Wedding Photog Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

Wedding photographer Kristina Hill says she’s contemplating legal action for copyright infringement against a Virginia-based group that has ripped off one of her images of a same-sex couple, and used it to create a political attack ad.

The group, called Public Advocate of the United States, used an engagement photo of Hill’s showing her clients kissing. The group used the image in a political ad attacking Colorado State Senator Jean White, who has voted in favor of allowing civil unions in Colorado.

Public Advocate, which is designated a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  cropped Hill’s image, stripped away the background of the New York skyline, and replaced it with a background of a Colorado landscape in winter. The group also superimposed text that read: “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?'”

©Kristina Hill

The ad was created for a conservative anti-gay opponent vying for White’s senate seat. White was defeated in that race.

One of the men in Hill’s photograph, Brian Edwards, was notified by a friend about the ad. Edwards minced no words about it on his blog called The Gay Wedding Experience: “How do I feel? I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid.”

According to The Denver Post, Edwards and his partner have hired a lawyer.

Hill also wrote about the theft on her blog. “To see an image, taken with that intent being used in the way it was used is heart-breaking for me,” she said. (Hill was a PDN Top Knots contest winner in 2010.)

In The Denver Post story about the ad, Public Advocate defended its unauthorized use of the image on the grounds that others “make fair use of our materials.” (Public Advocate’s web site says it is “fighting Liberals Tyrants Elitists Homosexuals Barack Obama pornography gay marriage same-sex marriage high taxes over-regulation.”)

In an interview with PDN, Hill said of Public Advocate’s use of her image, “It’s obviously copyright infringement, and I plan to pursue it.”

She’s just not certain she has the resources–or the stomach–for a protracted court fight. “There’s not going to be monetary gain in my lawsuit. I don’t care. I would be looking for justice. But it could drag on for years, and rack up a lot legal fees for me, and I don’t have a ton of money.”

She adds, “They’re a powerful organization that did this. I’m one tiny photographer. It’s scary. It could be a lot of tearing me apart. It could get ugly.”

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31 Responses to “Wedding Photog Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad”

  1. Holly Carlyle Says:

    Considering? Planning? She should DEFINITELY sue for infringement. The first being a cease and desist AND find an attorney that will take her case on contingency. There could also be damages relating to her clients. The trauma of seeing yourself in an ANTI-GAY add when you are gay much less one of your WEDDING photos…. This is unacceptable. Contact the PPA or any lawyer specializing in copyright infringement and Intellectual Property.

  2. Peter D Says:

    Would be great if someone started a legal fund to help the creator pursue what is obviously a clear cut violation of copyright infringement (register that image with the US copyright office today!) and then donate all the monies awarded to the plaintiff to a gay rights charity fighting against this kind of nonsense.

  3. Hunter Harrison Says:

    Looks like it’s time to start a legal fund and help out. If it were me, I would also want to sue them into oblivion, but would also lack the resources. I’d be happy to donate and help pursue a bunch of thieving bigots.

    By the way, is it just me, or is it ironic that they want the photo, but not what it depicts?!

  4. Holly Carlyle Says:

    One final thing – as the photographer and as a photographer she has a responsibility to protect the privacy and images of her clients. No matter how small of a company you may be – it’s one of the grown-up things that everyone out there with a camera doesn’t consider when they start their photography “careers”. It comes with the territory. If you aren’t prepared to protect your work, or pursue action if it’s compromised on behalf of yourself or your clients, then you shouldn’t be in the business.

  5. bob soltys Says:

    Others “make fair use of our materials” – so, others’ actions justifies dishonesty by a group that styles itself as pursuing morality. Really?

    And this wasn’t “fair use.”

    Vote number 2 for starting a legal fund – count me in as another one who’d be happy to donate and help you blast those blowhards out of the water.

  6. Penny Says:

    Stealing is stealing and WRONG! Don’t be afraid my photographer friend! Call them out! Regardless of point of view … the law is the law and stealing is wrong!!!

  7. Chris Hinkle Says:

    How about a Kickstarter campaign to kick their ass into compensation? I would support that! Srsly where can I donate? It’s rude and sick for them to steal and use an image I this manner.

  8. though provoked Says:

    All of you who are screaming copyright infringement…were you screaming the same when Shepard Fairey stole Mannie Garcia’s AP shot and made an iconic image of Obama? Seems like their argument is sorta the same for fair use. Are you being biased? Would you feel the same if it were pro gay?

  9. April Says:

    I would also be willing to donate… set up a legal fund. Stealing an image for any purpose, especially something so hateful, is NOT acceptable.

  10. Zac Says:

    I hope Kristina Hill and that adorable couple bleed that hate group dry.

  11. The Gay Wedding Experience » Checking In – Two Days After Realizing Our Photo Was Turned Into Attack Ads Says:

    […] Photo District News […]

  12. kristina hill Says:

    Thanks everyone. I do want it to be known that the FIRST thing I did when this whole situation came to my attention was contact PPA. I have also spoken with several lawyers. In the three days since this has come to our attention, we (my couple and I) have all been tirelessly addressing/working on the issue. Again, thanks for all of the support!

  13. Karen Leone Says:

    Why can’t they just leave people alone!!!

  14. Naughty Essex Says:

    You can definitely see your skills in the paintings you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to say how they believe. All the time follow your heart.

  15. Brad Says:

    I am sorry this happened to you, to the photographer, but more importantly, to the couple. You DO stand for family values like love and commitment. You do deserve happiness, and don’t let the cruelty and selfishness of others cheapen or diminish this beautiful moment. The majority of us support you, not them.

  16. Atlantaphotog Says:

    If the public can raise over $650,000 for an older woman who gets picked on by kids on a schoolbus, surely the same can be done here for a legal fund to fight these people.

  17. Amy Says:

    @though provoked
    Your point is heard that infringement is infringement. A lot of people where in the side of the AP in the Fairey case, myself included. But this is not the same situation.
    public figure vs private figures
    art vs activism
    positive vs negative

  18. dude Says:

    AP vs. Fairey is a totally different situation and there are various facets to that which don’t apply here.

    1) The AP *still* has never produced a signed work-for-hire contract for Manny Garcia. From what I understand, he simply didn’t have the means to fight a massive international corporation to assert his ownership of the image.

    2) Manny has stated that he is proud of Fairey’s use. I’m sure he would have preferred to be asked before the use, he pretty much has stated his approval of the use.

    3) The person depicted in the photo (Obama) benefitted immensely from Fairey’s use of his likeness. Not so in this case.

    4) The person depicted (Obama) is a public figure in the campaign. Not so in this case.

    Need I go on?

    I hope Kristina Hill is able to find a lawyer pro-bono or on contingency and sues them for the maximum amount possible.

  19. Jo Says:

    Contact the ACLU, and also the National Lawyers Guild in your state. Both work for free.

  20. Jo Says:

    PS: Hopefully Anonymous or someone can find some personal photos of the Public Advocate groups members, and post them as examples of hate-mongers.

  21. Jo Says:

    LOL, this photographer shouldn’t be afraid to take these idiots on…go to their website and look thru their photos; there are four of them. lmao

    Sic ’em!

  22. Fi Says:

    Contact the ACLU and get ready to sue the pants off these jerks! Not only is that copyright infringement, but that’s also defamation of character – because that image is originally Kristina’s, her integrity as a wedding photographer is being shot to the curb because of this unlawful use of her image.

  23. Tristan Brand Says:

    @Holly Carlyle – That’s a pretty cold and patronizing reaction. I congratulate you and your photography business on being so ready to deal with potential copyright infringement. Might I recommend you buff up your web site design team to match the scale of your legal staff? Tolstoy quotations do not a portfolio make.

    (PS On some level I think you are right: it is a part of the business. But just because someone gets caught unawares does not mean they aren’t professional. It really felt like you were taking some sort of satisfaction from this horror story. This community needs more support and reasonable advice and less trolling. Oh. Cr*p. Guilty.)

  24. JS Says:

    You ‘HAVE’ a case. This is infringement at it’s worse! Please stick up for you clients, your business, and your photography. This is someone’s wedding day being hijacked and being used without, consent, contract, or model release. YOU WILL WIN.

  25. PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » Wedding Photog Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad | Art and culture a gogo | Says:

    […] – Today, 4:13 AM […]

  26. Kate Benson Says:

    I second the motion to start a Kickstart campaign, or starting a legal fund!!!

  27. Gregory Byerline Says:

    Looks like an infringement case to me, regardless of the ad’s intent. It’s not an “issue” issue. It’s a copyright infringement issue.

  28. Carlos Says:

    This is a great case for registering your images. With registration comes punitive damages. Without it, it is only possible compensation. Lawyers will probably not take on a lengthy litigation like this without compensation. What I want to know is why the FBI gets involved in Copyright questions regarding the film industry, but not in this case?

  29. Andrew C. Eads Says:

    Here’s what I sent the folks:
    I urge you to cease using the photograph of the same sex couple originally copyrighted by Kristina Hill. I am religious and political conservative and can see no reason why you used that photograph without consulting with Ms. Hill for her permission and then compensating her (assuming she deigned to grant rights to use the photograph.)
    As a professional photographer, I know how difficult it is to protect my copyrighted images. Legal fees mount quickly even when we have a legitimate complaint. I believe Ms. Hill has a legitimate complaint against your organization, your rationalization not withstanding.
    Please consider removing the image from all uses and negotiating a proper settlement with Ms. Hill and her clients for an amount at least equal to her usual fee. Should you fail to do this, I join the line to help Ms. Hill take you to court.

  30. Dakota Kelsey Says:

    Family “values” apparently include deception and stealing and……I hope the photographer and the couple bankrupt this organization!

  31. PDN Pulse » Blog Archive » Civil Rights Group Demands End to Use of Same-Sex Couple Photo in Anti-Gay Ad Says:

    […] couple had been used without her permission in a political flyer attacking same-sex marriage, she told PDN she wasn’t sure she had the resources to pursue a long legal battle. Now Hill and her clients […]