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Dance Photog Claims Painter Swiped Images

MANHATTAN (CN) - A dance photographer claims in court that an artist violated copyright by basing paintings on her photos, and selling them.

Lois Greenfield describes herself in the lawsuit as "one of this country's foremost dance photographers."

She claims in Federal Court that defendant Jill Pankey used 33 of her images in at least 21 oil paintings, without her permission, and sold them through galleries, books and on the Internet.

Pankey, of San Marcos, Texas, was an art professor at various colleges, including Texas State University.

"Ms. Pankey, sharing Ms. Greenfield's love of dance and the grace and elegance of motion, accessed Ms. Greenfield's photographs," the complaint states.

"Ms. Pankey, admittedly unable to independently recreate the dancers' 'twists and turns' Ms. Greenfield depicts in the photographs, copied and incorporated those movements in the paintings.

"The paintings also copy the poses, lighting, perspective, shape and composition of the photographs.

"The paintings celebrate the graceful forms of bodies in motion and in unusual configurations thereby conveying the same expression as the photographs."

Greenfield says she does not photograph dance performances, but creates them in her studio.

The lawsuit provides side-by-side examples of Pankey's painting and Greenfield's photographs.

Greenfield claims Pankey knew she was violating copyright, and refused to stop when Greenfield asked her to.

"(A)fter a third party accused Ms. Pankey of infringing Ms. Greenfield's copyrighted works, Ms. Pankey emailed Ms. Greenfield on Dec. 7, 2012," the complaint states.

"Ms. Pankey stated in that email, 'I would very much like you [sic] permission to study some of your black & white images that I can use in my paintings & alter them.'

"Ms. Pankey added, 'it is extremely difficult to get the twists & turns that you are able to capture with the figure.'

"She concluded, 'I am always looking for unusual images that I can work with,'" according to the complaint.

In other words, Greenfield claims, Pankey admitted she had violated copyright.

The complaint states: "Ms. Pankey explained, '[o]ver the years, I've been inspired by a photographer [referring to Ms. Greenfield] who took many photos of dancers moving through space, in black and white. I used these photos as studies and subjects in some of my paintings because it is simply impossible to get people to pose in space or flight, frozen in time, for me to adequately capture their body language and positions twisting through space.'" (Brackets in complaint).

Greenfield claims Pankey promised, falsely, to stop using the copyrighted images and ignored her request to remove infringing images from the Internet.

Greenfield seeks an injunction and damages for copyright infringement.

She is represented by Andrew Berger with Tannenbaum Helpern Syracuse & Hirschtritt.

Pankey did not respond to a request for comment.

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