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April 15th, 2013

APA, NPPA Join Copyright Suit Against Google

American Photographic Artists (APA) and the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) announced today that they are joining an ongoing class action lawsuit against Google, alleging that the Google Books Search program is a violation of the copyrights of photographers and other visual artists.

Under the Google Books Search program, Google has been working with several libraries to scan books and periodicals and make the content available through search engine results. But a group of plaintiffs–including photographers and photo trade associations–filed a class action lawsuit in 2010 to stop Google from copying, scanning or displaying copyrighted photos and other visuals in printed publications without permission.

“I feel it is the NPPA’s responsibility to protect that principle of ownership, and not allow companies like Google to infringe upon our rights uncontested,” NPPA president Mike Borland said in a statement issued today by NPPA.

The lawsuit was spearheaded by American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP). Other lead plaintiffs include the Graphic Artists Guild, Picture Archive Council of America (PACA), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA), and a number of individual photographers.

ASMP said when it filed the lawsuit that the goal is to make sure photographers are “fairly and reasonably compensated” when their works are distributed through Google search results.

In joining the lawsuit, APA national president Theresa Raffetto said in a prepared statement: “Holding Google Books responsible for their flagrant copyright infringement is something APA has been working on and we’re pleased to continue this fight in conjunction with the other plaintiffs.”

April 3rd, 2013

Gun Rights Advocate Charged in Copyright Case Over Anti-Gay Attack Ads

©Kristina Hill

©Kristina Hill

A New York wedding photographer and a New Jersey gay couple who are jointly suing an anti-gay group for unauthorized use of an engagement photo (shown at right) are now going after a Colorado gun rights advocate, too.

The Denver Post reports that attorneys for the gay couple, Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere, have filed papers in a Colorado federal court to add Dudley Brown and two gun groups–Rocky Mountain Gun Owners and the National Association for Gun Rights–to their lawsuit.

Edwards and Privitere, along with photographer Kristina Hill, sued a Virginia-based group called Public Advocate of the United States (PAUS) last year for unauthorized use of Hill’s engagement photo of the couple in political attack ads (shown below). The ads, distributed as campaign mailers in Colorado, were part of an effort to unseat candidates who had supported a push for same-sex unions in the state.

During the discovery process in the case against PAUS, the plaintiffs learned from e-mail records that Dudley Brown was behind the mailers, and that he worked with PAUS to distribute them, according to the Denver Post report. Brown is founder and executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, and executive VP of the National Association for Gun Rights. He allegedly used e-mail accounts associated with both organizations to correspond with PAUS about the campaign mailers.

gay-attack-adThe Denver Post report quotes one e-mail in which Dudley told PAUS: “What I propose is that [PAUS] pay for mailing. … My staff and I would do all the work, but we’d want [PAUS] to sign off, put its name on the dotted line, and pay for the mailings. I would counsel mailing slick and glossies, with the ‘two men kissing’ photo.”

The plaintiffs are charging infringement of Hill’s copyright and unlawful appropriation of the likenesses of Edwards and Privitere.

Related:
Anti-Gay Group Sued for Unauthorized Use of Photo in Attack Ads

Anti-Gay Group Pleads Fair Use, Free Speech in Infringement Case

March 15th, 2013

Stalked for Protecting Copyright, Author Gets Restraining Order

Extortionletterinfo.com founder Matthew Chan

Extortionletterinfo.com founder Matthew Chan

An author who was stalked and bullied online for her efforts to enforce her copyrights has won a permanent protective order against the perpetrator, Matthew Chan, who is also in the sights of stock photo agencies for thwarting their efforts to enforce photographers’ copyrights. The restraining order reflects an increasingly vitriolic tone and no-holds-barred personal attacks against copyright holders and their attorneys on Chan’s website, extortionletterinfo.com (aka ELI).

A Georgia state court judge issued the restraining order against Chan on February 28, at the request of Linda Ellis of Marietta, Georgia. Ellis writes and markets inspirational poetry, and is the author of several books. As a result of her efforts to protect her copyright by issuing demand letters to individuals and organizations who published her work without her permission, she was subject to attacks by Chan and his followers on the ELI website.

The court said Chan’s actions “placed the petitioner [Linda Ellis] in reasonable fear for [her] safety, because [Chan] contacted [Ellis] (and urged others to contact her) and posted personal information of the petitioner for the purpose of harassing and intimidating [her].” (more…)

March 4th, 2013

Photog Prevails in Copyright Case Over ‘Mr. Brainwash’

©Dennis Morris

©Dennis Morris

Photographer Dennis Morris has won his lawsuit against the appropriation artist known as Mr. Brainwash for unauthorized use of a decades-old image (shown at right) of deceased punk rocker Sid Vicious.

A federal district court judge in Los Angeles recently granted Morris’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of copyright infringement. At the same time, the judge rejected a motion by defendant Thierry Guetta–aka Mr. Brainwash–for summary judgment on the grounds of fair use.

“To permit one artist the right to use without consequence the original creative and copyright work of another artist simply because that artist wished to create an alternate work would eviscerate any protection by the Copyright Act,” the judge wrote in his ruling, citing another ruling against Guetta from 2011 in a similar case.

The ruling for Morris added to a growing body of case law against appropriation artists who use the works of other artists as nothing more than raw material for their own works. The message from federal courts is that appropriation artists cannot claim fair use unless they parody the original work, or in some other way critique or comment upon them directly.

Morris had sued Guetta for infringement over unauthorized use of a 1977 photograph of Sid Vicious. The original image shows the punk rocker tilting his head and winking at the camera. Guetta, who is know for appropriating images of celebrities and modifying them, created seven image based on the Morris photograph. Some featured higher black and white contrast, some have less contrast, and some include added elements such as splashes of brightly colored paint, according to the court ruling.

There was no dispute that Guetta had copied Morris’s photographs, District Judge John A. Kronstadt wrote in his ruling. The issue before the court was whether Guetta’s uses of the image met the legal standard for fair use.

Courts apply a four-pronged test to weigh a fair use defense. Judges consider the purpose and character of the unauthorized use; the nature of the copyright work; the amount and substantiality of the portion of the original work that is used; and the market effect of the unauthorized work(s) on the original.

In this case, the first three factors weighed in Morris’s favor. The fourth (market effect) was inconclusive.

Most importantly, in considering the first factor, the court concluded that Guetta’s uses of the Morris photograph were not sufficiently transformative. In other words, they did not give the Morris photograph enough new expression, meaning or message, District Kronstadt explained in his ruling.

“The [original] photograph is a picture of Sid Vicious making a distinct facial expression. [Guetta's] works are of Sid Vicious making that same expression. Most of defendant’s works add certain new elements, but the overall effect of each is not transformative; defendant’s work remain at their core pictures of Sid Vicious,” the judge wrote.

Guetta had argued that his works were intended to comment on the persona of Sid Vicious in particular, and on the nature of celebrity in general. But the judge didn’t buy it, saying Guetta was effectively arguing that any use of copyrighted material in appropriation art is fair use. “But this is the precise argument that the Cariou court rejected,” referring to a district court ruling in New York in the case of Patrick Cariou v. Richard Prince.

In that case, the court ruled that appropriation artist Richard Prince violated photographer Patrick Cariou’s copyright by using some of his photographs as raw material for his own works, without commenting upon the original works or otherwise transforming their meaning. An appeal of that ruling is pending.

For an appropriation to qualify as a fair use, Judge Kronstadt explained, “There must be some showing that a challenged work is a commentary on the copyrighted one, or that the person who created the challenged work had a justification for using the protected work as a means of making an artistic statement.”

Considering the second factor–the nature of the copyrighted work–Judge Kronstadt concluded that the Morris photograph was at least a marginally creative portrait, not just a “recitation” of a fact. That weighted “at least slightly against a finding of fair use,” the judge wrote.

Considering the third factor–the amount and substantiality of the portion of the original work that was used–Judge Kronstadt concluded the Guetta used most of Morris’s photograph, including the central copyrightable elements. That also weighed against a finding of fair use.

Finally, the court considered what effect the Guetta images had on the market for Morris’s image, and concluded that the market effect was subject to dispute. But Judge Kronstadt went on to say that the issue was immaterial “because a lack of harm [to Morris's market for his image] would not change the determination of an unjustified use under the first factor.”

That first factor, to recap, was a consideration of whether Guetta’s images transformed the meaning of Morris’s image.

Related:
Judge Rules for Photog in Copyright Over RUN DMC Photo
Appropriation Artist Richard Prince Liable for Infringement, Court Rules

 

February 28th, 2013

Another Copyright Infringement Ends In Charity Donation, Good PR For Infringer

A friend tipped Theron Humphrey that So Delicious had used one of his images without permission or credit.

A friend informed Theron Humphrey that So Delicious had used one of his images on Facebook without permission or credit.

For the second time in a week a photographer has settled a copyright dispute by getting the infringing corporation to make a donation to charity. Yesterday So Delicious, a maker of dairy-free foods, agreed to make a $10,000 donation to an animal shelter as a mea culpa for using one of photographer Theron Humphrey’s images without permission in a post on their Facebook page.

Earlier this week, street photographer Brandon Stanton discovered that clothing retailer DKNY had used his images without permission in a window display at their Bangkok store. Stanton called the company out on Facebook and got them to agree to donate $25,000 to his local YMCA.

In comments made to PDN, both photographers cited the cost and tediousness of pursuing infringements through the courts as reasons for pursuing what they view as a more positive approach to dealing with infringements. (more…)

February 27th, 2013

Quincy Jones Settles Copyright Claim with Photographer

©Michael D. Jones/Mike Jones Photography

©Michael D. Jones/Mike Jones Photography

Music producer Quincy Jones and photographer Michael Donald Jones (aka Mike Jones Photography) have settled their dispute over the photographer’s claim of copyright infringement. Terms of the settlement were not announced.

Mike Jones filed suit last year in a federal court in Los Angeles, alleging that Quincy Jones  provided a portrait without permission for use in ads, packaging and other materials to promote a line of audio headphones. The headphone manufacturer, and a book publisher that also used the photo, were named as co-defendants in the case.

Mike Jones claimed that an associate of Quincy Jones’s offered him $5,000 in 2010 for what amounted to a rights transfer of the disputed portrait. The photographer asked for $10,000, then got a counter offer of $6,500, which he allegedly refused.

The images began appearing without Mike Jones’s permission in ads and other promotions for the headphones, which were endorsed by Quincy Jones. Mike Jones filed a claim for infringement early last year against Quincy Jones, headphone manufacturer AKG Harman, and Hal Leonard, the music book publisher.

AKG Harman denied the photographer’s claims, saying that the disputed photograph was shot on a work-for-hire basis.

Mike Jones alleged in his lawsuit that the disputed portrait originated when he photographed Quincy Jones in 1995 in Hollywood at Qwest Records. Mike Jones then provided Quincy Jones with 8×10 prints of some of the photographs. At that time, he refused to sign away his rights to those session photographs, despite Qwest Records’ efforts to “strong-arm” him into transferring the rights, Mike Jones alleged in his claim.

Neither Mike Jones nor the attorneys for either side responded to requests for comment about the settlement.

Related:
Quincy Jones Co-Defendant Denies Copyright Infringement Charge
Photog Sues Quincy Jones for Infringement, Says He Was “Strong-Armed”

February 25th, 2013

DKNY Atones for Unauthorized Usage by Donating $25K to Photog’s Community YMCA

brandon-stanton-DKNY

Brandon Stanton’s images were used without permission in a window display at a DKNY store in Bangkok.

 

When DKNY used several photographs by Brooklyn, New York-based street photographer Brandon Stanton in a display window without permission, Stanton took to social media to get the word out and ask the clothing company to donate to a local YMCA in his community, the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn. The multinational clothing company responded by giving the YMCA a $25,000 donation in Stanton’s name.

“I didn’t want to take on a powerful company in any sort of litigation,” Stanton told PDN via email. “I don’t have time for that right now. I also didn’t want to try to personally enrich myself by drawing attention to the matter. So I decided on the YMCA.”

He added, “I’ve seen firsthand how much they help the community.”

DKNY had originally approached Stanton months ago and had offered him $15,000 for use of 300 images for store windows. When Stanton asked for more money, the clothing brand balked, and the deal fell apart, the photographer claims.

Then Stanton discovered his images were being used anyway in a DKNY store in Bangkok. He took to Facebook to share his story and demand that the company make a charitable donation rather than

compensate him. Stanton wrote: “I don’t want any money. But please SHARE this post if you think that DKNY should donate $100,000 on my behalf to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. That donation would sure help a lot of deserving kids go to summer camp. I’ll let you guys know if it happens.” The post spread, earning more that 60,000 Facebook shares and likes, and several thousand comments.

This afternoon DKNY responded with a statement on their social media sites, saying their Bangkok store “inadvertently… used an internal mock up containing some of Mr. Stanton’s images that was intended to merely show the direction of the spring visual program.”

“DKNY has always supported the arts and we deeply regret this mistake,” the statement said. “Accordingly, we are making a charitable donation of $25,000 to the YMCA in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn in Mr. Stanton’s name.”

After DKNY agreed to make the donation, Stanton published their response on Facebook and thanked everyone who supported him. “$25k will help a lot of kids at the YMCA,” he wrote. “I know a lot of you would like to have seen the full $100k, but we are going to take them at their word that it was a mistake.”

DKNY may have another problem, though. Stanton doesn’t have model releases for his images, he told PDN. “Part of DKNY’s original pitch to me was that I would obtain model releases from 300 of my subjects. Seeing as though no agreement was reached, that was never done.”

Whether that could come back to bit the DKNY and its parent company, LVMH, Inc., remains to be seen.

Amy Wolff contributed reporting to this article.

January 15th, 2013

AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules

A federal court has ruled that Agence France-Press violated photographer Daniel Morel’s copyrights by distributing his images of the 2010 Haiti earthquake without permission.

The copyright infringement claims turned on whether the terms of service for Twitter, the social network that Morel used to distribute his images of the earthquake, gave AFP the legal right to download the images and re-distribute them.

“The Twitter TOS [terms of service] provides that users retain their rights to the content they post–with the exception of the license granted to Twitter and its patterns–rebutting AFP’s claim that Twitter intended to [give AFP license] to sell Morel’s photographs,” the court said. On that basis, it concluded that AFP was liable for copyright infringement.

The court also found The Washington Post, which published the images, liable for infringement.

But the court declined to rule on whether the infringement was willful, or whether Getty Images–which also distributed Morel’s photographs–is liable for infringement. The judge left those questions for a jury to decide. See our story on PDNonline for more details about the ruling.

--David Walker

Related Articles
Morel Wins Pre-Trial Victory Against AFP, Getty

Morel Releases More Evidence Against AFP, Getty in Copyright Case

Insult to Injury: AFP Suing Photographer It Stole Images From  (for PDN subscribers)

Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks on Social Networks (for PDN subscribers)

December 21st, 2012

Bowing to Pressure from Users, Instagram Retracts New Terms of Use

Under a continuing barrage of negative feedback, account cancellations, and defections by its users to other photo sharing services, Instagram has withdrawn the most controversial changes to its terms of service agreement. The about-face means that Instagram will not assume the legal right to license users’ photos to third parties without permission.

“Because of the feedback we have heard from you, we are reverting this advertising section to the original version that has been in effect since we launched the service in October 2010,” said Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom in a statement posted on a company blog late yesterday.

Among the most objectionable terms of service changes proposed by Instagram was a clause allowing the company to license photos to third parties, and also use the photos in advertising, without the knowledge or permission of the Instagram user who posted those images in the first place.

A number of professional photographers, as well as some high profile users of Instagram including National Geographic, announced that they intended to stop using the service because of the proposed changes to the terms of service. Instagram said earlier this week by announcing it had no intention of selling their photos, but that apparently wasn’t enough to calm upset subscribers to the service.

In the meantime, subscriptions to competing services have spiked, according to a report in the New York Times. Flickr’s mobile app has jumped in popularity on the Apple iTunes app chart, and subscriptions to the photo sharing service Pheed have quadrupled in the past week, the Times reported.

Systrom explained in last night’s announcement that after introducing changes to Instagram’s terms of service and privacy policy earlier this week, “it became clear that we failed to fulfill what I consider one of our most important responsibilities – to communicate our intentions clearly. I am sorry for that, and I am focused on making it right.”

So once again Instagram has modified its privacy policy and terms of service. When the latest versions take effect–on January 16, 2013 and January 19, respectively–Instagram will have broad rights to use photos, but only with permission from the contributors.

“You hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service, subject to the Service’s Privacy Policy,” says the latest TOS agreement, which goes into effect January 19. It adds, “You can choose who can view your Content and activities, including your photos, as described in the Privacy Policy.”

The privacy policy that takes effect January 16 says that Instagram “will not rent or sell your information to third parties outside Instagram (or the group of companies of which Instagram is a part) without your consent, except as noted in this Policy.” The exceptions are service providers who “will be given access to your information as is reasonably necessary to provide the Service under reasonable confidentiality terms.”

Instagrama also says in the new privacy policy, “We may also share certain information such as cookie data with third-party advertising partners” to deliver targeted advertising.

Users can control who sees the content they post by adjusting privacy settings on their account.

Instagram’s user policies are still subject to change, however, and Systrom hints that there will be more changes to come. Instagram company–which is owned by Facebook, a publicly traded company–is under pressure to earn money.

“Going forward, rather than obtain permission from you to introduce possible advertising products we have not yet developed, we are going to take the time to complete our plans, and then come back to our users and explain how we would like for our advertising business to work,” Systrom told users.

Related:
Photographers Balk at Instagram’s New Terms of Use
Now That We Know Instagram Isn’t a Charity, What Would You Be Willing to Pay?

December 19th, 2012

Now That We Know Instagram Isn’t a Charity, What Would You Be Willing to Pay?

In the wake of a hue and cry over Instagram‘s proposed changes to its terms of service, the company has announced it will remove language that would have given Instagram rights to use photos in advertisements. Yet the protests continue, with some high profile users suspending their use of the service or shutting down their accounts altogether.

It’s worth asking what, if anything, individual photographers (and big publishers such as Time, National Geographic, and others) are willing to pay to use Instagram. $10 per year? $25? $100? Even more? And what would photo editors, curators, art directors and others pay for their use of the service to scout talent and review work?

Instagram announced changes to its terms of service on Friday so it can monetize the service by using the pictures and personal data of users to generate advertising dollars. Presumably Instagram would use the content and data to deliver audience and eyeballs to advertisers.

The details of how that would work are opaque, but their push to monetize the service isn’t irrational: they’re looking for a return on their investment, and for compensation for their creativity, risk, and operating costs, just like any other business.

It is hard to argue that they would be exploiting Instagram users by doing away with free service. After all, Instagram provides users with undeniable benefits: a compelling service, with innovative features, the opportunity for a creative outlet, the benefits of community, and bandwidth–all free of charge.

Rather than charge usage fees, though, Instagram is effectively trying to barter its services for its users’ data and intellectual property. It obviously made the mistake of pressing for too much.

But there’s almost certainly a level of exchange that most Instagram users would be comfortable with. Facebook’s popularity suggests that users–including many photographers–are willing to barter personal data and intellectual property for a
desirable service. And flickr, a service that some Instagram defectors are considering, charges $25 per year for pro accounts (regular accounts are free, but bandwidth is restricted).

Ultimately, the brouhaha over Instagram’s proposed terms of service boils down to a marketplace negotiation over a fair price for a service, with both sides testing their bargaining strength to start. In the end, photographers (and other Instagram users) will have to pay something.

We’d like to hear from our readers who have used Instagram: How much would you be willing to pay per month or per year or per upload to use Instagram? Or, if you prefer that the service remains free, what new service terms would be acceptable? Would you stay with Instagram if they sold just your user data to advertisers? Would you stay if they licensed or otherwise used your photos to help their advertisers? What’s your deal breaker with Instagram?

Related story: Photographers Balk at Instagram’s New Terms of Use