Landmark image rights case ends in withdrawal

Geneva-based photographer Christian Lutz arrives at a Zurich court for arguments in the censorship case Keystone

The case of Swiss photographer Christian Lutz against members of an evangelical church who argued he should not have published their photos has ended with the church members withdrawing their complaint.

This content was published on September 24, 2014 and agencies

Lutz photographed members of the International Christian Fellowship (ICF) for a photo book called "In Jesus' Name" which was released in November 2012 during Photo Week in Paris. It was subsequently banned by court order because 19 members of the church community objected to the publication of photos in which they appeared.

The ban was upheld during a January 2013 court hearing in Zurich.

However, Lutz continued to argue that the ban went against Swiss censorship law. The subjects knew they were being photographed, he argued, and he had a right to publish the work.

The case went to trial when the plaintiffs formally accused Lutz of publishing the photos without their consent.

On Tuesday, after lawyers for both sides presented their arguments, the judge advised that the church members would have difficulty advancing their legal arguments in a trial and advised the withdrawal of the case. To the surprise of many, their lawyer agreed, and the trial will not continue.

Lutz reacted guardedly to the decision, saying he would have liked to have seen a verdict that would have validated his stance and served as a guideline for photographers’ work in future.

The case against Lutz was the first major trial in Switzerland on the question of image rights.

The church members retain the right to reconsider and reinstate their case. 

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

Contributions under this article have been turned off. You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.