Controlling intellectual property online is a difficult task. Software, written works and even images can proliferate and the rightful owner may have a difficult time enforcing protections. The disputes that can arise were recently highlighted when a scientific group released the first ever photo of a black hole.

The image was a serious scientific triumph. Never before has an image like this existed. As a result, it does not come as a surprise that ownership rights would be a valuable commodity.

Ownership dispute: Who owns the black hole photo?

Shortly after its release, the image of the black hole led to a debate of ownership. A company in China attempted to claim copyright ownership of the image. However, an observatory in Europe, the European Southern Observatory (ESO), countered it had true ownership.

So, who wins?

The Chinese company in question is the country’s largest provider of stock images. Shortly after it claimed copyright ownership and tried to collect payment for its use, the ESO released a statement. According to the statement, it published the photo under the protection of a Creative Attribution 4.0 International license. As such, the ESO mounted a successful challenge to the Chinese company’s attempted claim.

The Chinese corporation issued a statement after the incident and ceded ownership claims. Business leaders within the organization stated the incident was an opportunity for it to review poor management and make changes as needed.

The dispute provides an example of the power of intellectual property tools like the copyright. Those with valuable intellectual property, like a one of a kind photo, are wise to take steps to protect their interests. This can include filing for copyright protections.