Did you know that in California, “rights of publicity” are transfered to a celebrity’s heirs after the celebrity dies? This means that photos of the famous individual may continue to be subject to the heir’s licensing fees when the photo owners want to license them out for use in commercial products. A court ruling issued last week provides an interesting case study into how this California law can affect photography rights. PDN writes,
Owners of Marilyn Monroe photographs have won a decisive legal victory [...] which has affirmed that Marilyn Monroe heirs have inherited no rights of publicity to the actress’s likeness.
The decision means that Monroe’s heirs cannot control how images of the actress are used commercially, and cannot demand fees whenever those images are licensed for use on calendars, posters, memorabilia, or other products.
[...] The appeals court affirmed a lower court decision that said Monroe was a New York resident because her heirs had insisted upon that for 40 years in order to avoid paying California taxes. The courts said the heirs cannot now claim Monroe was a California resident in order to take financial advantage of California’s posthumous right of publicity laws.
So basically, if Monroe had been a California resident, using photos of her for commercial purposes would still require hefty fees. Since she wasn’t, photo owners can tap into the lucrative Monroe memorabilia industry — which generated $27 million in 2011 — without paying a dime.
Owners of Marilyn Monroe Photos Win Big Legal Victory Over Actor’s Heirs [PDNPulse]
One of the reasons photographers raise a fuss when their rights are infringed upon is to create awareness in the general public and among law enforcement. A recent lawsuit between a photojournalist and the Washington DC police department has done just that. The Washington Post reports:
District police cannot interfere with citizens as they photograph or videotape officers performing their jobs in public, according to a new directive issued by Chief Cathy L. Lanier as part of settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The six-page general order, similar to one published by police in Baltimore in November, warns officers that “a bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members in the public discharge of their duties.”
[...] “It tells police to leave people alone,” Spitzer said. “It makes it clear that if a person is in a place that interferes with police operations, the officer can ask or tell them to move to another location, but they can’t tell them to stop taking pictures.”
D.C. officers are directed to leave citizen photographers alone [The Washington Post]
Image credit: Fortress Scotus (Washington, DC) by takomabibelot
ASMP Releases is a free model and property release app for iOS by the American Society of Media Photographers. Quite useful for if you’d like to use your street photographs commercially.
Photographer can customize a Model or Property release using the ASMP standard releases. The app allows you to create templates, take a photograph of the subject, specify the uses for the images, including any sensitive or digital manipulation issues, and images of minors, the models can then sign the release and a PDF is emailed to the photographer, agent, model and client as needed. [#]
The app also includes generic stock photography releases by Getty Images. Photography release apps are nothing new, but you certainly can’t beat the price of free.
ASMP Releases (via SLR Lounge)
Professor and self-proclaimed cyborg Steve Mann created an eye and memory-aid device he calls the EyeTap Digital Glass. The EyeTap, worn by Mann above on the left, is a wearable device that is similar to Google Eye, pictured right, but he’s been making them at home since the 1980s. The goal of his project is to use images to aid memory, or even to augment the memories of people with Alzheimer’s Disease or who simply want to preserve their memories more permanently. However, a recent misunderstanding over Mann’s technology allegedly caused a confrontation between Mann and several employees at a Paris McDonald’s restaurant.
The University of California has agreed to dish out a $162,500 settlement to David Morse, a 43-year-old photographer who was arrested back in 2009 while covering a student protest. The SF Chronicle writes,
[The suit] an officer told Morse, “We want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime.”
The officers ignored his press pass and arrested him and seven others on suspicion of rioting, threatening an education official, attempted burglary, attempted arson of an occupied building, vandalism, and assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer, the suit said.
Morse spent the night in jail. Prosecutors declined to file charges.
But police obtained a search warrant and used several of his photos in brochures and online in hopes that the public could identify individuals.
As part of the settlement, the police department has also agreed to modify its procedures regarding seeking materials from journalists and will be conducting training sessions teaching its officers about media rights.
UC pays to settle photographer’s suit over arrest (via PDN Pulse)
Image credit: 200911x_098 by Paul A Hernandez
The UK government issued an updated copyright policy statement today that’s intended to modernize copyright law in a digital era. But here’s where those traditionally protected under copyright — authors, poets, artists, photographers and so forth — begin to cringe: sweeping definitions of “orphan works” and Extended Collective Licensing could allow companies to buy chunks of content without compensating original authors.
Earlier today Amateur Photographer reported that the Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) in Glasgow, Scotland is set to impose a series of bylaws for the cities transport, including a ban in section 12.1 which would prohibit riders from “take[ing] photographs, or make[ing] video, audio or visual recordings on any part of the subway.” In fact, the only way around the ban would be to get express written permission from the SPT and show it to any officer that may request to see it. Read more…
John Herrman over at BuzzFeed has written up an interesting piece on how and why “grabby” terms of service have become ubiquitous in the online world of social media:
In a world where sharing a photo is strictly a matter of getting another copy made and mailing it, or getting it published, copyrights are pretty easy to keep track of and these laws hold up pretty well. Sending a physical photo to your grandmother goes like this: you either put the picture in an envelope and send it, or you get a copy made yourself and send that.
Sending your grandmother an email photo, though, might involve copying your photo five or six times; first to Google’s servers, then to another server, then to an ISP’s CDN, then to AOL’s servers, then to your grandmother’s computer. As far as you’re concerned, this feels exactly like dropping an envelope in the mail. As far as copyright is concerned, it’s a choreographed legal dance.
And so these sites have to get your permission — a license — to copy and distribute the things you post. Just to function as advertised, they need your permission to “use” and to “host,” to “store” and “reproduce.” What they don’t necessarily need is the right to “modify” and “create derivative works,” or to “publicly perform.” That is, unless they need to make money. Which of course they do.
You Don’t Own Anything Anymore (via APhotoEditor)
Image credit: Large copyright graffiti sign on cream colored wall by Horia Varlan
After being arrested on October 1, 2007 for using his cell phone to film officers making an arrest, Boston lawyer Simon Glik sued the city for violating his civil rights. Late last year the court denied a motion to have the case dismissed, and just yesterday it was announced that the City of Boston had come to a settlement with Glik, agreeing to pay him $170,000 for damages and legal fees. The decision last year and the settlement yesterday both reaffirm that the First Amendment protects the right to photograph and film police officers carrying out their duties in a public place.
(via ACLU via Ars Technica)
Image credit: cop snapping pics with cellphone by SpecialKRB
Photo-sharing site Pinterest, the new darling of social media, has a copyright infringement cloud hanging over its head. The fact that anyone can upload and share copyrighted photographs through the site has prompted many sites — most notably Flickr — to ban “pinning” for copyrighted works. Up to this point, Pinterest has tried to avoid legal trouble by having a Terms of Service that places all the blame for copyright infringement on its users, but a new solution may be on the horizon: mandatory captions. Requiring users to comment on pinned photos may cause the sharing to be protected under “fair use” because it becomes the subject of “commentary”.
This Tiny Feature Could Keep Pinterest From Getting Sued For Massive Copyright Infringement [Business Insider]