Kodak might be on its deathbed, but that’s not stopping the company from launching a new volley of lawsuits over patent infringements. Already trying to milk $1 billion from Apple, the company has filed new lawsuits against smartphone makers Apple and HTC, alleging that Apple violated four of its patents and HTC five. The lawsuits center around technology for transferring photos on and off devices. While today’s lawsuits might simply be a creative marketing effort in Kodak’s attempt to sell off its patent portfolio, the market seems pleased with it: the stock price jumped nearly 40% today.
“It’s nearly impossible and I’ve never heard of a wedding photographer successfully being able to license a mainstream song for synchronized use,” [wedding photographer David Jay] says. “I’ve spent a long time trying to make it possible. Photographers want to pay a reasonable fee to use the music so when they can’t they’ll just do it anyway.”
The problem, Jay explains, is that you have to get a license from three or four different people, including the lyricist, the composer, and the recording artist and/or their record company. While rights licensing organizations such as ASCAP and BMI make it easy to license music for broadcast, they don’t offer synchronization licenses for “small” users like wedding photographers.
16-year-old photographer Jules Mattsson has won a settlement from the London Metropolitan Police after being stopped and detained last year while photographing the Armed Forces Day parade. Here’s Mattsson’s account of what happened:
I was detained by Police in Romford after taking an image of a cadet unit who were about to march in a massive parade in front of thousands of people with cameras. I was told it was an offence to photograph a child, then an offence to photograph the military, then an offence to photograph the police then that I was a threat under the terrorism act. I was frog marched with my arm painfully twisted away from the public eye and any witnesses and pushed down a set of stairs. The police illegally tried to take my details on several occasions also. [#]
In addition to the financial settlement paid to Mattsson early last week, the police department has also apologized for its actions.
Three years ago, an Illinois man named Michael Allison was arrested for videotaping police in public in accordance with the state’s extremely strict wiretapping laws. He faced up to 75 years in prison for his crime, but a few months ago an Illinois judge ruled that the laws were unconstitutional and threw out the case. However, the State of Illinois is now appealing to the Supreme Court to have the dismissal overturned.
It’s not just big tech companies engaged in patent wars: Luma Labs has discontinued their Luma Loop and Luma LoopIt camera straps after Black Rapid was awarded a patent for camera slings with sliding connections on November 1st. In an open letter to customers, the company writes,
We did our research, consulted our lawyers, and found more than enough prior art related to this concept.
[…] the idea of a sliding camera sling isn’t an amazing new invention. It’s just a really good idea that’s been around for a while and which has been iteratively developed. Neither we nor our lawyers believed that the USPTO would grant a patent for the claims related to this concept. It was a surprise, then, when our competitor was granted a patent covering the concept on November 1st, 2011. To say that we’re disappointed that the USPTO couldn’t find the prior art around the idea is an understatement.
Not wanting to engage in a costly legal battle, Luma Labs has decided to killed off their main products. Despite this setback, the company is planning on sticking around: it’s working on a new strap concept that will be released in December.
It’s not uncommon to hear stories of wedding photographers getting sued by unsatisfied clients, but one lawsuit currently underway in New York is causing quite a stir. Todd Remis (pictured on right) of Manhattan is suing 65-year-old studio H & H Photographers (on left), claiming that the photographers had missed the final 15 minutes of the wedding that included the last dance and bouquet toss. However, there are details that make the case bizarre:
[…] what is striking, said the studio that took the pictures, is that Mr. Remis’s wedding took place in 2003 and he waited six years to sue. And not only has Mr. Remis demanded to be repaid the $4,100 cost of the photography, he also wants $48,000 to recreate the entire wedding and fly the principals to New York so the celebration can be re-shot by another photographer.
Re-enacting the wedding may pose a particular challenge, the studio pointed out, because the couple divorced and the bride is believed to have moved back to her native Latvia. [#]
Studio owner Dan Fried says that the cost of defending themselves in court has already matched the sum demanded by Remis, and calls the case “an abuse of the legal system.”
The ACLU of Southern California has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and several of its deputies, claiming that they unlawfully harassed, detained, and searched photographers simply because they were taking pictures. The suit asks the court to instruct the Sheriff’s Department to stop detaining citizens on the basis of photography, and also seeks damages. ACLU attorney Peter Bibring tells the LA Times,
Photography is not a crime. It’s protected 1st Amendment expression. It violates the Constitution’s core protections for sheriff’s deputies to detain and search people who are doing nothing wrong. To single them out for such treatment while they’re pursuing a constitutionally protected activity is doubly wrong.
One of the confrontations cited by the lawsuit was captured on camera, and can be seen here. The Los Angeles Times notes that similar lawsuits have been filed in other states as well. Earlier this year the Long Beach police department came under fire after it came to light that officers were instructed to be on the lookout for photos with “no apparent aesthetic value”.
Update: Apparently this isn’t something ordinary photographers need to worry about. See below.
The Washington Post has published a list of 160 misdemeanor offenses that can land you in jail in Washington D.C. While most are quite reasonable (e.g. “Sale of Cigarettes to a Minor” or “Unlicensed Driving Instructor”), there is one that is troubling. Under the category “Photographer Violations” is the entry:
Photographer – More than 5 minutes at location
The entry is quite vague and, as Carlos Miller points out, leaves a lot of room for police officer interpretation.
Update: The Washington Post has written a followup article addressing this issue (thx Darrow). Apparently the law is directed at full-time photographers who photograph passersby on the streets:
”Our policy has been that the street photographer license would apply to persons who are stationed on public space to take photos of passersby,” said agency spokesman Helder Gil in an e-mail. Amateurs aren’t covered, he said, nor are “journalists, professional photographers who take pictures of buildings/scenery, or wedding photographers taking pics of happy couples on D.C. streets and sidewalks.”
So as long as you don’t make a living hustling tourists for snapshots, you can snap away without keeping an eye on your watch.
Photography business analyst Dan Heller has written a helpful post in which he busts common misconceptions photographers in the US have about model releases. A big one is that you need to first obtain a model release before selling photos of people. Heller writes,
[…] newspapers buy photos, and their use of the photo is unlikely to need a release. So, selling a photo (and making a profit doing so) to a newspaper also does not require a release. And because the law does not require you to have any knowledge of the buyer or their intended use of a photo, you are always allowed to sell photos without a release.
His point is that model releases have to do with photographs being published, not sold. A photographer cannot publish the photos however they’d like, but they can sell them however they’d like since liability rests solely with the eventual publisher. That said, it’s still a good idea to always use one, since they’re often required by the buyers.
A 19-year-old man in the UK has been sentenced to two months in prison for snapping a courtroom photo. Paul Thompson was sitting in a public gallery last week — the defendant was a friend who was on trial for robbery — when another friend texted him to ask where he was. Thompson decided to snap a picture with his Blackberry to explain why he couldn’t talk, but was quickly arrested by officers who noticed what he was doing. He was then sentenced to two months in prison for “contempt of court” by Judge Barbara Mensah, who wanted to send out a strong message:
There are notices all around the court building about not taking photographs in court. This is a serious offence and the message must go out that people cannot take photos.
Although two months in jail seems harsh, it could have been worse: CBS News notes that the law gives the courts the right to jail someone for up to two years for photography.