We’re getting used to seeing companies, government agencies, and even museums ask for unnecessarily broad copyright terms in their photo contests. Some go as far as having photographers surrender all copyright to the images they enter. Others want unrestricted rights to use photos in any way they see fit, including sublicensing to third parties. And, thankfully, some respect the rights of photographers and other creative artists. The latest example was brought to our attention by NANPA member Mark Larson and, while better than some, still has a few areas of concern.
Since this article comes out on Labor Day, it’s probably fitting that it addresses copyright issues. How cases like these are resolved determines, at least to some extent, how much of the fruit of your labors you can retain. Here are three copyright examples to keep your eye on.
It must be photo contest season. Hardly a day goes by without me seeing at least one notification about an upcoming photography competition. Some have substantial prizes, others offer recognition and exposure. Are they worth it? And what are you getting yourself into? The answers are in the fine print. You do read all the contest rules, don’t you?
We’ve written many times about copyright issues that NANPA’s Advocacy Committee, chaired by Jane Halperin and assisted by Sean Fitzgerald, is following and the actions NANPA has taken to protect the intellectual property rights of photographers. Yet another troubling example has surfaced of an initiative that tramples on photographers rights and, this time, from a surprising source: the Museum of Modern Art in New York, also known as MoMA.
Well, for most people it should be. As I type this blog post, it is snowing again here in Colorado. The snow is a welcome weather occurrence as we desperately need the moisture, but it does do a number on those flowers people plant before the recommended planting date of Mother’s Day in Colorado. Much of Colorado, like the West, is still under severe drought conditions, bringing with it the fear of yet another difficult wildfire season. Fingers crossed that is not the case.
Over the past two years, we have urged photographers to support the “Copyright Alternative in Small-Claims Enforcement Act of 2019” (the CASE Act). This bill would create a “small claims court” within the U.S. Copyright Office to handle copyright infringement claims from individual creators and small businesses. That would be enormously helpful for photographers and everyone in the creative community. It’s time to make one last push to get this bill over the finish line and time is of the essence.
This year has been a real roller coaster ride. From COVID-19 to a presidential election and from wildfires to hurricanes, we’ve been put through the wringer. It’s been a wild year for copyright decisions, too, with the pendulum swinging from decisions that horrified photographers to ones that reaffirmed the rights of visual artists.
Newsweek is now appealing. In light of the McGucken v. Newsweek ruling and Instagram’s clarification of its ToU, the court that heard the Sinclair v. Ziff Davis case has now reinstated Sinclair’s suit.
Recently, in Mango v. Buzzfeed, an appeals court ruled that photographer Gregory Mango was due statutory damages for copyright infringement and violations of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by Buzzfeed. The online publisher had used a photo by Mango that had originally appeared, with attribution, in the New York Post. Buzzfeed used the same photo, without permission and without crediting the photographer. Read more here.
NANPA also advocates for the CASE Act and modernizing copyright law. See more about all that NANPA does to protect and enhance photographers’ intellectual property rights or tell us your copyright story here.
Can an online publisher simply embed a photographer’s Instagram post in an online story without paying that photographer or obtaining express permission to do so? Unfortunately, a recent New York district court decision in Sinclair v. Ziff Davissuggests the answer is yes, as long as they do so consistent with Instagram’s various service agreements. While some online publishers have been embedding Instagram posts in their stories for a while, Sinclair is the first court decision that gives legal cover to the practice, leading some photographers to reassess how they use Instagram, and indeed all social media, going forward.
Susan Day on a foggy morning in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo by Richard Day
June 30 is the last day for Gordon Illg’s term as NANPA’s 25th president and when the board terms for Sean Fitzgerald and Ted Moreno end.
If there was a prize for the most meetings presided over, Gordon definitely qualifies! In the last twelve months, Gordon led twelve teleconference board meetings, three teleconference executive committee meetings, two in-person multi-day board meetings, and the NANPA Business meeting held at the 2019 Summit in Las Vegas. Not to mention, he participated in almost weekly meetings with me plus dozens of committee and planning meetings in the past year. Gordon has been great to work with, and even though he travels a lot for his workshop business, he was always available to answer questions and kept in regular contact with me. Gordon will continue his board service to NANPA as Past President for another year—where he’ll still get to attend plenty of meetings (but won’t have to lead them!)