April 27th, 2016

National Gallery’s Use of Prince Portrait Infringes Copyright, Photog Claims

Photographer Lynn Goldsmith’s studio says the Smithsonian Institution violated copyright of her 1993 portrait of Prince last week by distributing the image to the media without permission. The musician died April 21, and the following day, the Smithsonian displayed a print of Goldsmith’s photograph at the National Portrait Gallery’s In Memoriam space. The museum notified the media that the portrait could be “photographed or filmed in the museum.” It also made a digital copy of the image available to the media for download on the Smithsonian website.

EPA, AP, AFP and Getty distributed images and/or video of the portrait hanging in the gallery. Various news organizations published the wire service photos and video, but a search of Google images turned up few online copies of the downloadable image.

Rachel Simon, who is the license director for Goldsmith’s studio, says the national gallery violated copyright by allowing others to photograph Goldsmith’s image, and by distributing it as a download. The studio sent a cease and desist notice, and by April 26, the Smithsonian had stopped making the image available as a download. Now the two parties are in discussions about damages.

“We feel financial restitution is necessary to resolve [this], for as you can imagine, that image cannot be licensed for any fee ever again as it has been released WORLDWIDE for free in some cases,” Simon told PDN via email.

Simon said she had spoken with Smithsonian attorney Lauryn Guttenplan about the matter, adding that Guttenplan “did not seem to think this was an infringement or that any damage was caused to the value of the work!”

Guttenplan referred PDN’s request for an interview to Smithsonian spokesperson Linda St. Thomas, who said, “There are discussions going on between the photographer and her representative and the Portrait Gallery director so we have nothing to report right now.”

Simon did not specify the amount of restitution that Goldsmith is seeking, but said, “one would hope that the Museum which honors the contributions of artists would want to resolve [this] amicably.”

Simon says the Prince portrait displayed by the museum was originally sold to collector (and record producer) Jimmy Iovine, who donated it to the Smithsonian. The print was sold to Iovine with the written stipulation that Goldsmith retained copyright, and that the print could not be “published, copied, televised, digitized, or reproduce in any form whatsoever.” The terms of the sale also stated the the print “is intended solely and exclusively for your personal viewing enjoyment.”

[Correction: an earlier version of this story stated that Goldsmith has brought her attorney into the matter. Her studio says that is not the case. We regret the error.]

July 23rd, 2010

Copyright Infringement? There’s an App for That

A photographer recently tipped us off about a Chinese Web site that is publishing the work of photographers without their knowledge or permission. The site is branded as if it were produced by Leica, but according to a Leica representative they have nothing to do with it. “Leica Camera always respects the rights of artists and does not support the unapproved publication of artwork,” a Leica spokesperson told PDN via email.

Leica did not, however, comment on whether they would pursue legal action to have the site taken down.

An Austrian store that apparently sells Leica cameras and photographic prints is the site’s only sponsor.

A few of the photographers whose work is used on the site are: Phillip Toledano, Steve McCurry, Marcus Bleasdale, Annie Marie Musselman, Robbie Cooper, Kosuke Okahara, Dominic Nahr and Michal Chelbin.

The site is also marketing an app, downloadable for free through the Apple iTunes App Store. When you open the app a grid of famous photographs, including Annie Leibovitz’s image of Yoko Ono and a naked John Lennon, appear on the screen.

Work by Stephen Shore, Lynn Goldsmith, Jonas Bendiksen, Erika Larsen, Sebastião Salgado and others appear in the “A Pic a Day” section of the app. In the app’s “Magazine” section, entire photo essays appear, many of them current. For instance, Sebastian Liste’s 2010 Ian Parry Scholarship-winning essay on homeless families inhabiting an abandoned chocolate factory in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, appears.

Photographers we’ve spoken with had no idea this Web site existed and was using their work, nor were they aware of the app, and we’re assuming that none of the photographers whose work is being used gave permission.

Does your work appear on the site?