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April 28th, 2015

U.S. Copyright Office (Once Again) Studying Copyright Struggles of Photographers

The U.S. Copyright Office has published a call for comments from photographers and visual artists about how their works are “monetized, enforced and registered” and about “obstacles” artists face protecting their copyrights “when navigating the digital landscape.” The U.S. Copyright Office announced the research initiative April 24 in the Federal Register. The written comments are due by July 23.

What action, if any, the U.S. Copyright Office takes as a result of its research remains to be seen. “We just want to get an overview of the landscape,” says spokesperson Catie Rowland. “We’re just researching it, to see where it leads. There are a lot of concerns. We want to see if we can address them.” (more…)

April 8th, 2015

Pat Pope Says He Regrets Open Letter to Band, Urges Creators To “Stop Working for Free”

In what he says will be his final word on the matter, photographer Pat Pope says he regrets his public criticism of the alt rock band Garbage, but is sticking to his position that photographers shouldn’t give their work away.

Pope wrote an open letter to the band last week criticizing their management company for asking to use one of his images for free in a book project the band are working on. Garbage responded with an open letter of their own, telling Pope that the cost of self-publishing the book led them to ask photographers for free images. They also criticized Pope for making their request public.

In Pope’s “final word,” which he published on Facebook, he calls the open letter he wrote a “mistake.” He implies that “the negative comments and abuse hurled at me on the internet” make him regret the move. However, Pope doesn’t back down from the principles that inspired the letter, and he replies to some of the statements the band made in their response to his letter.

“I receive hundreds of these request a year [for free images],” Pope writes, explaining his reasoning, “as does every other photographer I know. This is the new normal, writing down a budget in which you’ll get the photographic content for free by making the photographer give it to you.”

He criticized Garbage again for their abuse of “the power relationship.” The band “paid someone at their management company to send me a pro-forma request for free usage of my work. When you receive a request like that, the power relationship is that a gigantic branded entity with huge reach and backing is asking a lone freelancer to accept that the value of their work is zero.”

Pope later claims that he’s “no ‘internet warrior,'” before urging that “all of us in the creative community have to Stop Working For Free [Pope’s emphasis].” Despite saying he regrets writing his own open letter, he urges others to do the same. “Let’s get this practice [of asking for free content] out in the open.”

Related: Photographer Openly Ridicules Band’s Request For Free Images
Band Defends Their Decision to Ask Photographer for Free Images

April 7th, 2015

Revenues for Thomas Franklin’s 9/11 Image Top $1 Million

Thomas Franklin’s iconic 9/11 photograph has generated $1 million in revenues to date, according to court papers recently filed in connection with a copyright infringement claim over the photograph. It is unclear whether Franklin has benefited financially from the famous photo.

The picture shows three firefighters raising the American flag over the site of World Trade Center after it was destroyed in a terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Franklin shot the image as an employee of The Bergen Record, making the photograph a work for hire. As a result, the copyright owner is North Jersey Media Group (NJMG), which owns The Bergen Record.

The revenue information was disclosed in the case of NJMG v. Jeanine Pirro and Fox News Network. NJMG had sued for copyright infringement in US District Court in New York over Fox News’s unauthorized use of the photo on a blog promoting a TV program hosted by Pirro. Fox argued unsuccessfully that its use of the image didn’t cut into NJMG’s revenues from licensing the image.

The court papers say that licensing of the photograph peaked in the period between 2002 and 2004, but has continued over time. Between January 2013 and June 2014–an 18-month period–licensing revenues totaled $10,221.71 for editorial uses of the image, and $4,698.91 for commercial uses. That averages out to revenues of less than $1,000 per month for the period. (more…)

April 6th, 2015

Band Defends Their Decision to Ask Photographer for Free Images

Alternative rock band Garbage published an open letter to portrait photographer Pat Pope on April 3, defending their decision to ask for free use of an image for their book and suggesting Pope was out of line for calling them out publicly.

On April 2, Pope published an open letter addressed to the band, criticizing their management company’s attempt to get free license to publish one of his images in a book the band plans to self-publish to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

In his letter, which was published on Facebook and picked up by websites Louder Than War and Huffington Post UK, Pope wrote: “I’m a firm believer that musicians and artists deserve to be paid for their work,” and asked the band, “When you think about artists being paid, does that include photographers?”

The band responded a day later with an open letter of their own, pointing out that they paid Pope for the shoot in 1995 (though presumably it was not a work for hire agreement), that books are expensive to publish, and that many other photographers “were happy for their images to be seen in conjunction with the telling of our story.” The band also did a little public shaming of their own, writing that they “would never publicly admonish or begrudge a fellow artist for merely asking [for them to provide services for free].” (more…)

March 18th, 2015

Nike Seeks Dismissal of Photog Rentmeester’s Copyright Claim over “Air Jordan” Logo

© Jacobus "Co" Rentmeester

Co Rentmeester sued Nike in January for unauthorized use of this 1984 image to create the “Jumpman” logo used for decades to promote Nike’s Jordan brand.  © Jacobus “Co” Rentmeester

The Nike shoe company has asked a federal court to dismiss photographer Co Rentmeester’s copyright claim over the iconic logo used on Jordan brand sneakers and clothing, on the grounds that the Nike logo is substantially different from Rentmeester’s photo of former basketball star Michael Jordan.

Rentmeester says the company illegally created its so-called “Jumpman” logo from a photograph Rentmeester shot in 1984. Nike, which has used the logo for more than 25 years, called Rentmeester’s claim “baseless.” The company is accusing Rentmeester of trying to claim a monopoly on images of Jordan’s trademark slam-dunk move. And Nike argues that its iconic logo copied none of the “protectable” elements of the Rentmeester photograph–ie, camera angle, lighting, background and other elements of expression that are protected by US Copyright law.

The alleged "Nike copy" of Rentmeester's 1984 image.

The alleged “Nike copy” of Rentmeester’s 1984 image.

Rentmeester filed his copyright infringement claim in January in US district court in Portland, Oregon. He alleged that Nike had based its “Jumpman” logo on an image made by the company that illegally copied Rentmeester’s 1984 photo. Rentmeester had made his image for Life magazine. His image, the Nike “copy” image and the Nike logo all depict Jordan in a move for which he was famous: sailing through the air on his way to slam dunking a basketball.

Nike had temporarily licensed the Rentmeester image in 1984. Rentmeester alleges that Nike copied the image while it was in the company’s possession. He also says Nike paid him $15,000 in 1985, after he complained Nike was infringing his photograph by plastering the “Jumpman” logo all over billboards and posters promoting Air Jordan sneakers. The payment allowed for use of the image for two years in North American markets only, according to Rentmeester’s claim, but Nike has continued to use it ever since. (more…)

February 13th, 2015

UPDATE: You Be The Judge: Did Jessie Ware’s Music Video Infringe Asger Carlsen Photo?

Update: More than a month after we reported photographer Asger Carlsen’s complaint about the striking similarity between one of his images and an image used in a recent music video, we learned there’s been an update. Scroll down for details.

Yesterday photographer Asger Carlsen called out director Christopher Sweeney and musician Jessie Ware for plagiarism. Posting to his Instagram account and Facebook page, Carlsen showed a still from the newly released video Sweeney directed for Ware’s song “Champagne Kisses,” comparing it to an image Carlsen created in 2010. In the video, which mixes retro and surrealist esthetics, Ware appears briefly sporting a lower body made of plywood, laid out in the exact same position as Carlsen’s model in the 2010 photo.

Reached for comment, Carlsen told PDN that he “cannot comment on the Christopher Sweeney video” at this time.

We’re pretty surprised that anyone would have the chutzpah to mimic such a distinct visual concept without reaching out to or crediting its originator.

Whether or not Carlsen could win a legal case is a trickier question, and courts have sometimes surprised us in their rulings on these matters.

UPDATE: Good Egg, the production company that represents director Christopher Sweeney, published a statement on their website apologizing to Carlsen and acknowledging that Sweeney “referenced” Carlsen’s image “without consent or permissions.” The statement read:

An image from Asger Carlsen was directly referenced without consent or permissions in a music video for Jesse Ware directed by Christopher Sweeney at Good Egg.

An informed social media reaction and action from Carlsen has prompted an acknowledgement and an apology.

Asger’s work remains an inspiration and we are happy to announce that this matter has now been settled to the satisfaction of all parties.

Carlsen declined to comment on the details of the settlement. Good Egg also did not respond to requests for comment.

Related: Rihanna Settles Lawsuit With David LaChapelle

December 23rd, 2014

PDNPulse: Top Stories of 2014

As another fascinating year in the world of professional photography comes to a close, we look back on the stories that drew the most interest from PDNPulse readers this year.

From manipulated news photos, to photographers arrested for doing their jobs, to collaborative efforts between photographers and an interview with one of photography’s most influential star makers, these stories capture some of the highs and lows of the photography business today.

1: George Steinmetz Wonders: Was It Worth Getting Arrested for National Geographic Cover Story Photos

2: 2014 Winter Olympics Op-Ed: Everything You’ve Read About Problems for Photographers in Sochi is True

3: PDN Video: Lens Blog’s James Estrin’s Career Tips for Photojournalists

4: Photographers Share Intimate Images of Loved Ones for Curated Photo Website

5: AP Severs Ties With Photographer Narciso Contreras Over Photoshopped Image
5a: Photographer Fired by AP Says Decision Was Fair, But Process Wasn’t

6: How Much Do Editorial Clients Pay? “Wiki” Gives Names and Fees

7: If that Kim Kardashian Photo Looks Familiar…

8: Calumet Photographic to Liquidate, Closes U.S. Stores

9: Photographer Creates Free iPhone App for His Signature Style

10: Wal-mart Sues Photographer’s Widow Claiming Copyright for Decades of Portraits of Walton Family

11: Suffolk County Pays $200K to Settle News Photographer’s Unlawful Arrest Claim

12: How Should Clients React to Sexual Coercion Allegations Against Terry Richardson?

13: AP Photographer Anja Niedringhaus Killed in Afghanistan

14: Cowboy Lifestyle Photographer David Stoecklein Dies, 65

15: Photojournalist Camille Lapage, 26, “Murdered” in Central African Republic

December 18th, 2014

Time Inc. UK Issues Rights-Grabbing Contract

Time Inc.’s UK division has riled editorial photographers by issuing a new contract requiring freelancers to hand over “all rights” to any assignment images for about 60 specialty publications. The contract takes effect January 1, 2015, but there may be wiggle room for negotiation, at least for some photographers who take the initiative to push back.

“It’s an outrageous rights grab,” says photographer David Hoffman, spokesperson for Editorial Photographers UK (EPUK). “It’s just bullying.”

The contract applies to a wide array of Time Inc UK titles, including fashion, lifestyle, entertainment, and shelter magazines, as well as  niche magazines for marine, wine, gardening, fishing, sport, and technology enthusiasts. The contract does not apply to assignments for TIME, the weekly news magazine.

“The new agreements better reflect our needs as a multi-platform business,” Time Inc. UK’s director of corporate communications Karen Myers told PDN via e-mail. “Contributors need to bear in mind that commercial realities dictate that we will be using the content that we purchase in many different ways to reflect the changing media landscape, both now and in the future.”

Myers acknowledges that some photographers “will not want to assign and/or waive their rights and there is no obligation for them to do so – if they do not wish to do so, they may object and negotiate different terms with us in the usual way.”

Hoffman explains, “If an editor really wants your particular work, or is sympathetic to you, they may be able to do individual deals.”

But photographers who aren’t able to negotiate to keep their copyrights will be deprived of the right to re-license assignment images,  which could ultimately hurt Time Inc., Hoffman says. “The best photographers won’t work for them under those terms,” and those photographers who do accept the terms won’t have much incentive to do their best work, he explains.

November 24th, 2014

UK Orphan Works Law Takes Effect: Similar US Law Is Increasingly Unlikely

A controversial “orphan works” law, making it legal under certain conditions to use photos and other creative works belonging to copyright owners who cannot be located, took effect took effect October 29 in the United Kingdom. Efforts to enact a similar law in the US continue to languish.

Orphan works laws reduce the legal risk for publishers, film makers, museums, libraries, universities, and private citizens who want to use copyrighted works, but cannot locate the copyright owners of those works.  The laws are intended to make the works available for public benefit, provided users conduct a “diligent search” for the owners before using the works. But photographers, artists, and their trade groups have resisted the laws, fearing they will end up protecting infringers who don’t search diligently for copyright owners. Some opponents fear that orphan works laws may even give infringers incentive to turn traceable works into orphan works by stripping away credits and other metadata.

But so far, the new UK law is causing little worry. “I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for photographers,” says David Hoffman of Editorial Photographers UK (EPUK).

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and other US photo trade groups that issued dire warnings two years ago that the UK law would bring about “a firestorm of international litigation” are mostly quiet now.  “I think the law they’ve come out with [in the UK] is pretty reasonable,” says Eugene Mopsik, the outgoing executive director of the ASMP. (more…)

October 6th, 2014

Nature Photographer Quits Business, Blaming Copyright Piracy

Photographers have complained plenty about online copyright infringement, but so far, the problem hasn’t driven many to quit the profession, or discontinue posting images online.

Nature photographer Alex Wild says he’s had enough, though. In an essay titled “Bugging out: How rampant online piracy squashed one insect photographer,” Wild says infringement of his work has contributed to his decision to quit photography for a position “less prone to the frustrations of a floundering copyright system.”

Wild asserts in the essay, recently published on arstechnica.com, that “For practical purposes, the Internet has become a copyright-free zone.”

He goes on to provide a long list of unauthorized commercial uses of his work, and describe the futility of his efforts to stop it.  “I send, on average, five takedown notices to Web hosts every day, devoting ten hours per week to infringements. Particularly egregious commercial infringers get invoices,” he says. “Copyright infringement drains my productivity to the point where I create hundreds fewer images each year.” Just ignoring the infringements is a bad option, and so is suing them, for several reasons he explains.  For one, his business competes with “uncredited copies of my own work.” As he explains, “Who wants to pay for an image that is already everywhere?”

Wild concludes by calling for copyright reform that provides “reassurances that the mere act of participating online won’t force [artists] to choose between bankruptcy and chasing infringers through the rabbit hole of ineffective copyright enforcement.” Which is just the kind of reform that photographers’ trade groups have been chasing for years through the rabbit hole of Washington politics.