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January 4th, 2013

Rep. Nancy Pelosi Defends Doctoring of Press Release Photo

Photo Courtesy Nancy Pelosi/via Flickr

Photo Courtesy Nancy Pelosi/via Flickr

© Cliff Owen/AP

© Cliff Owen/AP

 

The hand-out photo that the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi gave to the press yesterday featured all 61 female representatives of the newly sworn in 113th Congress. The problem was: Four of the representatives shown in the photo came late to the photo-op, and were Photoshopped into the photo after the fact. According to Poynter, the doctored photo was uploaded to Flickr and also emailed to news outlets with a note from a spokesperson in Pelosi’s office that said, “Please note this version has the four Members who were late photo-shopped [sic] in.”  The four late arrivals were dropped into the back row of the group photo.

The AP released an undoctored photo of the scene, without the four missing representatives. It was shot by Cliff Owen.

At a press conference yesterday, Minority Leader Pelosi defended the release of a Photoshopped photo. ABC News reports that she said the representatives who posed for the photo were too cold to wait for the latecomers.

“It was an accurate historical record of who the Democratic women of Congress are,” Pelosi said. “It also is an accurate record that it was freezing cold and our members had been waiting a long time for everyone to arrive and … had to get back into the building to greet constituents, family members, to get ready to go to the floor. It wasn’t like they had the rest of the day to stand there.”

Questions linger about this photo doctoring incident, however. Questions like: Why does any news outlet still run hand-out photos, especially when there’s a wire service photographer on the scene? And: Should we trust members of Congress who don’t have the sense to wear coats when they go outside in Washington in January?

September 19th, 2012

Google Buys Nik, Developer of Photo Editing Tools for Pros

Google has acquired Nik Software, the San Diego company that owns Snapseed photo editing software and other tools designed primarily for professional photographers. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition is intended to help Google attract users to Google Plus, as part of a push to make that social media platform more competitive with Facebook. Facebook recently acquired Instagram to solidify its position as a platform for uploading and sharing images.

Snapseed and Instagram offer similar image editing and image-manipulation filters, but Instagram has 100 million users, compared to just 9 million Snapseed users, according to one published report. But Snapseed has more sophisticated editing tools than Instagram, according to New York Times columnist David Pogue. And last year, Apple named Snapseed “App of the Year” for the iPad.

Snapseed and other Nik products are currently available for use primarily on Apple devices. Now that Google owns Nik, Snapseed will soon be available for Android devices, significantly expanding the pool of potential users.

More information about the acquisition and its implications is available at The New York Times web site and at the NASDAQ web site.

PDN subscribers can also access reviews of Snapseed and other Nik software products through the links listed below.

Product Review: Nik Snapseed for iPad
Nik Announces Silver Efex Pro 2 Black-and-White Conversion Software
Nik Intros Color Efex Pro 4 Plug-in

September 7th, 2012

Shepard Fairey Sentenced on Criminal Charge in ‘Hope” Poster Case

Artist Shepard Fairey was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and fined $25,000 today in a federal courtroom in Manhattan today for destroying documents, falsifying evidence “and other misconduct” in his civil litigation two years ago against the Associated Press (AP). He had faced a maximum of six months in jail.

Fairey pled guilty to the criminal charge last February. The US District Attorney in Manhattan announced Fairey’s plea shortly after he settled his civil case with the AP over his unauthorized use of an AP image to create the “Hope” poster that became an icon of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for President.

“Shepard Fairey went to extreme lengths to obtain an unfair and illegal advantagein his civil litigation [against AP], creating fake documents and destroying others in an effort to subvert the civil discovery process,” US Attorney Preet Bharara said in announcing Fairey’s guilty plea.

AP claimed copyright infringement against Fairy in 2009 for unauthorized use of the image of Obama to create the Hope poster.

Fairey tried to pre-empt the claim by asking a federal court judge to declare that the Hope poster amounted to a fair use of the AP photograph. In seeking that declaration, Fairey gave “factually untrue” information about the image he had used, the US District Attorney said. Specifically, Fairey claimed that he had used part of one AP image to make the poster, when in fact had used a substantial portion of a different AP image.

Fairey admitted the discrepancy in 2010, saying he had made a mistake about which image he had used. He said he then tried to cover up the mistake. (His fair use defense was arguably stronger with the image he originally claimed to have used.)

The US Attorney began a criminal investigation after Fairey’s admission, and concluded that he had created “multiple false and fraudulent documents” which he presented to AP during the discover process in the civil litigation.

The US Attorney also said Fairey tried to get one of his employees to mislead investigators.

Prior to pleading guilty to the criminal charges, Fairey had settled his civil litigation with AP on mostly undisclosed terms (the two sides did agree to share proceeds from licensing of the Hope poster image, however).

August 16th, 2012

Photo Montage Artist Settles with Mountain Light; Muench Drops Copyright Suit

Mountain Light Photography has accepted a $2,600 settlement offer from Thomas Barbèy, and Muench Photography has withdrawn its infringement claim against the photo montage artist, according to court records in the case.

Muench and Mountain Light filed a joint claim of copyright infringement against the Las Vegas-based artist, alleging unauthorized use of two separate photographs. The case was filed in US District Court in Los Angeles.

Barbèy created an image that he titled “Rhinal Congestion” (it shows multiple rhinos in a snowscape), allegedly using parts of an image owned by Muench called “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park.” Barbèy was also accused of using a photograph called “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park,” shot by the late Galen Rowell of Mountain Light Photography, to create a photo montage titled “Pitcher Books.” (Photos here).

Mountain Light accepted Barbèy’s settlement offer of $2,600–including $1,600 in damages and $1,000 for attorney’s fees–along with Barbèy’s promise to stop marketing the “Pitcher Books” image. (Mountain Light had no possibility of winning statutory damages in court because it had not registered the “Quadruple Falls” image prior to the alleged infringement).

Despite offering payment of $1,600 for damages, Barbèy said in court papers that his offer was not to be construed as an admission of liability for infringement, or an admission that Mountain Light had suffered any damages.

Meanwhile, Muench’s attorneys have filed notice with the court that Muench Photography was dismissing its claim against Barbèy.

Attorneys gave no explanation for dismissing the claim, and they were not immediately available for comment. Muench Photographer was also not immediately available for comment.

Barbèy has admitted use of the Muench and Mountain Light Images in comments he has posted to the PDNPulse blog. He said he created the montages “well over a decade ago.”

His attorney told PDN last week that the claims against Barbèy were without merit. The attorney said Barbèy would successfully defend against them on fair use grounds, and by invoking the statute of limitations for copyright claims.

Related story:
Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photos

August 13th, 2012

Self-Proclaimed Photo Montage Virtuoso Is Sued for Stealing Photos

©Thomas Barbèy. “Rhinal Congestion”

Muench Photography and Mountain Light Photography have filed a copyright infringement claim against a Las Vegas-based photomontage artist for unauthorized use of two of their photographs.

The artist, Thomas Barbèy, creates surrealistic photomontages. According to his Tumblr page, he uses  images that he shoots on his travels all over the world. He claims inspiration from René Magritte, M.C. Escher, and Roger Dean, and says, “I’m constantly asked about how I do [the montages], I would like to think that the pictures can be appreciated without any real knowledge of their technical virtuosity. The visionary inspiration and imagination is not a technical skill learned in school but rather to my personal belief a gift from God.”

And theft of other people’s photographs, allegedly.

©Muench Photography. “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park”

“He claimed he took all of these images himself, and he clearly doesn’t,” says Marc Muench, one of the plaintiffs, who is suing Barbèy in a federal court in Los Angeles.

“The claims in this lawsuit have no merit whatsoever,” says Barbèy’s attorney, Charles Harder.

According to the lawsuit, Barbèy created an image that he titled “Rhinal Congestion” (it shows multiple rhinos in a snowscape) using an image by Muench called “El Capitan in Winter, Yosemite National Park.” Muench’s image appeared in 1993 in a book called National Parks of America (Graphic Arts Center Publishing Company). He also registered the image with the US Copyright Office that same year.

The lawsuit also alleges that Barbèy used a photograph called “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park,” shot by the late Galen Rowell of Mountain Light Photography, to create a photo montage titled “Pitcher Books.” Rowell’s “Quadruple Falls” image was first published in 1997. Mountain Light registered the image with the US Copyright Office in 2009.

Barbèy sells his prints through his own gallery in Hawaii, as well as through an online retailer called Artifacts Gallery. “Pitcher Books” and “Rhinal Congestion” are priced at $1500 each on the Artifacts Gallery Web site.

Charles Harder says that his client’s use of the Muench and Mountain Light images is protected by “the legal doctrine of transformative use, as well as the doctrines of fair use and de minimis use.” The lawsuit tries to pre-empt a fair use defense by saying that Barbèy’s images do not “criticize, comment on, or otherwise refer the viewer to” the Muench  and Mountain Light photographs.

©Thomas Barbèy. “Pitcher Books”

Harder also says that the statute of limitations applies in this case. He is suggesting, in other words, that Muench and Mountain Light didn’t bring their claim to court soon enough, so it will be dismissed.

Harder says there were “very minimal sale of the works at issue, so even if there was liability (which there is not), damages would be nominal.”

That might be the case for the Mountain Light image, which was registered after the alleged infringement, making Mountain Light eligible for actual damages only. But the Muench image was registered prior to the alleged infringement. So if a court holds Barbèy liable for infringement, Muench would be eligible for statutory damages.

Mountain Light’s operations manager was not immediately available for comment.

©Mountain Light Photography. “Quadruple Falls at Dawn, Glacier National Park, Montana”

June 29th, 2012

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.”

May 30th, 2012

Tools for Detecting Image Manipulation: Coming Soon

Imagine if there were a reliable tool for detecting manipulation and Photoshopping in photos that every photo desk or photo contest juror could use.  Manipulated photos could be screened from photojournalism contests before they cause a scandal, news photographers might be deterred from trying to punch up their images, and PDN Pulse might have fewer image manipulation stories to report.

Poynter.org reports that Kevin Connor, former Adobe product manager for Photoshop, has teamed up with Hany Farid, professor of computer science at Dartmouth College and a noted forensic expert on digital images, to create a suite of software tools designed to detect the alteration of digital images. The company they’ve formed, Fourandsix, has produced a beta version of one of the tools in the planned suite, according to Connor, and they hope to test it soon. The suite of tools will eventually be targeted to law enforcement agencies and news organizations who want to detect whether or not images have been manipulated.

Connor tells Poynter that customers should not expect the tools to provide a “magic bullet” or easy, push-button solution. The suite offers “not one but a series of technologies.” He says, “What you have to do is approach it as a detective and examine all the various clues in the image itself and the file that contains the image.”

© Korean Central News Agency

The suite should make more widely available several of the forensic methods that Farid currently uses to analyze images –from precisely measuring the angles of shadows to comparing pixels. In December, Farid was asked by The New York Times to use his techniques to analyze an official photo from North Korea’s news agency (see right); as the Lens blog reported, Farid determined that a portion of the image had been cloned to erase individuals on the sidelines of the Kim Jung-Il funeral procession.

Farid explains many of his forensic methods on the Fourandsix.com blog.

Related articles:
Photo Manipulation Scandal Follows Same Old Script

Official News Agency of a Totalitarian Regime Doctored a News Photo. Imagine That.

February 23rd, 2012

Arizona Considers Anti-Photoshop Law

An Arizona legislator has introduced a bill to make it illegal to run print ads in the state that have been Photoshopped, unless viewers are notified that the image has been altered.

The bill’s sponsor, state representative Katie Hobbs of Phoenix, told the Arizona Republic that she introduced the bill at the urging of the Maricopa County YWCA. The YWCA pushed for the bill out of its concern over the influence of media images on young women. The bill is reportedly modeled after similar laws in Britain.

Arizona House Bill 2739 specifies that “an advertiser shall not use postproduction techniques to alter or enhance printed media advertisements” that are displayed in the state, unless they carry a disclaimer.

The disclaimer proposed by the bill would have to say: “Postproduction techniques were made to alter the appearance in this advertisement.  When using this product, similar results may not be achieved.” Under the current language of the bill, the disclaimer would have to be “clearly and legibly stated in the advertisement.”

The bill, which is one of the first of its kind in the country, has little chance of passing. And Hobbs is on the defensive, because some of her constituents have suggested she focus on more important issues.

In a letter published by the Arizona Republic, she defended the bill by explaining:

“Girls see an average of 400 images a day of what it means to be beautiful in our culture. Many of these images are unattainable because they are not real.

“Depression among women and girls has doubled in the past 10 years, and 65 percent of American women and girls have an eating disorder.

“There are links between these serious health issues and advertising’s attempts to sell women and girls the myth that they can and should achieve physical perfection to have value in our culture.

I know my bill won’t solve this problem, but I’m glad that it helped start the discussion.”

February 16th, 2012

More Ads Banned in Britain! This Time, Due to Sexism

© Ryannair

What would we do without our busy friends at the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)?  Every few months, this regulatory body bans an ad it deems unacceptable. In the past year, ASA has banned fashion and cosmetics ads for being overly Photoshopped and misleading, for fostering anorexia, and for encouraging young girls to sit on railroad tracks. Each ban generates lots of chatter across the Web, and provides PDN Pulse some handy blog fodder.

The latest campaign to get the ax from ASA is a grotesquely tacky campaign for discount Ryannair that shows female flight attendants in lingerie, in poses worthy of the old Snap-on Tool calendars. And thanks to ASA, the ads are now getting loads of free publicity.

ASA calls the ads “sexist” and “demeaning.” Salon.com notes that the ads are old fashioned. We agree. We’d also note that the campaign features Photoshopping so ham-handed, it hurts our eyes. Maybe the retoucher was hoping the ASA would take notice?

Ryannair, the low-fare airline that has made weekends in Corfu, Palma, Dusseldorf and Ibiza affordable for drunken bachelors all over Europe, has responded to the ban by calling the ASA a “bunch of unelected self-appointed dimwits.”

Oh c’mon, Ryannair. Don’t you want to thank those dimwits for the free media they handed you?

Related articles

“Irresponsible” Miu Miu Ads Shot By Bruce Weber Banned in Britain
Ad Banned in UK for Super Skinny Model
Photoshopped Ads Banned in Britain!

February 6th, 2012

Photo Manipulation Scandal Follows Same Old Script

The Sacramento Bee image at the center of the latest doctored news image scandal.

Surely we all know the script by now: A newspaper photographer gets caught manipulating a photo, the paper runs an apology with a statement about the newspaper’s zero-tolerance policy and a notice that the photographer has been fired; a trade organization villifies the photographer to warn others and keep the whole profession from going down a slippery slope to perdition. Along the way, a contrarian pundit may or may not weigh in.

So let’s fill in the blanks. The newspaper this time is The Sacramento Bee. The photographer is Bryan Patrick. The offending image showed a snowy egret gobbling a frog it had just snatched from a great egret. It was created from two images of the scene, one of which was the decisive moment of the theft, and the other of which had the better view of the frog in the snowy egret’s bill.

The paper published all three images an online correction and apology Feb 1, with reference to policy against photo manipulation, followed by a “to our readers” notice on Feb 4 announcing Patrick had been fired for violating the paper’s ethics policy. The note concluded with a recitation of the paper’s policy against the manipulation of photographs.

The president of NPPA called Patrick’s action a “betrayal” (in a story published by Poynter): “If this photographer in Sacramento can diddle around with a photograph of an egret, how can I know that any photograph I look at is trustworthy?” he asked.

The contrarian this time is On the Media host Bob Garfield, writing for The Guardian. He satirizes Patrick as “the Great Satan” and says “let him suffer the fate of the frog!” He then raises that pesky question: “Don’t all journalists alter reality?” Finally, he asks this rhetorical humdinger: “[d]id he [Patrick] misrepresent the story, or did he perhaps just make it clearer?”

But wait. The ritual isn’t over until Patrick’s peers pile on, either for him or against him. Readers?