Purdue Photojournalist Detained, Equipment Seized In Aftermath of Shooting

January 27th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , ,

The NPPA is seeking an explanation from senior officials at Purdue University following an incident in which campus police detained a local photojournalist and seized his equipment.

Purdue Exponent photo editor Michael Takeda was attempting to photograph the aftermath of a campus shooting last week in the building where it occurred when he says officers tackled him to the ground and took his phone and camera.   The area where Takeda was detained had not been closed at the time the confrontation occurred, according to the Exponent.

Takeda was held and questioned for several hours.  He and his equipment were released after the Student Press Law Center intervened.

In a letter to Purdue Senior Director of Environmental Health and Policy Carol Shelby, NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher denounced the officer’s actions.

“In any free country the balance between actual vigilance and over-zealous enforcement is delicate,” Osterreicher said. “While it may be understandable that law enforcement officers had a heightened sense of awareness after the shooting–  we believe that they abused that discretion by detaining Mr. Takeda, seizing his camera equipment and – if the comments and actions attributed to them are true – acting in an unprofessional and lawless manner.

Takeda told a local news outlet that when he asked one of the detaining officers if charges would be pressed, the officer responded that he hoped there would be, because then Takeda would be kicked out of school and would then be “working at McDonald’s.”

Osterreicher said the NPPA is especially wary of cases where police exceed their mandate to enforce to law, and risk trampling on important First Amendment rights.

“Creating a climate of fear and suspicion that chills free speech and violates protections against unreasonable search and seizure under the pretext of safety and security is of great concern to us.”

Congress sought to address the sort of encounter that befell Takeda with the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.  The legislation prohibits law enforcement from seizing a journalists work product or recorded material without a judges permission, except under very specific circumstances.  For example, an officer may seize such materials if there is reason to believe confiscation is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily harm.  Though Takeda was near the crime scene when detained, it does not appear his situation falls under this exception.

The NPPA has requested that Purdue investigate the matter and discipline officers where appropriate, and has offered to assist the university to ensure similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

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

Photo Agency Sues Blog for Copyright Infringement

January 7th, 2014 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , ,

Mavrix Photo has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against and its owner Steed Media Group Inc. for publication of photographs of Beyonce and Kim Kardashian without its permission, consent or license.

The complaint, filed on January 3, 2014 in the United States District Court for the Central District of California Southern Division, alleges among other things that the Defendants “have driven significant traffic to in large part due to the presence of the sought after and searched-for celebrity images that frame this dispute. All of this traffic translates into substantial illgotten commercial advantage and revenue generation for Defendants as a direct consequence of their infringing actions.” The complaint further alleges that “Defendants’ acts of infringement are willful because, inter alia, the Defendants are sophisticated publishers with full knowledge of the strictures of federal copyright law and the basic requirements for licensing the use of copyrighted content for commercial exploitation.”

According to its website Mavrix Photo was formed in 1996 and “is a Global Celebrity News Photo Agency with an Online Image Database of more than 435,000 images and thousands of video clips.”  Steed Media Group is a print and digital advertising company “prevalent in most urban markets around the country.”

Mavrix is demanding a jury trial and is seeking actual damages and statutory damages for willful infringement of at least $150,000 per photograph.



Posted in Beyonce, California, copyright, copyright infringement, Kim Kardashian, Lawsuit, photographers, photojournalism | No Comments »

New York Lawmakers Urged to Allow Cameras In The Courtroom

January 4th, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

As a new legislative session approaches, the NPPA is hopeful that the New York State legislature will finally permit cameras in the courtroom. To that end, the NPPA drafted a letter signed by 36 media organizations, to Governor Andrew Cuomo expressing its support for expanded audiovisual coverage of courtroom proceedings.

There’s evidence that the tide is already turning on the issue in New York.  In a speech last year, New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced a legislative proposal to expand camera coverage of courtroom proceedings.  Ultimately, however, it is the legislature’s prerogative to establish more permissive access laws.  The benefits from such a move would be significant, explained NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher:

“It will bring transparency to the judicial system, provide increased accountability from litigants, judges, and the press and educate citizens about the judicial process. Audio-visual coverage will allow the public to ensure that proceedings are conducted fairly, and, by extension, that government systems are working correctly.  We expect that the watchful eye of the public will demand increased accountability from all courtroom participants. Claims of sensationalistic or inaccurate reporting will be readily verifiable by a public able to view the underlying proceedings for itself.”

Osterreicher pointed to a series of empirical studies and experiments that tend to refute claims that audiovisual equipment is obtrusive and hinders defendant’s fair trial rights. The evolution of both audiovisual equipment and broadcast media stands at the core of the discussion.  Simply put, the traditional justifications offered for banning cameras from the courtroom are no longer a concern.

“There are no more whirling, noisy cameras. There are no more glaring lights.  Nor does a thundering herd of technicians have to go in and out of the courtroom to set up and tear down their gear.  Modern equipment is inaudible, requires no additional lighting and can be operated by a limited number of trained professionals,” noted Osterreicher. Further, “their presence in the courtroom and the images that they convey provide a compelling public service without infringing upon the constitutional or statutory rights of any affected persons or institutions. Respect for the dignity, decorum and safety of the courthouse is not only maintained but enhanced by having cameras in the courtroom,” he said.

The expansion of cable broadcasting and the Internet is also critical, as media groups are now free from time and programming constraints and can often show live feeds of courtroom proceedings from start to finish.

Osterreicher added that any legislation should allow judges the discretion necessary to permit cameras while preserving the rights of litigants and the sanctity of the courtroom.

The desirability of the free exchange of ideas is one of the foundational tenants of the First Amendment.  As such, lawmakers should look closely at the rationale for any policy that places a bottleneck on the flow of information, Osterreicher said.

“Society can ill afford to let the arbitrary and speculative objections of some antagonistic to the electronic press infringe upon the public’s right to observe proceedings in our courts by lens-capping the very means by which modern society receives news and information.”

Numerous states have considered measures similar to those contemplated in New York, and Congress has even considered passing legislation to reverse the longtime ban on cameras in the Supreme Court, the most recent effort stalling in Senate committee last June.

The NPPA had previously submitted an amicus brief to the New York State Court of Appeals supporting cameras in the courtroom the last time this issue came before the court in 2005.

Posted in Access, Cameras, Cameras in the Courtroom, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, Legal, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »