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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.”

June 25th, 2012

Pulitzer Center Publishes First iBook with Photographer Greg Constantine

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, a non-profit organization that provides key support to photographers and writers working on long-term investigative journalism projects, made its first foray into digital book publishing late last week with the release of “In Search of Home,” an iBook about statelessness, featuring the photography of Greg Constantine and essays by Stephanie Hanes.

The interactive, 49-page book, grew out Hanes and Constantine’s long-term reporting project on “stateless” people, who are denied the basic rights of citizenship in the countries in which they live, often for religious and ethnic reasons. The iBook focuses on three populations who have no nationality: the Rohingya from Burma, the Nubians of Kenya, and people of Haitian descent living in the Dominican Republic. It features four slideshows of Constantine’s images, an audio slideshow that provides an overview on the problems faced by people who live in legal limbo without national identity, as well as other features, like an interactive map and timeline.

“In Search of Home” is the first in a series of iBooks that will be produced by the Pulitzer Center. The project, according to a post by Jon Sawyer, director of the Pulitzer Center,  on the organization’s blog, “is part of a broader Pulitzer Center initiative, seeking out new platforms and partners to extend the work of journalists we support and to make use of the extraordinary presentation of multimedia material now possible on tablets and other mobile devices.”

Proceeds from “In Search of Home,” which is being sold for $4.99 in the iTunes store and can be viewed using the iBook 2 app for iPad and iPhone, will go to Constantine and Hanes, minus the 30 percent Apple charges to carry the book on iTunes.

“We hope to make these books the capstone for the best of our projects, giving readers an immersive, narratively rich way of engaging the issues they cover,” Sawyer said. “We believe these presentations will appeal to all audiences, and especially to the university and secondary-school students that have become a major focus of the Pulitzer Center’s work.”

Related: Q&A: Getting Funding from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
Picturing Non-Profit Journalism
Picture Story: An Emmy-Winning AIDS Documentary in Poetry and Pictures
Field Studies: Exploring the Complexities of War-Torn Congo

April 9th, 2012

Does Homeland Security Target Journalists for Search and Seizure?

An article published yesterday by Salon.com’s Glenn Greenwald details the Department of Homeland Security’s repeated questioning and harassment of an American filmmaker when she has attempted to reenter the country after traveling overseas.

According to Greewald’s article, award-winning documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who has released two films of a trilogy about the War on Terror, has endured DHS interrogations nearly each of the 40 times she has tried to reenter the country since 2006, when her first documentary film about a Sunni opposition leader in Iraq was released.

Agents often wait for her at the door as she disembarks from international flights. Poitras, a US citizen, has been interrogated for hours, had her personal belongings and reporter’s notebooks seized, held and copied, and her laptop, phone and other devices searched and copied.

It is easy to imagine photojournalists who are working on projects that may be critical of the US government or its “War on Terror” suffering similar difficulties, and DHS’s treatment of Poitras should outrage any US journalist.

As Greenwald reports, Poitras is not alone in her experiences, but her systematic harassment has made traveling for her work miserable, and she has been forced to resort to other methods of transporting and transmitting her work in order to protect her privacy, her rights as a journalist, and the identities of her sources.

Writes Greenwald: “She now avoids traveling with any electronic devices. She uses alternative methods to deliver the most sensitive parts of her work — raw film and interview notes — to secure locations. She spends substantial time and resources protecting her computers with encryption and password defenses. Especially when she is in the U.S., she avoids talking on the phone about her work, particularly to sources. And she simply will not edit her films at her home out of fear — obviously well-grounded — that government agents will attempt to search and seize the raw footage.”

Greenwald’s article also notes that two pieces of legislation proposed by congresspeople aimed at limiting DHS’s power to question US citizens have gained zero traction.

The article is well worth the read for any photojournalists who are working overseas, especially those who are reporting stories on sensitive topics like America’s military actions.

If you’ve been detained or questioned by DHS because of your work and are open to sharing your story with the PDN audience, please comment below or send an email to: editor@pdnoline.com.

April 6th, 2012

Anton Hammerl’s Remains May Have Been Unearthed in Libya

The body of a white male found recently with a camera lens in a mass grave in eastern Libya could be that of photojournalist Anton Hammerl, the Huffington Post reports. Hammerl was shot by troops loyal to deposed dictator Muammar Qaddafi on April 5, 2011, according to other journalists who were traveling with him at the time.

Those journalists were captured and detained for several weeks, and reported Hammerl’s death after their release.

The Huffington Post says that Peter Bouckaert, the emergencies director for Human Rights Watch, has been in Libya following inquiries into the whereabouts of Hammerl’s remains. Bouckaert is now trying to get the governments of South Africa, Britain or Austria to help administer DNA tests for a positive identification of the remains.

Related: Print Auction to Benefit Children of Anton Hammerl to be Held at Christie’s

January 26th, 2012

US Falls To #47 On Press Freedom Index, Thanks to Occupy Crackdowns

Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States 47th on their 2011-2012 Press Freedom Index, down 27 places from the previous year, tied with Argentina and Romania.

“In the space of two months in the United States, more than 25 [journalists] were subjected to arrests and beatings at the hands of police who were quick to issue indictments for inappropriate behaviour, public nuisance or even lack of accreditation,” Reporters Without Borders wrote in their report. The US “owed its fall” to arrests and harassment related to coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the non-profit reporters’ rights group said.

The drop saw the US ranked just above Latvia, and Trinidad and Tobago, which fell 20 places due to a scandal involving the government spying on journalists.

In a statement released along with the index today, Reporters Without Borders noted that “Many media [around the world] paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements…. Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011.”

In North African and Middle East, the Arab uprisings greatly affected the rankings of several nations. In Tunisia and Libya rose in the index as censorious regimes were deposed. Egypt, however, fell 39 places in the index due in part to “The hounding of foreign journalists for three days at the start of February, the interrogations, arrests and convictions of journalists and bloggers by military courts, and the searches without warrants,” the report said.

Syria and Yemen were already lowly ranked, so their crackdowns on demonstrations and journalists only caused them to sink a bit lower. Iran fell in the rankings to 175. China, “which has more journalists, bloggers and cyber-dissidents in prison than any other country,” the report notes, also ranked near the bottom of the index at 174.

Eritrea was the worst nation in the ranking for a fifth straight year, and its Horn of Africa neighbors Somalia and Sudan also received low rankings as part of an East African region where journalists are regularly subjected to violence, censorship and lengthy prison sentences served in awful conditions.

The Press Freedom Index is calculated using a scoring system based on a questionnaire distributed to partner organizations, a network of 150 correspondents around the world, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

For the full report and more on the creation of the index, see the full Reporters Without Borders release.

Related: New York Times Photographer Blocked by NYPD
Photogs Arrested in Raid on Occupy Protest at Zuccotti Park

January 6th, 2012

Now on Instagram: President Obama

Instagram, the free photo editing and sharing app for the iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, keeps growing in popularity, and now President Obama’s re-election campaign has joined in. On Tuesday, Obama 2012 joined the service to share photos from the campaign trail, under the name Barack Obama. Here’s a news story about it on SocialTimes.com.

If you have an Instagram account, you can join the more than 37,000 folks who have already started following the stream via @barackobama. Don’t expect any wildly artistic photos — the few photos posted so far include  a predictable podium photo and an image of the campaign headquarters, shot on an iPhone. No use of those retro-looking Instagram filters yet. And the comments are less concerned with esthetics than with political rants. (People, people: Have you heard of spell check?)

This is just the latest foray into online photo sharing for this President.  Photos from election night 2008 proved hugely popular on Flickr, and the White House Photo Office updates its Flickr stream regularly.

December 22nd, 2011

Lacoste Elysée Photo Prize Cancelled Over Censorship Controversy

©Larissa Sansour

The Musée de l’Elysée abruptly cancelled the 2011 Lacoste Elysée Prize for photography, protesting the decision by prize sponsor Lacoste to exclude one of the finalists. Lacoste, meanwhile, has announced that is “has decided to cancel once and for all its participation in this event and its support for the Elysée Prize.”

Lacoste reportedly objected for political reasons to a project by finalist Larissa Sansour called “Nation Estate,” which was inspired by the recent Palestinian bid for nationhood at the United Nations. Lacoste said in a statement today that Sansour’s work did not fit the contest theme, and denies it excluded her for political reasons.

Click here to read the full story
.

September 15th, 2011

Burmese Photojournalist Sentenced to 10 More Years

Burmese photographjournalist Sithu Zeya, who was sentenced last year to 8 years in prison for violating Burma’s immigration laws and “Unlawful Associations Act,” was sentenced yesterday to an additional 10 years for violating the country’s “Electronics Act,” the Burmese magazine-in-exile Irrawaddy has reported.

Zeya was originally sentenced for photographing the aftermath of the April 15, 2010 bomb blast in Rangoon that reportedly killed 10 people and injured 70 others. Under interrogation after his arrest, he reportedly admitted to attending a media training session in Thailand, and to having a relationship with an official from the Norway-based exile media organization, Democratic Voice of Burma, according to Irrawaddy, which is based in Thailand.

Irrawaddy does not give details about what Zeya did that was allegedly in violation of the country’s “Electronics Act,” but Mizzima, another news organization operated by Burmese exiles in India, says Burma’s military regime uses the law “to punish pro-democracy opposition members who disseminate information by electronic communication.”

Mizzima also reports that Zeya’s family had told exile media that he was tortured during his initial interrogation. The Committee to Protect Journalists says Zeya confessed under torture that his father led a team of journalists inside Burma for the Democratic Voice of Burma.  Zeya’s father was subsequently arrested and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

August 17th, 2011

Denver Settles Lawsuit for Wrongful Arrests of Photographers, Others

©Kim Sidwell--Denver police confront protestors at the 2008 Democratic National Convention

The City of Denver has agreed to pay $200,000 and change its police training procedures to settle a lawsuit over mass arrests of protesters during the 2008 Democratic National Convention. The settlement was announced by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which sued the city on behalf of three photographers, a filmmaker, and four others who were observing the protests–but not participating–when they were swept up in the mass arrests on August 25, 2008.

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Denver in August, 2009, alleged that the Denver police arrested the plaintiffs without probable cause and prosecuted them for crimes they didn’t commit, violating their First and Fourth Amendment rights.

“The settlement….underscores an important lesson for the Denver police,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein in a statement. “They must have individualized facts showing that each separate person they arrest was violating the law. Police violate the Constitution when they simply arrest everyone who happens to be in the area.”

The city’s crowd control policies will be improved in order to avoid similar violations of civil rights in the future, according to the ACLU.

“I’m relieved to have it come to a close,” says Denver photographer Kim Sidwell, a plaintiff in the case who was a photography student at the time of her arrest. She was acquitted of criminal charges after a three-day trial in 2008, and says, “I was shocked at how close I came to being found guilty of a crime I did not commit.”

Protestors were staging a street march from Denver’s Civic Center Park on the second day of the convention when “hundreds” were boxed in by riot police, according to the ACLU.

“Police eventually arrested nearly 100 persons, without distinguishing between those who were marching in the street without a permit and others, like our clients, who merely watched from the sidewalks, where they had a legal right to be,” said attorney John Culver in the ACLU statement. Culver was the attorney hired by the ACLU to litigate the case.

The city and the ACLU reached a settlement agreement after the presiding judge cleared the case for trial. The settlement agreement is subject to court approval. A hearing has been scheduled for October 12, and the city has declined comment on the settlement pending final court approval, according to the Denver Post.

August 5th, 2011

AP’s David Guttenfelder Inside North Korea

© AP Photo/David Guttenfelder

In June,  the Associated Press announced it had signed an agreement with North Korea’s state-run news agency to open an AP photo and text bureau in Pyongyang. The AP also noted that David Guttenfelder, AP’s Chief Asia Photographer, had already made several trips to North Korea this spring, photographing extensively in several parts of the country.

Guttenfelder’s photos of this secretive nation were published this week on The Atlantic web site and in The Independent, the UK paper. As the article in the British paper notes, “The pictures are among the most candid ever published in Western newspapers.”

In a country where the press is tightly controlled, Guttenfelder captured slices of daily life in a variety of settings: a university and a pool for its students, a library, an elementary school, a fast food restaurant, a subway station, a museum dedicated to the Korean war. Guttenfelder also photographed outside Kim Il Sung’s mausoleum, where tourists pose for photos. Some of his photos depict an eery quiet: an empty multi-lane highway leading to the Pyongyang airport, and a traffic cop standing in a Pyongyang street where there seems to be no traffic. His photos are often beautiful, capturing landscapes of color and sometimes startling clarity: as The Independent notes, the lack of industry means there’s little smog.