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June 2nd, 2015

Steve McCurry Employee Arrested, Charged With Stealing $650K From Photographer

An employee of Magnum photographer Steve McCurry has been arrested and accused of stealing and selling prints, books and other items worth more than $654,358. The District Attorney’s Office of Chester County, PA, where McCurry’s studio is located, made the announcement this afternoon.

The employee, Bree DeStephano, age 32, who was McCurry’s print sales manager, “casually abused her position of trust to make some easy money, without a thought to the damage to Mr. McCurry,” said Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan in a statement.

DeStephano allegedly stole 50 prints worth $628,000 between May 2012 and November 2013, and worked with a co-conspirator, Brandon Donahue, to sell the stolen prints. Donohue was the manager of Durango, Colorado gallery Open Shutter. DeStephano falsified McCurry’s print inventory records to cover up the illicit sales.

DeStephano is also accused of selling 233 of McCurry’s books and other items online, the value of which is more than $23,000.

Bail for DeStephano was set at $250,000. Donahue will be charged in Colorado, the statement said.

May 19th, 2015

New App Saves Your Video Even If Police Try To Delete It

A new app promises to help citizen journalists record police actions.

Mobile Justice CA, a new mobile app from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, allows users to automatically send recordings of police activity to the ACLU. By using the app, citizens who record incidents involving police are assured that their videos will survive even if police seize their mobile devices.

The app, which is available via the Apple App Store and Google Play, may come in handy for photographers and journalists working in California. Versions of the app also exist for Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York and Oregon. Video by users of the Mobile Justice CA app in other states will still be sent to the ACLU of California, who will forward that video to local ACLU offices if the video depicts a civil rights issue.

In addition to sending a copy of a user’s video directly to the ACLU, the app saves the video to the camera roll of the user. It also prompts the user to fill out an incident report that will help the ACLU catalogue and sort the videos they receive.

On the website announcing the app, writer and activist Griffith Fuller, Jr., explains the need for it. He recalls an incident when he was detained and searched without cause by a cop in West Hollywood, California. Fuller recorded the encounter, but after the cop handcuffed Fuller and put him in his car, he “picked up my phone, which was still recording, and deleted the video from the ‘Camera Roll’ folder as well as the copy in the backup ‘Recently Deleted’ folder,” Fuller writes.

Other features include a “Witness” function, which informs users if others are using the app to record incidents at nearby locations. Information about the rights of citizens is also included in the app features. The app will also send the user push notifications with announcements and information from the ACLU.

Related: Federal Judge Sanctions City of Atlanta for Continuing to Violate Photographers’ Rights
L.A. Pays $50k to Harassed Photogs, Agrees to Train Sheriff’s Deputies

May 14th, 2015

Federal Judge Sanctions City of Atlanta for Continuing to Violate Photographers’ Rights

In the wake of recent violations of news photographers’ rights by Atlanta police, a US federal court judge has held the City of Atlanta in contempt of a 2012 court order to reduce interference with citizens documenting police activity.

US District court judge Steve Jones handed down the civil contempt ruling against the city yesterday, and imposed sanctions intended to force compliance with the 2012 order and “address future monitoring of [Atlanta’s] compliance with the order.” (more…)

April 10th, 2015

Arne Svenson Exonerated on Appeal in Privacy Invasion Case

From Arne Svenson's series "The Neighbors" ©Arne Svenson

From Arne Svenson’s series “The Neighbors” ©Arne Svenson

A New York State appeals court court has upheld a lower court ruling that rejected privacy invasion claims against fine-art photographer Arne Svenson. But the court has also challenged the New York state legislature to consider legislation to prohibit what Svenson did: photograph his neighbors inside their apartments through their un-curtained windows.

Svenson was sued by Martha and Matthew Foster in 2013 for using a telephoto lens to photograph them and other neighbors through the windows of their apartments, then displaying the images in art galleries for sale as fine-art prints.

The invasion of privacy committed by Svenson was not actionable, state appeals court judge Dianne T. Renwick wrote in a unanimous decision handed down yesterday, “because [Svenson’s] use of the images in question constituted art work and thus is not deemed ‘use for advertising or trade purposes,’ within the meaning of the statute.” (more…)

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…)

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…)

March 6th, 2015

L.A. Pays $50k to Harassed Photogs, Agrees to Train Sheriff’s Deputies

Los Angeles County has agreed to pay a $50,000 settlement and instruct sheriff’s deputies to respect First Amendment rights to photograph and record their activities, according to a statement released earlier this week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the settlement on March 3, 2015, with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and photographers Shawn Nee, Greggory Moore and Shane Quentin. (more…)

March 6th, 2015

Feds to Pay Toledo Blade $18,000 Over Arrest of Photographer, Reporter

The federal government has agreed to pay The Blade newspaper in Toledo, Ohio $18,000 to settle a lawsuit over the detention of two journalists last year at a military tank plant, the Associated Press reports.

In settling the case, the government admitted no wrongdoing. And the newspaper agreed not to publish photos the journalists took of the plant on the day they were detained, the AP report says. (more…)

March 5th, 2015

DOJ Report Blasts Ferguson Police for First Amendment Violations

Ferguson, Missouri, police officers “frequently infringe on residents’ First Amendment rights, interfering with their right to record police activities and making enforcement decisions based on the content of individuals’ expression,” according to a report released yesterday by the US Department of Justice.

The DOJ report, titled Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department (FPD), says “FPD engages in a pattern of First Amendment violations.” The investigation was  conducted by the DOJ’s civil rights division in response to citizen complaints and civil unrest in Ferguson following the police shooting death last year of Michael Brown.

The DOJ says in the report that FPD arrests citizens “for a variety of protected conduct,” including talking back to officers, recording public police activities, and lawful protest.

The report cites a number of examples, including several involving recent arrests of citizens who recorded–or attempted to record–police carrying out their duties in public. (more…)

January 15th, 2015

Under Pressure, FAA Issues Handful of Exemptions for Commercial Drone Use


For as long as inexpensive camera-toting drones have been popular, their commercial use in the U.S. has been in a precarious proposition. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the division of the U.S. Department of Transportation that governs the use of our airspace, waited years after the proliferation of drones to issue any guidelines on their use in commerce. Until recently, if you were an architectural or real estate photographer looking for inexpensive ways to capture bird’s eye views, or a production company itching to take advantage of new perspectives in your video, the word from the FAA was clear: No, you can’t use drones for commercial purposes.

But that isn’t stopping businesses from using drones. DJI Global, the manufacturer of the wildly popular Phantom remote-controlled camera drone, skirted the FAA’s ban on commercial drone usage by donating the use of its DJI Inspire 1 during NBC’s broadcast of the 2015 Golden Globes for some free publicity. And under pressure from Congress—who included directives for the FAA to begin to develop the framework it will use to regulate commercial drone flights in a 2012 appropriations bill—the administration has begun to issue exemptions to its six-year-old ban.

In June 2014, it issued the first exemption to British Petroleum, who wanted to use drones to survey Alaska’s North Slope. In September, it issued six exemptions to film and television production companies, and in December, it issued four more exemptions, including one to a construction company. In the first week of 2015, Douglas Trudeau, a 61-year-old real estate agent in Tuscon, Arizona, received the first exemption to use drones for a real estate business. He had applied for the exemption back in July of 2014, after being informed that even though he was not selling his drone footage, using photos and clips shot from drones in his real estate listings constituted commercial use.

CNN—who wants to use drones for newsgathering purposes—has also appealed to the FAA. It recently entered into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with the administration, working with the Georgia Tech Research Institute to collect data to help the FAA develop its framework for regulating drone usage in journalism.

While the FAA was called out by Congress more than two years ago and urged to get started on their regulatory framework, there is still no timetable for the process to be completed. For now, the FAA is issuing exemptions on a case-by-case basis, but if the red carpet at the Golden Globes and Amazon’s drone delivery plan are any indication, it will have to move quickly to keep up. As the FAA attempts to levy fines on drone pilots it feels are violating its vague guidelines, U.S. judges have already found in favor of at least one pilot: A federal judge tossed out a $10,000 fine on the grounds that the guidelines were not specific enough. The National Transportation Safety Board later overruled the judge and re-affirmed the FAA’s right to regulate, but it’s clear that the guidelines are doing little to stop commercial flights.

In the meantime, the administration has put together a website with safety tips for recreational, business, and public service users.

Related articles:

Commercial Drones are Legal, Federal Court Says

Court Refuses to Hear Challenge to FAA’s Drone Cease-and-Desist Orders

DJI One-Ups Phantom With More Powerful, 4K-Recording Inspire 1 Photo Drone

Drone Photographers Take To The Skies To Find New Perspectives