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NPPA Discouraged by SCOTUS Continued Refusal to Allow Cameras in Its Courtroom

March 25th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , ,

Unfortunately the U.S. Supreme Court continues to refuse to change its position on cameras in its courtroom.  The Coalition for Court Transparency recently sent a letter to the Chief Justice requesting him to reconsider the High Court’s longstanding policy barring audio-visual coverage of its proceedings. The Court’s Public Information Officer timely responded by saying “there are no plans to change the Court’s current practices” whereby they will continue to make audio recordings of all oral arguments available on the Court’s website “at the end of each argument week” and written transcripts of those arguments “on the same day the argument is heard.” r

NPPA Executive Director Charles W.L. (“Chip”) Deale, reacted to the Court’s letter by stating, “NPPA is grateful that the Supreme Court at least showed the courtesy of responding to a letter from the Coalition for Court Transparency (of which NPPA is a member) calling for cameras to be allowed during Court proceedings. However, the Court’s continued intransigence on this important issue is highly discouraging and, NPPA believes, a disservice to American citizens.  Via the Coalition, NPPA will continue to advocate for greater transparency by the Court.”

Responding for the Coalition, Bruce Brown of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, to whom the court’s letter was addressed, said: “I am appreciative that the Supreme Court responded to our coalition’s letter. I do believe that the smallest of changes to the court’s institutional practices would increase the public’s understanding of and appreciation for the court’s work. I hope that this marks the beginning of a dialogue between the court and those of us who care deeply about press freedom and increasing transparency at our most important judicial institution.”

Mike Cavender, RTDNA Executive Director said, “RTDNA is very disappointed in the Supreme Court’s reluctance to even consider further our request to provide more transparency,” added .  “We firmly believe the actions taken by the Court are of sufficient importance and impact to all Americans to warrant providing video coverage of the arguments the Justices hear.”

As the Coalition stated in its letter to Chief Justice Roberts, “we believe the Supreme Court should embrace contemporary expectations of transparency by public officials and allow the recording and broadcast of its courtroom proceedings. Following Justice John Marshall Harlan’s concurrence in Estes v. Texas (1965), we believe the ‘day’ has long since passed ‘when television [has] become so commonplace an affair in the daily life of the average person as to dissipate all reasonable likelihood that its use in courtrooms may disparage the judicial process.’”

Posted in Access, Cameras in the Courtroom, Coalition for Court Transparency, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, Open Government, OpenSCOTUS, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, SCOTUS, US Supreme Court | No Comments »

Federal Court Hints Websites That Strip Metadata Could Face Copyright Liability

March 7th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

A U.S. District Court in California recently hinted that online service providers who strip copyrighted photographs of their identifying information could forfeit “safe harbor” protection under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

District Judge Gonzalo Curiel found late last month that e-commerce vendor CafePress.com was not entitled to summary judgment on a claim it hosted and facilitated the sale of copyrighted photos, denying a request that an infringement case be dismissed under the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions.  The decision rested partly on the fact that when users upload photographs to CafePress.com, the website’s automated process strips the images of copyright information imprinted as metadata.

Cafe Press is a website that allows its users to upload images for printing on items like hats and t-shirts.  The plaintiff in the infringement case alleged that Cafe Press facilitated the storage and sale of the plaintiff’s copyrighted photographs of Alaskan Wildlife.  The plaintiff claimed that before the website disabled access to the images in response to the lawsuit, more than $6,000 in merchandise had been sold.

Under the DMCA, service providers that unknowingly store infringing images online are typically immune from damages, as long as they  meet requirements aimed at preventing violations.  Among those requirements, the provider must “accommodate and not interfere with standard technical measures” that copyright owners use to identify and protect their works.

Broadly speaking, “standard measures” are those that have been widely adopted by providers and copyright holders to prevent infringement.  Additionally, those measures must not overly burden providers.

Cafe Press disputed the claim that its upload process interferes by stripping the information, claiming metadata as an anti-infringement tool has not been “developed pursuant to a broad consensus of copyright owners and service providers in an open, fair, voluntary, multi-industry standards process.”

The court refused to accept this argument as a matter of law, holding that “[fr]om a logical perspective, metadata appears to be an easy and economical way to attach copyright information to an image.”  This means Cafe Press may be forced to defend its policy in later litigation.

The decision is a positive sign for photographers.  Within the industry, IPTC information stored in the metadata of photographs has proven one of the most effective and cost efficient tools for copyright holders to keep copyright information connected to digital images  Its legal relevance, however, its inexorably tied to the courts’s willingness to recognize it.  The Café Press decision is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.

Posted in Access, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »