NYC Mayoral Candidate in Hot Water After Campaign Ad Used Swiped Flickr Shots


New York Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota may be running as a law and order guy, but apparently the “law” part doesn’t cover intellectual property.

Turns out nine of the images used in a recent Lhota campaign ad — an ad meant to illustrate what a mess the Big Apple used to be — were taken without permission from Flickr users, several of whom are not too happy about it.

The 30-second spot, entitled “Can’t Go Back,” used images of riots, graffiti and other 1990s squalor to suggest the urban chaos the city could revert to if citizens elect rival Bill de Blasio. Campaign spokeswoman Jessica Proud told Newsday that the images came from Flickr, and the ad’s creators believed they were labeled as “royalty-free.”

When that presumption was corrected, the campaign started scrambling to get retroactive permission from the photographers.


Two have agreed, so far, to let the campaign use their images. One such is photographer Matt Weber, who got around $2,000 for his image of a fight outside a Times Square porn theater. He said he needed the money and was confident de Blasio would win anyways.

Q. Sakamaki, however, said the Lhota campaign had not yet contacted him about his images of rioters and a corpse on a sidewalk, and he wasn’t happy about it. “I’m very upset that somebody would use it for a political campaign,” he told Newsday.

Even stickier may be a riot image taken by Eli Reed, now a photography professor at the University of Texas. Reed said he wouldn’t allow his work to be used in such an ad, and the work is represented by Magnum Photos.

The Lhota spot also includes a segment of helmet-cam video from a recent biker mêlée in the city. A lawyer for Kevin Bresloff said he was preparing a cease-and-desist letter to protest the campaign’s unauthorized use of the clip, but Lhota’s people seemed confident in their fair-use argument.

(via Newsday)

Image credits: MTA Chairman and CEO Joe Lhota on the Scene by MTAPhotos

  • Matt

    Laws don’t really apply to the law and order types. Laws are for controling people who don’t agree with them.

  • Guest

    Left a comment mentioning a misprint in the article above and you won’t post it? Odd on both accounts….

  • Kodachrome64

    I really need to take a class on how the law system works, because I didn’t even know that.

  • Overman

    I can’t break the law! I am the law!

  • DLCade

    Thanks for the correction @troyholden:disqus, it’s been fixed!

  • snapshot1

    Seeing this ad the other day I just knew this was going to be the end result. I knew there was no way a political campaign went out and got the rights to all those images and would just claim fair use once someone called them on it.