eat.”

The four-part limited series, released in January and produced by OPS, follows four sets of identical twins participating in a Stanford nutritional study. One twin adopts a plant-based regimen as the other maintains an omnivorous diet over the course of eight weeks.

The case, titled Corin Smith v. Oceanic Preservation Society and Netflix, Inc., filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California earlier this month by Doniger/Burroughs Law Firm, includes claims of copyright infringement, vicarious and contributory copyright infringement.

“Defendants have committed copyright infringement with actual knowledge or reckless disregard of Smith’s rights such that said acts of copyright infringement were, and continue to be, willful, intentional, and malicious,” wrote attorneys for the plaintiff, alleging that Netflix and the OPS violated the Copyright Act of 1976, Title 17 U.S.C. §101.

Smith, a Scotland-based fly fisherman and photograpger known for his opposition to open cage salmon farming, discovered in January 2024 that his footage was used without permission in the film.

The infringing use includes at least six video clips and still photographs from his works in the film and its promotional materials.

According to the complaint, OPS, a Colorado marine nonprofit that produced the series, informed Smith that the footage was licensed through animal rights activist Don Staniford.

However, Smith had only authorized Staniford to upload portions of his work to YouTube and had not transferred any rights for further licensing.

Despite being informed by Staniford about the ownership of the footage, OPS and Netflix did not seek Smith’s permission before using his work, according to court documents.

“Mr. Smith’s photography and videography are well-known for uniquely documenting open-cage salmon farming. Rather than acquire the right to use Mr. Smith’s work, the defendants exploited it without consent in their film and marketing materials,” said Frank Trechsel, one of the attorneys representing Smith.

Smith seeks damages for the unauthorized use of his works, including disgorgement of profits attributable to the infringement. The complaint emphasizes that the defendants’ actions were willful, intentional, and malicious, warranting further legal and equitable relief.

The court has jurisdiction over the case as both defendants maintain corporate headquarters in California. Smith’s attorneys argue that the venue is proper given that a substantial part of the acts leading to the claims occurred in this district.

Netflix and Corin Smith did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


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