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New Copyright Compendium bans works produced by “nature, animals, and plants” and implicitly uses monkey selfie as example

September 3rd, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , ,

In the recently released U.S. Copyright Compendium, which lays out regulations about the registration process for copyrights, one sentence stood out from the rest of the 1200-page document, and is as follows: “The Office will not register works produced by nature, animals, or plants, which includes a photograph taken by a monkey.” It stood out because three years ago, David Slater, a British photographer, traveled to Indonesia to photograph monkeys. While there, he had his camera snatched by a monkey and the monkey ended up taking some amazing photographs with his camera. Slater published these photos, and later discovered that one of them was published on Wikipedia without his permission. Slater wanted the photo taken down, and while Wikipedia at first complied, another editor later revisted the decision and reposted the image, because the editor took the position that the photo was taken by the monkey and not Slater, thus making it public domain. A lively debate over whether Slater owned the copyright ensued. Slater maintains that he owns the copyright, noting that “there are many wildlife photographers that regularly employ animals to push the shutter button.  Pressure pads, trip wires, beam splitters – all devices attached to a camera that allows an animal to ‘take’ a photograph. In my case it was an attached cable release.”

For an interesting analysis of the Compendium and the monkey selfie see: “Return to the Snapshots of the Apes,” by Terry Hart. Also see: “Wikimedia Says When a Monkey Takes a Selfie, No One Owns It,” by Louise Stewart. For a tongue-in-cheek read on what the monkey had to say see:  “A Statement Statement From the Monkey,” by Bill Barol.

It is important to remember that the policy set forth in the U.S. Copyright Compendium is not binding upon the U.S. Copyright Office or the Register of Copyrights. It is only “the administrative manual of the Register of Copyrights concerning Title 17 of the United States Code and Chapter 37 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and provides instruction to agency staff regarding their statutory duties and expert guidance to copyright applicants, practitioners, scholars, the courts, and members of the general public regarding institutional practices and related principles of law.”

While the Compendium is not law, it certainly does influence law making in the realm of copyrights. Therefore, concerned photographers should comment on the Compendium, through the federal register. According to the Copyright Office the Compendium “will remain in draft form for 120 days [from August 19, 2014] pending final review and implementation, taking effect on or around December 15, 2014.” The public may submit comments to the Copyright Office regarding the Compendium up until that date.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited to clarify that Wikipedia initially complied with the takedown request, and later changed its mind, and to include a quote from David Slater.

Posted in Cameras, copyright, copyright infringement, multimedia, photographers, photojournalism, U.S. Copyright Office | No Comments »

Media Groups Join NPPA to Protest Police Mistreatment of Press During NYC – OWS Protests

November 21st, 2011 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

New York – The National Press Photographers Association was joined by several media organizations and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in a letter to the NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Public Information, Paul J. Browne, to protest police mistreatment of the the media during the Occupy Wall Street protests last week. The strongly worded letter drafted by NPPA general Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher along with New York Times vice president and assistant general counsel, George Freeman, pointed out that “credentialed media were identified, segregated and kept away from viewing, reporting on and photographing vital matters of public concern. A press pen was set up blocks away and those kept there were further prevented from seeing what was occurring by the strategic placement of police buses around the perimeter. Moreover, there have been numerous instances where police officers struck or otherwise intentionally impeded photographers as they were taking photos, keeping them from doing their job and from documenting instances of seeming police aggression.”

The letter outlines several specific incidents in which members of the media were physically assaulted by police. It also describes how members of the media were ordered to leave public areas, stripped of their credentials, threatened with arrest, detained and arrested.

During an August 2011 meeting Browne had promised to review previous media complaints regarding other incidents involving police interference with the media and his agreement to consider additional training to reinforce media guidelines, for newer officers on the force.  Browne had agreed at the time that additional training for officers would be beneficial. The media representatives who authored the letter expressed their belief  “that had such agreed upon training occurred, it may have helped avoid the numerous inappropriate, if not unconstitutional, actions and abuses the police heaped upon both credentialed and non-credentialed journalists in the last few days.”

A companion letter was sent by the New York Civil Liberties Union to New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg making similar complaints. Both groups have asked for a meeting with the police in order to address these issues.

Read the complete letter here:DCPI Letter – Signed 11-21-11

Update:

See articles by the New York Press Club. and the Associate Press.

 

Posted in broadcasting, First Amendment, First Amendment rights, law, Legal, mass media, multimedia, National Press Photographers Association, News Photography, NPPA, NYPD, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism, Police, Public Photography, Recording Police, video cameras | 2 Comments »

New Federal Cameras in Court Pilot Study Commences

July 27th, 2011 by Mickey Osterreicher

On July 18, 2011 the Judicial Conference of the United States began a three-year pilot project to evaluate the effect of cameras in federal district court courtrooms. Fourteen (14) federal trial courts are taking part in the federal Judiciary’s digital video pilot. The participating courts are:

  • Middle District of Alabama
  • Northern District of California
  • Southern District of Florida
  • District of Guam
  • Northern District of Illinois
  • Southern District of Iowa
  • District of Kansas
  • District of Massachusetts
  • Eastern District of Missouri
  • District of Nebraska
  • Northern District of Ohio
  • Southern District of Ohio
  • Western District of Tennessee
  • Western District of Washington

Courts participating in the experiment must follow Guidelines.pdf adopted by the Court Administration and Case Management Committee (CACM). Only civil cases in which all parties have consented to being recorded will be allowed to participate in the pilot with the approval of the presiding judge. Additionally, the parties will be required to consent to the recording of each proceeding in the case. Coverage of the prospective jury during voir dire is prohibited, as is coverage of jurors or alternate jurors.

The guidelines impose additional restrictions in that “pilot recordings will not be simulcast, but will be made available as soon as possible on www.uscourts.gov and on local participating court websites at the court’s discretion.” Only courts participating in the program may record court proceedings for the purpose of public release; courts not selected for participation in the program may not record and release recordings of their proceedings.

It is very important to note that only court personnel or its agents will be permitted to record the proceedings, with the presiding judge having the ability to instantly stop a recording if necessary. Recordings by any other entities or persons – including the media and its representatives – are prohibited. The guidelines also address camera placement and technical setup. Funding for equipment or technical support will be limited, and courts have been discouraged “from purchasing new equipment.”

Since 1996 the Conference has permitted camera coverage of oral arguments in federal courts of appeals at the court’s discretion. Currently both the Second and the Ninth Circuit allow such coverage. There is, however, an absolute ban on electronic media coverage of criminal proceedings in federal courts pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure (FRCP) 53.

This is the second three-year experiment with cameras in the courtroom authorized by the Judicial Conference. The first was conducted between July 1, 1991 and June 30, 1993 with electronic media coverage of civil proceeding in six district courts and two courts of appeals. At the conclusion of the experiment in 1994, despite a report and recommendation stating that “the experimental media coverage did not create sufficient disruption to civil proceedings to warrant the continuation of the prohibition against such coverage” the Conference declined to continue camera coverage and the initial pilot program ended on December 31, 1994.

One of the first federal civil cases covered as part of the new pilot being heard in the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis, involves a local TV reporter who is suing for defamation because of pornographic images and derogatory comments allegedly posted on TheDirty.com website which she claims “could harm her career” (see: complaint).” Although the material was taken down, the plaintiff in Gauck v. Karamian sought a preliminary injunction at a July 21, 2011 hearing seeking to bar any re-posting of the same material.

Also see: http://www.commercialappeal.com.

For a more comprehensive study of cameras in federal court please be sure to look for “Cameras in the Courts: The Long Road to the New Federal Experiment” being published in early August in the Summer 2011 Edition of the Reynolds Courts & Media Law Journal. After print publication it can be found at http://www.courtsandmedia.org/journal.

Additional information regarding the new pilot project may be found at: http://www.uscourts.gov/news/

Posted in Access, Cameras in the Courtroom, Federal Court, First Amendment, multimedia, photographers, Photographers' Rights, photojournalism | No Comments »

Iowa Goes Too Far with Farm Bill

March 18th, 2011 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Recently we told you about a bill banning photography of farms in Florida. We have learned that there is a similar bill, prohibiting photography (among other things) of farms and crops without the permission of the owner. The Iowa bill has been compared to the Florida bill, but a quick read of the bill shows that it is far worse. To Iowa’s credit, it appears that photography from the street wouldn’t be affected, however, mere possession and distribution of undercover photography of a farm would be a crime. This elevates editors and news organizations to the status of criminals if they publish, or even possess undercover footage of farms, crops or animal facilities.

Specifically the bill states that “distribution or possession” of photographs that were illegally obtained (through violations of earlier portions of the bill). Under the proposed law, “A person is guilty of animal facility interference if the person. . . [p]ossess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which” is  a “reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium” without the consent of the owner.

To give some perspective to the blatant unconstitutionality of this bill consider this – the only time that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that bans distribution and possession of any kind of photography it was a law against possessing and distributing child pornography. As powerful of a lobby farmers are, elevating exposes of farms to the level of child pornography is absurd and I can’t see how this would hold up. Just last year the Supreme Court ruled that a law banning possession and distribution of video of cruelty to animals was unconstitutional. See U.S. v. Stevens, 130 S.Ct. 1577 (2010). The intent of that law was to prevent animal cruelty but even it went too far (the NPPA signed an amicus brief advocating for the overturning of that bill).

The government can’t even prevent the possession and distribution of documents that put U.S. security interests at risk so it is hard to imagine how the public relations interests of farms would be considered more compelling than U.S. security interests.

Several years ago (2001), in a case called Bartnicki v. Vopper, the Supreme Court ruled that when a news organization lawfully obtained a recording, they could not be held liable for the publication of the details of the recording, even though the recording itself was illegally obtained. The Iowa law would make a news organization liable for publishing a recording, even if the news organization had nothing to do with obtaining the recording.

The NPPA has contacted lawmakers in Iowa regarding the bill.

Journalists and Photographers in Iowa should be very concerned about this bill. While it would no doubt be struck down in court, it is much easier for all of us if it never makes it to the governor’s desk.

From HF589:

Sec. 9.1(a)(2) makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” which was taken without permission of the owner.

Sec. 14.1.b makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the crop operation which was” taken without permission of the owner.

Posted in Access, First Amendment, law, Legal, multimedia, photographers, photojournalism, trespass | 6 Comments »

Oral Arguments in the WIAA v. Gannett case: Media coverage of High School Sports

January 16th, 2011 by Alicia Calzada

There were oral arguments on Friday in the United States Court of Appealsfor the Seventh Circuit in the WIAA v. Gannett case. You may remember this case originated a couple of years ago when a Wisconsin newspaper webcast several high school football tournaments against the wishes of the tournament organizers, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association. The WIAA sued, initially in state court, seeking a declaration that it had broad rights to own the descriptions and depictions of the games. The case was moved to federal court and the complaint was changed to involve fewer claims.

Currently the primary issue involves whether or not the WIAA can contract with a private company to exclusively license the rights to broadcast the entire game (beyond just highlights). WIAA is a “state actor” which means that in effect, they are like the government, and they cannot restrict speech any more than a city or state government could.

A panel of three judges began by peppering the newspaper’s attorney, Robert Dreps with hypothetical questions about whether or not a school could restrict coverage related to school plays, or operas, which have copyright protections. Dreps explained how previous courts have ruled that there are no copyright protections in athletic competitions. The judges also raised questions about whether or not the case should ever have been moved to federal court. At one point one of the judges compared the broadcast of the games to a broadcast of the oral arguments themselves. In addition, the issue of whether a ruling in favor of the newspapers would affect broadcast agreements in college basketball games was raised.

These issues are not simple, and because of that, the debate is fascinating. If you have time, it lasts less than an hour. At play are cross-section of many issues, including First Amendment, copyright, and internet law. News organizations all over the country should be paying attention to this case and its outcome.

A recording of the oral arguments can be heard here and there is an article about the original case here.

Posted in Access, copyright, law, multimedia, photojournalism, students | No Comments »