December 23rd, 2014

Amazon Sells iPhone Accessories Infringing Copyrighted News Images of War, Death

Amazon page offering a smartphone case decorated with Daniel Berehulak's image from Liberia.

Amazon page offering a smartphone case decorated with Daniel Berehulak’s image from Liberia.

Dealers of cellphone and iPad cases emblazoned with copyrighted news images by Tomas Van Houtryve, Daniel Berehulak, Tyler Hicks and other photojournalists are using Amazon’s marketplace to sell their wares without permission from the photographers. All the images had been featured by TIME magazine on its “Picks of the Top 10 Photos of 2014.” In addition to the cases featuring news images—such as a photo of a child dying of Ebola and a child killed in an air attack on Gaza—the sellers listed on Amazon also sell cases featuring photos of nature, pets, cars, celebrity actors, major sports teams and other subjects.

A Tyler Hicks image from Gaza on a cellphone case sold by a vendor via Amazon.

A Tyler Hicks image from Gaza on a cellphone case sold by a vendor via Amazon.

One of the infringed photographers, Tomas Van Houtryve, had complained that Amazon removed some of the items infringing his photo, but not all. Van Houtryve tells PDN that after he discovered the unauthorized use of his black-and-white image on cases being sold through Amazon, he contacted the online retailer through the email it provides to report copyright infringement. An automated form asked for more information verifying that he holds the copyright to the image. He says, “I provided that along with a detailed list of links to all of the products infringing on my copyright. I also requested the contact information of the vendors/manufacturers providing the illegal cases,” he says. The following day, some of the products were removed, but many remained. He received another automated email from Amazon saying, “We trust this will bring the matter to a close.” He says, “As you can imagine, I’m not satisfied with this response.” On December 20, he took to Instagram and Facebook, posting images of the pages where the products decorated with his image were sold.

The Massimo Sestini image, cropped on a smartphone case.

The Massimo Sestini image, cropped on a smartphone case.

A search of Amazon for the names of other photographers featured on the TIME list turned up cellphone and iPad cases featuring Tyler Hicks’ image from Gaza of a boy carrying a dead child, Daniel Berehulak’s image of health workers in Liberia carrying a child suffering from Ebola (who later died), and part of Massimo Sestini’s photo of a crowded boat transporting migrants from Africa to Malta, and a tight crop on a portion of Whitney Curtis’s image of police pointing automatic weapons at a protester in Ferguson, Missouri.

Erik Fairleigh, PR spokesperson for Amazon, declined PDN’s request for comment, except to tell PDN “the item is no longer listed for sale,” referring to the product Van Houtryve had complained about. On December 23, however, products made with images by Berehulak, Hicks and Sestini remained on the site.

JP Pappis of Polaris Images, which represents Sestini, says that purusing the makers of the cases would be too costly, since they would be difficult to identify and locate and, if they are overseas, would be beyond the reach of U.S. federal courts. (All the cases “ship from China,” according to the delivery information listed on Amazon.) Sarah Lochting of Getty Images, which represents Daniel Berehulak said the agency is “pursuing the matter. We find it particularly egregious given the content of these images.”

The cases sell for between $12 and $15 through Amazon’s third-party vendor system, which allows any individual or company that fills out an online form to sell their products on Amazon. Amazon’s only requirement is that the seller pay a fee, agree to let Amazon take a cut of sales, and agree to the “Amazon Services Business Solutions Agreement,” which includes a clause indemnifying Amazon against “any claim, loss, damage, settlement, cost, expense or other liability” arising from “any actual or alleged infringement of any Intellectual Property Rights.”

Recognize this photo? Let us know.

Recognize this photo? Let us know.

The sellers offering the photo-emblazoned cases use many names, including David Ray Floyd, Sonja B Williams, DODO7899, Janice Lee Curry, NicoleWilliamHarris. 

Take a look. And if you see your photo on one of the cases being sold, let us know.

Recognize the photo? Let us know.

Recognize the photo? Let us know.

August 6th, 2013

Now in Beta: Amazon’s Platform for Selling Fine-Art Prints

Amazon-Fine-Art-Print-Cartier-BressonAmazon, the online retailer, has launched the beta version of its new online marketplace for photographic prints. You can take a look here.

Amazon is currently offering over 5,000 photographic prints on the site. Like other goods that are advertised on the Amazon marketplace, fulfillment is handled by another retailer — in this case, art galleries.  If you’ve ever shopped for a hairdryer or a wristwatch on Amazon, you know how it works: A breakdown of categories and prices appears on the left. Click on “Photographs” and Amazon lets you sort them by medium (C-prints, silver gelatin photographs, archival digital photographs), subject (architecture, nature, fashion, people) and “style,” which Amazon defines by terms such as Art Photography, Digital Art, Modern Art, Postmodern & Contemporary Styles. You can also set the price range you would like to browse.

The highest priced print on the site is a one-of-a-kind print by Dieter Blum; it’s $120,000. The site also offers a set of four images, the 32nd in an edition of 35, by Ed Ruscha; it’s offered for $80,000, and is sold through the Richard Levy Gallery (which is selling 43 images on the site by many photographers including Gregory Crewdson). A $75,000 Julius Shulman on the site and a $50,000 print of Sebastiao Salgado’s image “Bombay, India, (Churchgate Station), 1995″ are being sold through Fahey/Klein Gallery, which has 171 images on Amazon. The edition sizes of the Shulman and the Salgado are not listed. The least expensive prints on the site sell for under $30.

Other photographers whose prints are sold through Amazon include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mark Laita, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Vik Muniz, Michael Kenna, Julie Blackmon, Harry Benson, William Abranowicz, Camille Seaman and Jennifer Shaw. Among the participating galleries are Modernbook Gallery, Oxenberg Fine Art, Holden Luntz Gallery, RoGallery, Afterimage Gallery and Soulcatcher Studio.

It seems that customers will also be able to post reviews of the works once they’ve bought them.  Are you at all curious to know how the buyer of a Julius Shulman “rates” that purchase? We think we might cringe reading it.

*Photo, above: The Amazon page that displays “On the Banks of the Marne, France” by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Photo © Henri Cartier-Bresson/courtesy Fahey/Klein Gallery.

Related Articles:
How To Sell Your Photos Professionally

A Guide to Pricing Your Prints