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You and Your Camera as One – In Your Heart and In the Eyes of the Law

July 12th, 2012 by Advocacy Intern and tagged , , , ,

As assaults on photographers by citizens and the police have steadily increased in the past couple of years, it is important that you as a photographer know what your rights are if you are involved in one of these incidents.

A recent example of these altercations comes out of New York, where actor Alec Baldwin shoved photographer Marcus Santos outside of the Marriage Bureau.  Santos later filed a complaint with the New York Police Department.  Alec Baldwin claims that he didn’t punch Santos, and in an interview with David Letterman Baldwin claims that he was in fact only hitting the camera, not the photographer.

The truth of the matter is that Baldwin’s actions could have constituted battery without his ever laying a finger on Santos.  The rule in a majority of states in the country is that a person’s body need not be physically harmed to bring a claim of battery.  If unwanted and intentional contact occurs with something that is closely connected to the body such that it could be considered part of the plaintiff’s person, that contact can be treated as battery.

This can include a camera in one’s hand or around one’s neck.  In fact in one case in Rhode Island, a woman was awarded damages for assault and battery after her mechanic, who she took a picture of when she didn’t like the job he did, admitted to placing his hand on the camera that she was holding in an attempt to stop her from taking his picture.  Any unwanted touching of your camera can give rise to a lawsuit just as if your body was assaulted.  The law accords you a right to personal space and that personal space can be disturbed through physical harm, or simply through touching deemed offensive or violative of personal dignity.

If your camera is physically interfered with while in your possession, know that you may not only have the right to bring a civil suit for damages, but that the aggressor may also be criminally liable.

As photographers we often consider our cameras as extensions of ourselves.  We should take comfort knowing the law is in agreement.

Posted in Alec Baldwin, Assault on Photographers, Cameras, News Photography, Newsgathering, photographers, Photographers' Rights, Street Photography, video cameras | No Comments »

Daily News enforcing the copyright of Baldwin photo

June 25th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , ,

Well-known journalism commentator Jim Romesko got snagged with a cease and desist letter from the New York Daily News, and writes about it here.

Like many others, Romenesko used the Daily News’ photo of Alec Baldwin when writing about the incident between Baldwin and their photographer earlier this week.

The blogger complied with the publication’s request, which was to instead use a watermarked image that was provided with the cease and desist letter, but I’m not sure that he entirely got the point. In his post, he commented that “just out of curiosity, did you get ABC’s permission to post these photos? Or did you do as I did with your photo, which is give credit.”

While I have no idea whether TNDN was authorized to use the ABC photos (newspapers license work all the time, so I have no reason to think that they didn’t), what I do know is that any newspaper, or blogger, who thinks that they are complying with copyright law as long as they “give credit” lacks understanding of copyright law.

Some have asked whether Romesko’s use might qualify as fair use, and the answer is no. He was not commenting on the photo, he was commenting on the events in the photo. Which makes it no different than any other news photo use. Commentary on the photo would be “look at the dexterity and skill and quick response the photographer taking this picture must have had to catch this moment.”

Kudos to the Daily News for asserting their copyright and hopefully Romenesko will get permission next time he wants to use a photo. Frankly he got let off the hook pretty easily compared to some. After all, it’s what keeps the industry that he reports on in business.

 

 

Posted in Alec Baldwin, copyright, NY Daily News, photographers, photojournalism | 1 Comment »

Photojournalist or Paparazzo? A Distinction with a Difference

June 21st, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

All paparazzi are photographers.

But not all photographers are paparazzi.

The problem is that in a time of catchy phrases, it seems that many media outlets are unable or unwilling to take the time to distinguish between the two.

In the aftermath of actor Alec Baldwin’s assault on photographers who were waiting for him on a public street outside the New York City Marriage License Bureau this week, the distinction between the use of the pejorative “paparazzi” as a way to denigrate members of the media is not only unfortunate, but does a disservice to all photographers and journalists who strive to earn a living through visual storytelling.

As a former photojournalist with almost 40 years of experience in both print and broadcast journalism, I strongly believe in personal accountability for our actions and the importance of maintaining the credibility of our profession. I also agree that “accuracy in our work and integrity in our relationships with the public we serve are essential qualities for all photojournalists.” It is for that reason that I am a strong proponent of the NPPA Code of Ethics, which “attempts to foster the spirit of honesty in all aspects of our professional lives.”

In this era of tweets and live-streaming it is certainly important to get the news out fast, if not first; but accuracy should still be the overriding priority. Broadcasting or publishing the absolute latest information does not absolve the press of its obligation to be responsible. The public may wish to dwell in gossip and speculation but reporters, broadcasters, editors and publishers should not.

Which brings us back to the issue of who is a photojournalist and who is a paparazzo? A variety of sources define paparazzo as a noun referring to a freelance photographer who specializes in images of famous people for sale to magazines and newspapers while often invading their privacy to obtain such photographs or video. The word “paparazzi” is the plural of “paparazzo.”

The term gained popularity after the 1960 film La Dolce Vita, directed by Federico Fellini, in which one of the characters is a news photographer named Signor Paparazzo. It is said that Fellini used the word because in Italian it is similar to another word for small mosquito, and to the filmmaker was descriptive of the very annoying noise made by that buzzing insect. In the years since it has been used to describe Ron Galella and his photographic pursuit of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, leading to the case of Galella v Onassis and a restraining order keeping Galella a “respectful” distance away from the late First Lady and her children.

Over the years there have been numerous lawsuits by photographers who claim they were injured by celebrities, and some by celebrities who have sued to enjoin photographers from coming too close or invading their privacy.

The term “photojournalist,” on the other hand, refers to those dedicated to a specific aspect of journalism that captures still images and audio-visual recordings for public dissemination in print, by broadcast or online. It is widely understood that photojournalists adhere to strong ethical guidelines ensuring honest, objective and compelling images, created in a straightforward manner while remaining as unobtrusive as possible.

Standing on a sidewalk to take a picture of a celebrity does not make a photographer a paparazzi any more than if he or she were waiting to take a picture of a politician or a criminal. Photojournalists often risk their lives and sometimes are killed while covering wars, political uprisings and natural disasters. Would anyone think to call them paparazzi?

The so-called “legitimate press” has always sought to distinguish itself from the less-than-savory “tabloid paparazzi.” Lately traditional publishers also attempt to distinguish between “mainstream media” and citizen journalists, activists, and bloggers. But all groups use video and still images taken by the very people they distance themselves from in an attempt to compete which blurs the line and makes the definition of who is a journalist even more elusive. This in turn makes the public less trusting and ultimately undermines a free and vibrant press.

None of this absolves anyone of us from our responsibilities. No matter how quickly we deliver it, the message should still be worth hearing. No matter how up-close we can get, the images should still be worth viewing. No matter how advanced the technology, we are all still human.

When reporting on the altercation between New York Daily News photographer Marcus Santos and celebrity Alec Baldwin, it would be wise to look at Santos’ career before labeling him as a paparazzo. According to his website he has been a photojournalist since the late 1990’s with a long list of credits and awards. He prides himself on covering spot news, which is evidenced by his photos of the October, 2011 East River helicopter crash. He has also covered world events in Haiti, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Marcus tells me that he was dispatched by the Daily News to photograph Baldwin after the paper received a tip that he was at the marriage license bureau. So for anyone to say he is a paparazzo is not only grammatically incorrect, but totally inaccurate. In an interview with Charlie Rose after the incident, Baldwin also said that Marcus was not part of the “legitimate press” in a further attempt to justify his actions that day. Such self-serving comments are not only wrong but demean all photojournalists.

In a society increasingly reliant on information and communication, those in the media should be ever vigilant of their obligation to provide accurate, unbiased and timely information rather than rushing to fill space and time with the latest titillating revelations. That goes both for photojournalists who unintentionally get drawn into the story and for the journalists, editors and headline writers who report on those incidents.

Posted in Alec Baldwin, Assault on Photographers, Attack Photographers, Code of Ethics, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, Newsgathering, NPPA, NY Daily News, Paparazzi, Paparazzo, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | 8 Comments »

An Open Letter to Alec Baldwin

June 19th, 2012 by Mickey Osterreicher

An Open Letter To Mr. Alec Baldwin:

Today when you attacked photographers who were waiting outside the city Marriage License Bureau in New York City, it was not the first time that you’ve assaulted members of the very media who helped to make your name a household word. It’s been reported that after today’s incident you Tweeted, “A ‘photographer’ almost hit me in the face with his camera this morning. #allpaparazzishouldbewaterboarded.” You then continued to display your insensitivity by Tweeting, “I suppose if the offending paparazzi was wearing a hoodie and I shot him, it would all blow over …”.

Rather than make light of a national racial tragedy, I suggest that if you don’t want to be recognized when you go out in public it is you who should be wearing something over your head.

Eyewitnesses to today’s incident report that not only were the photographers not near you at the time you aggressively went after them, but that they were in retreat as you continued your unprovoked assault. Whether you like it or not, you are a public figure involved in a newsworthy event. And as you well know from your lifetime of celebrity public life, there is no expectation of privacy on a public street.

No one is really surprised that you continue to act in this manner, given past performances. But as a former photojournalist who is now general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), I object to your combative actions against photographers who were doing nothing more than waiting to take your photograph, an activity you’ve willingly participated in thousands of times, posing when you thought it was in your best interest.

I do not know whether those you attacked have filed assault charges, but I hope they do. Because until you and others like you are held accountable for your actions, this supposed “open season” on photographers will unfortunately continue. It is all too easy to denigrate working journalists by calling them “paparazzi,” but not all photographers deserve that demeaning title, just as all actors are not boors or bullies.

For someone who is politically active and who routinely calls for holding the government accountable, which is one of the central roles of the press, it is more than a little disappointing to watch you literally attack the media as you did today. I hope you pause to reflect on your criminal actions. Just think of the nice images you could have made walking hand in hand together, rather than the headlines you’ll get tomorrow for committing assault.

Normally I spend my time dealing with misguided police officers or security guards who incorrectly believe that they can abridge a person’s First Amendment rights to photograph and record in public. Maybe today you took your cues from them. In any case, the next time you see an adoring fan or anyone with a camera who is waiting to take your picture on a public street, why not just count to 10 and say “cheese.” In the meantime, please don’t assault the news photographers who are diligently working to earn a living wage.

Posted in Alec Baldwin, Attack Photographers, NY Daily News, Paparazzi, Twitter | 16 Comments »