November 20th, 2012 by Joan Blazich
Photographer David Strick, who sued the Los Angeles Times last year claiming infringement of his photographs, has been ordered by an arbitrator to pay the L.A. Times more than $266,000.
Strick had entered into a contract with the L.A. Times in 2007 to provide photographs to the newspaper. The L.A. Times declined to renew Strick’s contract in 2010, but continued to use some of Strick’s photographs. Strick alleged in his complaint that his agreement with the L.A. Times contained a “specifically negotiated” acknowledgement that “For the avoidance of doubt, LATIMES.COM acknowledges that the copyrights to the Photographs are owned by Strick.” To read Strick’s complaint, click here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/62136598/Strick-Suit-Part-1.
After the L.A. Times continued to use Strick’s photographers after declining to renew their contract with him, Strick challenged the newspaper’s use of the photographs, alleging that the use of these images was infringement. Despite a clause in the original Service Agreement calling for “quick and efficient” resolution to any disputes between the parties, Strick refused to engage in arbitration with the L.A. Times and instead filed in U.S. District Court. To read about Strick’s initial lawsuit, click here: http://www.thewrap.com/media/column-post/la-times-tries-force-arbitration-david-strick-copyright-suit-30043?page=0,0.
The arbitrator held in his decision that Strick’s refusal to abide by the Service Agreement, coupled with Strick’s “poor behavior” throughout the arbitration process, justified the dismissal of Strick’s case and the awarding of attorneys’ fees and court costs to the L.A. Times. The arbitrator, retired Judge Lichtman, noted in his opinion that “For reasons which remain inexplicable, claimant (Strick) chose to abandon and distance himself from the controlling licensing agreement as well as the agreed upon dispute resolution mechanisms contained therein.” The result is that while Strick arguably had valid infringement claims against the L.A. Times for violating the copyright provisions of their contract, Strick lost his case simply because he failed to abide by arbitration provisions that he had agreed to in signing the contract with the L.A. Times. To read more of Arbitrator Lichtman’s comments, click here: http://www.thewrap.com/media/column-post/la-times-wins-266k-photographer-david-strick-64816?page=0,0.
According to Photo District News, Strick issued a statement in wake of the arbitrator’s decision, stating that he was “devasted by today’s ruling,” Strick went on to say that this decision was “a technical ruling that allows a willful infringement to take place but bars me from redressing that infringement.” Strick has since announced that he will appeal the arbitrator’s decision. To read more on Strick’s reaction to this decision, click here: http://www.pdnonline.com/news/Photog-Claiming-LA-T-6067.shtml.
In copyright infringement claims, the terms of a contract between the involved parties can quickly determine whether a claim for infringement will be deemed meritless or not. A photographer must be careful to not only review what the terms of copyright for his or her works may be, but also to note any provisions in the contract requiring arbitration. As a contract, once signed, is a binding agreement upon both parties, a photographer who signs a contract and then refuses to follow its provisions could easily end up with problems.
For claims which arise from a party not following a binding provision of a contract, both copyright law and contract provisions can allow a court or arbitrator to award attorneys’ fees and court costs to the prevailing party. This awarding of fees and costs is granted to compensate the prevailing party for the expenses it occurred in defending itself against the claim. As copyright infringement claims can be quite costly to file and pursue, the awarding of fees and costs can be very high.
Photographers should be aware of the terms in their contracts with other parties, and proceed cautiously when entering into such agreements. Choosing to not follow the provisions of a contract regarding how disputes will be handled can result in a significant award of attorneys’ fees and court costs against the losing party. Even if a photographer feels he or she has a strong claim for infringement despite the contract, provisions in that contract for arbitration may remain binding. In general, photographers should always read contractual agreements carefully, making sure to have any ambiguous language clarified. In the event that a photographer does wish to pursue an infringement claim and such a claim seems to be permitted under the contract, the photographer should be prepared to follow any provisions the contract may set out regarding arbitration or litigation. Although Strick’s situation is regrettable, it serves as a cautionary tale. To read more about Strick’s case, click here: http://www.thewrap.com/media/column-post/la-times-wins-266k-photographer-david-strick-64816?page=0,0.
Posted in contracts, copyright, Copyright Small Claims, Lawsuit, Legal, Licensing, Photographers' Rights | No Comments »
September 20th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada
Once again, a law enforcement agency has instructed its officers to equate photography with terrorism, and the NPPA has responded. The NPPA was joined by a coalition of other media and photography organizations this week in a letter to Chief Charles Beck, of the Los Angeles Police Department, including the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the Los Angeles Times, the Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA), the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles (PPAGLA), the Society of Professional Journalists – Greater Los Angeles Chapter (SPJ-LA) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP).
The LAPD recently issued guidelines instructing their officers on “behavior/activity that may reveal a nexus to foreign or domestic terrorism.” Such behavior listed includes:
“Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures, or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person. Examples include taking pictures or videos of ingress/egress, delivery locations, personnel performing security functions (e.g., patrol, badge/vehicle checking), security-related equipment (e.g., perimeter fencing, security cameras), etc”
In the letter, NPPA General Counsel, Mickey Osterreicher explained to Chief Beck:
“Photography is protected by the First Amendment, subject only to reasonable time, place and manner restrictions. Unfortuately the reliance on policies such as the LAPD’s as the basis for law enforcement officers to question, detain and interfere with lawful activities by photographers under the guise of preventing terrotist activites has become a daily occurrence.”
Osterreicher added that this “erroneous belief is only reinforced by these specific references to photography as possibly being part of some sinister act,” noting that the guidelines are “overly broad and vague and helps foster a climate of fear and suspicion”
The NPPA offered to work with the law enforcement agency to help develop more reasonable policies regarding photography, asking that any reference to photography be removed from the guidelines.
Posted in Cameras, First Amendment, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Regulations limiting photography, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Street Photography, Suspicious Activity | 1 Comment »
August 24th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged copyright, copyright small claims, legislation, national press photographers association, photojournalism
The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has submitted comments to the Intellectual Property Enforcement Commission (IPEC) detailing recommendations that would improve copyright protection for visual images.
The 16-page document, which was submitted following an open request for comments from IPEC, highlighted numerous measures specifically aimed at giving photographers recourse when their images where pirated.
“Most photojournalists view our profession as a calling,” the comment states. “None really expect to become wealthy in this line of work, but most do expect to earn a fair living, support themselves and their family and contribute to society. Copyright infringement reduces that economic incentive dramatically.”
One recommendation put forth in the comments was to track takedown notices for websites hosting pirated images in order to hold search engines liable when they continue to list those infringing websites in search results. In a move indicating that this recommendation may soon become reality, Google announced on the same day that the comment was submitted, that it would drop the search rankings of sites with multiple takedown notices.
“Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site,” the Google Search blog said. “Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results. This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.”
The NPPA comments proposed increased accountability for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in addition to search engines. The comments also proposed enacting statutes targeting news aggregators and their use of hyper linking, encouraging metadata schemas that would enable easier identification of image ownership, and creating a small claims solution for copyright infringement.
The comments stressed that the loss of staff positions at newspapers nationwide and the increasing copyright infringement of images by the public have undermined the value of photojournalism and made it more important than ever that photojournalists have their images protected.
“The end result of the continued devaluation of journalism, and photojournalism, is that communities suffer,” the comment states. “Important stories on public spending, public welfare, health and safety will not be told with the vigor and thoroughness of years past.”
NPPA’s comments can be viewed at this link.
Advocacy Chair note: NPPA Intern Justice Warren contributed significantly to this effort.
Posted in blogging, copyright, Legal, Licensing, National Press Photographers Association, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »
August 13th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged Access, first amendment, Mickey Osterreicher, national press photographers association, NY Times, photojournalism, Robert Stolarik
The New York Police Department (NYPD) on Friday returned the camera equipment of a New York Times photographer who had his equipment seized following his arrest on August 4th.
Robert Stolarik, who was arrested on charges of obstructing governmental administration and resisting arrest while photographing police activity on assignment, said, “My cameras were returned to me on Friday at 3:30. Getting my gear back is the first step in returning to some normalcy. The next things for me will be getting the charges dropped and having my credentials returned to me.”
The return of the seized equipment came days after the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) sent a letter to Deputy Commissioner Paul J. Browne of the NYPD that objected to the rough treatment and arrest of Stolarik and requested that his equipment be returned to him.
“Mr. Stolarik’s equipment and credentials must be returned immediately,” said Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for NPPA, in his letter to the NYPD. “We believe that the seizure and alleged destruction of his equipment not only violates his First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights but may be considered a form of prior restraint and a violation of the Privacy Protection Act of 1980, specifically enacted to protect against the search and seizure of a journalist’s work product.”
Osterreicher also sent a letter to the editor which was published by the NY Times on that same Friday morning, in which among other things, the NPPA attorney urged “the New York Police Department to work with us to improve training and supervision for its members starting from the top down .”
Upon learning of the equipment’s return Osterreicher said, “While I am pleased that Robert has his cameras back, this incident, like so many others around the country should never have happened in the first place.” “Had officers just let him do his job this would be a non-story,” he added.
Today Stolarik met with officers from the NYPD Internal Affairs Bureau, who were following up on his complaint. That is also the reason that word of the equipment return was not announced until now. George Freeman, a lawyer for The Times, said “we hope the IAB will objectively investigate this case, because we are fully confident that if they look at the facts, they will find that the officers who blocked, intimidated and assaulted Mr. Stolarik acted inappropriately and violated NYPD guidelines.” He also added, “we hope that those officers ultimately will be disciplined not only to punish them for their wrongdoing, but also to send a well-needed message to the rest of the force that interfering and beating on the press while they are doing their jobs simply won’t be tolerated.”
Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Cameras, DCPI Paul Browne, First Amendment, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, New York TImes, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Robert Stolarik | 4 Comments »
July 13th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada
We all talk about how important copyright is as a way to protect our income. However, copyright serves a greater purpose than just a revenue source. It permits the author/artist/creator to control how their work is used. Controlling the uses of your images is incredibly important.
Consider this recent case that is getting a lot of attention. Photographer Kristina Hill took an engagement photo of a same-sex couple, which one of the grooms posted on his blog. A conservative group then stole the image and turned it into an anti-gay attack ad, targeting a politician for her vote in support of same sex unions.
The original photo by Kristina Hill
The mailer including the stolen, digitally manipulated photograph.
The couple, obviously was distressed. One of the men wrote in a blog post, “I’m in shock and I’m angry and I’m hurt and I’m flabbergasted and I’m livid.” Given all that his community had been through to legalize gay marriage, he was angry that “someone, a stranger, will seek out your image on the internet… steal it and use it in an attempt to destroy others who support you.”
So here we have a photographer, whose client was clearly devastated by a use of her photo that was never intended by the photographer or the client. Whether the issue is a wedding photographer protecting her clients from a hate campaign, a wildlife photographer wanting to keep his images from being used by organizations that harm the environment, or a journalist wanting to protect a sensitive source, copyright gives photographers the power to stop such use.
Unfortunately, as much as this incident is proof of the importance of copyright protection, it is also evidence that the system is broken. Ms. Hill told Photo District News last week that she planned to pursue it, but was uncertain whether or not she has the resources to do so, given that a lawsuit could drag on extensively. She has since obtained representation from the Southern Poverty Law Center which sent a cease and desist letter on her behalf this week. Good for her for finding a solution to protect her clients by defending her images.
If there were ever a reason to pursue an infringement, theft of a photo which vilifies your client is it. The fact that Ms. Hill was faced with the possibility of not pursuing the infringer because of the cost shows how important it is to improve the system for obtaining relief from infringement. This is why the NPPA supports a small claims solution for copyright infringement claims. Regardless of whether or not there are provable financial damages, it should not cost tens of thousands of dollars to get an injunction against uses like this.
If copyright law is not enforceable, it is virtually useless.
Posted in copyright, Copyright Small Claims, Legal, photographers, Photographers' Rights, U.S. Copyright Office | No Comments »
June 28th, 2012 by Justice Warren and tagged first amendment, Mickey Osterreicher, National Press Club, national press photographers association, NPPA, Photographers rights
Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), spoke at the National Press Club (NPC) in Washington, D.C. on June 27, 2012 where he warned NPC members of ongoing issues concerning copyright infringement and the assault on the right to photograph in public places.
“It’s vital for citizens and journalists to know their rights when taking pictures or recording in public places. It’s even more crucial that police departments have appropriate policies and continuously train their officers regarding those rights,” Osterreicher said following the speech.
Osterreicher, who spoke to the NPC last January on a similar topic paid particular attention to the increasing prevalence of police interfering with the rights of the public and the media to photograph in public places. He noted that there have been a growing number of arrests of citizens and photographers who take pictures, particularly those who have documented activist gatherings such as the Occupy protests.
Osterreicher attributed the increase in these incidents to the widespread proliferation of cameras and smartphones, which make it possible for anyone to photograph and record matters of public concern and then provide that material to the rest of the world via the Internet. He said that police nationwide have shown a reluctance to allow such documentation, and have often responded with hostility and threats of arrest.
“I think it’s the culture of the police,” Osterreicher said. “Their idea of serve and protect often means protecting people and other officers from having their pictures taken.”
The NPPA has come to the defense of many of these photographers, both professional and amateur, because of its belief that government officials should never be left to determine what is or is not a newsworthy picture or story. The organization urges offending police departments to drop charges and to adopt policies that do not interfere with the public’s right to photograph.
Osterreicher talked about training sessions he has held with several police departments on how to interact with the press, his work with the Chicago Police and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press during the NATO Summit and his preparations for the upcoming national political conventions.
He said he offers this service whenever he writes to police departments that have had incidents with photographers. “People ask me ‘Why do you write so many letters?’” Osterreicher said. ”Well, the answer is that it’s cheaper than bringing a lawsuit. It’s cheaper for everyone, but as the police so often say ‘we can do this the easy way or the hard way,’ I think that a letter is the easy way but in some recently filed lawsuits NPPA has provided support against those departments and officers who blatantly violated our members’ constitutional rights.”
Osterreicher also spoke about instances in which police have taken cameras and phones and deleted photos or compelled the person who took the photos to do so. He reminded members of the NPC that under no circumstances do officers have the right to delete or destroy photographs or video.
Osterreicher said that he is hopeful that incidents like these decline once police are educated and trained regarding the rights of the press and public to photograph and record.
“The police aren’t going anywhere. The media isn’t going anywhere. We need to find a way to do our jobs without interference.”
Posted in Access, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Cameras, cell phone cameras, Chicago Police, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, law, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street Arrests, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording, Recording Police, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, video cameras | No Comments »
April 9th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher
UPDATE – April 10, 2012 ************
Due to the emergency situation in Suffolk County caused by wild fires we have decided to reschedule the filing of the lawsuit and press conference against the County. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the brave men and women who are working tirelessly fighting this fire.
Unless the emergency situation continues, the press conference is now scheduled for Wednesday, April 11, 2012. We will confirm and update as to time and location as soon as we have more information on the fire.
Thank you for your patience and understanding.
April 9, 2012 — Tomorrow at 9:45 a.m. in Central Islip, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP, and the National Press Photographers Association will hold a media availability to announce a legal action regarding Suffolk County’s policy and practice of obstructing the First Amendment right of the press and the public to record and gather the news about police activity in public places.
The legal action concerns a July 2011 incident in which professional video journalist Philip Datz was unlawfully arrested and detained by Suffolk County police while filming police activity on a public street in Bohemia, NY.
Mr. Datz, Attorney Robert Balin, a partner with Davis Wright Tremaine, and NYCLU Suffolk County Chapter Director Amol Sinha will be available for interviews tomorrow starting at 9:45 a.m. at the NYCLU Suffolk County Chapter’s office, which is located at Touro Law Public Advocacy center, 225 Eastview Drive in Central Islip. Mickey Osterreicher, NPPA General Counsel will be available by telephone 716.983.7800.
Posted in Access, confiscated, Davis Wright Tremaine, False Arrest, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Fourth Amendment, Fourth Amendment rights, Lawsuit, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NYCLU, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Recording Police, Robert Balin, Sgt. Michael Milton | No Comments »