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 20th, 2014

Aaron Siskind Foundation Announces 2014 Grant Recipients

The Aaron Siskind Foundation announced the five winners of their 2014 Individual Photographer’s Fellowship grants yesterday. The grant recipients are Lucas Foglia, Curran Hatleberg, Gillian Laub, Peter van Agtmael and Tomas van Houtryve. Each of this year’s winners receives an $8,000 award.

There were two rounds of judging for this year’s IPF grants. The first round judges included curator Elisabeth Biondi, Harper’s Magazine Art Director Stacey D. Clarkson and Alexa Dilworth, of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. Photographer Elinor Carucci, Curatorial Assistance CEO Graham Howe, and Morgan Library Curator of Photography Joel Smith were the final round judges.

The IPF program was started in 1991, the same year that the Foundation was created, in keeping with photographer Aaron Siskind’s request that upon his death his estate be used to support and inspire contemporary photography. The grants are open to photographers of all levels who reside in the U.S. and are 21 years of age or older, as long as their work is “based on the idea of the lens-based image,” according to the Foundation’s website. Awards of up to $10,000 have been given every year since the IPF’s inception—with the exception of 1999, 2002, 2003 and 2006. Past recipients have included Gregory Crewdson, Matt Eich, Lisa Elmaleh, Ashley Gilbertson, Ron Jude, Wayne Lawrence, Jenny Riffle and Joshua Lutz.

Related: Out West: Lucas Foglia’s Frontcountry
Tomas van Houtryve Drone Essay Longest Ever Published by Harper’s
Heroes & Mentors: Tina Barney and Gillian Laub

March 25th, 2014

Tomas van Houtryve Drone Essay Longest Ever Published by Harper’s

 

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII. “Baseball practice in Montgomery County, Maryland. According to records obtained from the FAA, which issued 1,428 domestic drone permits between 2007 and early 2013, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the U.S. Navy have applied for drone authorization in Montgomery County.”

Tomas van Houtryve takes on the proliferation of drones as weapons and as tools of surveillance in the April issue of Harper’s Magazine, in a photo essay titled “Blue Sky Days.” At 16 pages, it’s the largest picture story ever published by Harper’s.

To create the work, Van Houtryve’s outfit a drone he purchased on Amazon.com for still photography and video, and then piloted it, in areas throughout the United States, over “the very sorts of gatherings that have become habitual targets for foreign air strikes,” the introductory text explains. These included weddings, funerals, and groups of people exercising or praying. The images also depict domestic borders, prisons and other areas where military or police have flown surveillance drones, or have applied for permits to do so.

“His idea was daring, elegant, and perfectly timed,” Harper’s art director Stacey D. Clarkson told PDN via email. “He explained that the technology for drones is way ahead of legislation concerning them, and though drones are part of our contemporary reality, the specific ways they are used (and can be used) are not in the public consciousness. The urgency of the work, the complexity of the ideas, needed space to be properly conveyed. And the images themselves needed to run large in order for the reader to see what Tomas’s drone could see—embroidery on top of a hat, spokes on a bicycle wheel, and home plate at a neighborhood baseball field.”

Captions for the photos make the connection between, for instance, a group of people exercising in a park, and the fact that a gathering of exercising men might, for the CIA, constitute evidence of a terrorist training camp. The effect is chilling. In an image of a wedding in central Philadelphia, a flower girl is the only member of a wedding party looking up at van Houtrve’s drone as he makes his image. A U.S. drone struck a wedding in Yemen in December 2013, killing 12 people, the caption tells us.

The essay’s title refers to the testimony a 13-year-old Pakistani boy named Zubair Rehman gave on Capitol Hill after his grandmother was killed by a drone strike while she was picking vegetables in her yard. The boy told lawmakers he no longer loves blue skies. “The drones do not fly when the skies are gray,” he said.

Van Houtryve will exhibit and speak about “Blue Sky Days” in New York on Friday, April 4, as part of “Surveillance.01-USA,” a symposium on surveillance-based visual arts projects. He will also appear with Clarkson at the University of Colorado, Boulder on April 7 as part of the university’s ATLAS speaker series.

Related: Client Meeting: Harper’s Magazine (accessible to PDN subscribers)
If We Spend $25K On A Photo Essay, Readers Should Pay to See It, Says Harper’s Publisher

February 17th, 2012

Van Houtryve Wins at POYi, with Help from Crowd Funding

© Tomas van Houtryve/VII

Tomas van Houtryve, whose “Behind the Curtains” photo essay has won this year’s World Understanding Award at POYi, completed the eight-year project with the help of money he raised through the crowd-funding site Emphas.is. We don’t know if this is the first crowd-funded project to win a major award, but we’re pretty sure it won’t be the last, given the scarcity of   support for documentary photography at magazines, and the growing popularity of crowd-funding to underwrite long-term photography projects.

Van Houtryve is currently using Emphas.is again in hopes of raising enough money to turn his recent work on North Korea into a book and exhibition.

When we asked him why he turned to crowd-funding for “Behind the Curtains,” he explained that he began “Behind the Curtains” in 2004, covering Nepal’s Maoist revolution. “It was certainly a challenge to keep the project going at full force when the 2008 U.S. economic crisis hit, followed by the global media and advertising crisis in the following years,” he says. In 2010, he won POYi Photographer of the Year – Freelance award. Still, he says, “I had to keep looking for new revenue streams, switching from mainly magazines to grants and eventually to crowd-funding.

“It started to feel pretty acrobatic to have to constantly think about shifting and reinventing business models while keeping my focus on the project.”

In March 2011, he began looking for funding on his own site and on Emphas.is.  “My proposal was to finish my 21st century communism project by taking a final trip to Laos.

(more…)

June 14th, 2010

VII Photo Announces New Network and Mentor Program Photographers

VII Photo announced today that several photographers have joined the VII Network and VII Mentor Program.

Afghanistan-based photographer Andrea Bruce, who has worked extensively in Iraq as a staff and contract photographer for The Washington Post, and Paris-based photographer Tomas van Houtryve, who won 2010 Photographer of the Year from POYi, have joined the VII Network. Both are new to VII.

Adam Ferguson, Benedicte Kurzen and Maciek Nabrdalik, who were participating in the VII Mentor Program, are now members of the VII Network.

Tanyth Berkeley, Giovanni Cocco, Peter DiCampo, Ilana Panich-Linsman and Erin Trieb were invited to join the VII Mentor Program, the agency said in a statement.