Civil Rights Group Demands End to Use of Same-Sex Couple Photo in Anti-Gay Ad

© Kristina Hill

When wedding photographer Kristina Hill learned that her engagement photo of a same-sex 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 have an ally. Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the civil rights organization, yesterday sent a cease and desist order to Public Advocate of the United States, a right-wing political organization, demanding they confirm they are no longer using the image. In the order,  SPLC also says they are considering other possible legal action for infringing Hill’s copyright.

Hill’s photo shows Tom Privitere and Brian Edwards, a New Jersey couple, kissing. Public Advocate of the United States used the photo without the permission of Hill or her clients in a flyer attacking Republican Colorado State Senator Jean White, who had supported civil unions for same-sex couples. The photo, digitally altered to strip out the New York City skyline, appears under the words “State Senator Jean White’s idea of ‘family values?’”

Public Advocate had defended its unauthorized use of the image on the grounds that others “make fair use of our materials.”

SPLC has previously labeled Public Advocate “a hate group,” and noted in a statement released yesterday that it has “a history of attacking the LGBT community.” The statement quotes Christine Sun, deputy legal director at the SPLC, saying that the alteration and unauthorized use of Hill’s photo was “morally reprehensible.” Sun says, “This latest attack is the most vicious yet and should serve as a warning that your personal photos are not safe from anyone willing to stoop to the vilest level of harassment.”

In the SPLC statement, Hill says she took the engagement photo to document her clients’ love. “When I saw how my image was used, I was sad for Brian and Tom. I was angry that someone would take my work, distort it and use it to reflect the opposite of what it was meant to express.”

Related Article
Wedding Photographer Might Sue for Copyright Infringement Over Anti-Gay Attack Ad

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10 Responses to “Civil Rights Group Demands End to Use of Same-Sex Couple Photo in Anti-Gay Ad”

  1. Bob Says:

    Unless there is something we don’t know, it looks as if the photographer has a case for unauthorized use. However, the moral editorializing over the issue is off-base in PDN. The legal case has nothing to do with whether the photographer agreed with those who used it. Stock photos are are used all the time without the photographer needing to certify their agreement with the user. But reading the article would have you believe that a relatively benign tag line somehow factored into the legal issue. It doesn’t other than in the mind of Holly Hughes.

  2. Jeff Stevensen Says:

    i respectfully disagree with Bob. The moral argument is properly made because the illegal infringer exactly inverts the photographs message, from one of positive affirmation to an example of moral disapproval. I think the couple should sue the infringers for libel.

  3. Bob Says:

    Moral arguments are not legal arguments. The photographer should prevail based on illegal use, not because she disagrees with who used it. Unfortunately the cost of litigating may not justify doing so unless the photographer registered her copyright prior to first publication. Nevertheless, I do hope she presses them for a settlement and prevails without the need for an attorney.

  4. Macro Photographer Says:

    Companies /organizations everywhere think it is their right to take images off the net and use it.

    In images of people it is quite easy to fight back but lets suppose you have a picture of a landscape, how would you prove its rights ?

  5. Jason Barnes Says:

    The article is biased, especially when describing the ultra-leftist legal shakedown group SPLC as a “civil rights organization.” The article is also biased by giving endless ink to the SPLC’s flack and minimum to the other side, as well as printing SPLC’s vicious slurs. As to the legal issues, both sides are missing a major issue. But a pox on both their houses; I’m not going to be their free paralegal. (I do think the Public Advocate group might have done better to use a stock photo or have their own shot to order; not a difficult concept to create, after all. For that matter, they could have gone to West Hollywood and shot something suitable by taking snapshots of people carrying on in public …

  6. Pro Photo Daily’s Weekend Update: LA newspaper asks reporters to become photojournalists, Hearst names new creative director, the inevitable cat-video festival is here at last, and more « Stockland Martel Says:

    [...] The Southern Poverty Law Center is demanding that a right-wing hate group in Colorado stop using an engagement photo of a same-sex couple in an anti-gay ad, PDN Pulse [...]

  7. Bob Says:

    Re: SPLC. Just because it’s a non-profit doesn’t mean that they’re not hauling in lots of cash from engaging the fears of the left.

    http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/03/sb-this-week-in-1172847076
    “Back in 2000, I wrote a story in Harper’s about the Southern Poverty Law Center of Montgomery, Alabama, whose stated mission is to combat disgusting yet mostly impotent groups like the Nazis and the KKK. What it does best, though, is to raise obscene amounts of money by hyping fears about the power of those groups; hence the SPLC has become the nation’s richest “civil rights” organization. The Center earns more from its vast investment portfolio than it spends on its core mission, which has led Millard Farmer, a death-penalty lawyer in Georgia, to once describe Morris Dees, the SPLC’s head, as “the Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker of the civil rights movement”

  8. Paul Says:

    Wow, I’m sensing some serious discomfort on the part of commenters with the social and political issues involved here. It looks like a bit of a conservative knee jerk reaction.

    I think the moral argument is perfectly acceptable material to address in an article. The legal argument is what is relevant in any legal action but why shouldn’t a magazine discuss the moral issue of using a photograph without permission for a purpose diametrically opposed to what it was intended for as well? Why should a magazine restrict itself to legal points? Is it because you disagree with the moral judgement and are uncomfortable with reading a view different to yours? If you read it, it doesn’t conflate the moral with the legal it just mentions both.

    I find the anti gay and lesbian sentiment rather sad to see. I’m not gay myself but can’t fathom why people who are shouldn’t have the same rights as me when it comes to marriage or any other basic legal rights.

  9. Bob Says:

    Sorry, the knee jerk is on the left. When PDN editorializes against a group because the writer disagrees with a conservative political position relative to same sex marriage they own the jerking knee. Bolstering that argument by referencing another left-wing organization, the SPLC, doesn’t advance a non-partisan position.

  10. Alana Says:

    What a position of privilege Bob must enjoy, calling a barely-there level of advocacy for equal rights a “knee jerk” and engaging in specious arguments about legal precedents as a way to couch his discomfort with an oppressed minority.