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Common Cents, April, 2011

TwitPic Terms of Service

Photographer Files Lawsuit Against Chiefs

Hank Young, photographer, says Chiefs misused his game shots

Young's Lawyer

5 Tips For Avoiding The Rights Grab

PLUS Registry

PLUS Coalition

ASMP to Getty Photographers: Time to Bail

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

Portions of this column were originally written for the June 2011 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.

June-July 2011, Volume 103
By Mark Loundy

"Time cools, time clarifies; no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours."

— Christopher Morley

When a major news event happens a clock starts ticking. The clock has no hands or digits, but it ticks loudly for the news outlets scrambling to be first — first with facts, first with pictures. Being first has been part of news DNA since the Biblical tweet that Cain had offed his brother Abel.

ticktock When a person is killed, the first thing that everybody wants is a picture of the victim. When Christina Taylor-Green was killed, local commercial photographer Jon Wolf was the one with the images (see Common Cents 4-11.)

Wolf rushed to confirm the images' ownership with Christina's parents.

Every news outlet on the planet rushed to use the images, some without first determining publication rights.

News organizations contacted by Wolf or his attorney about unpermissioned use rushed to blog and tweet about the photographer who was profiting from images of a dead child.

Local Tucson citizens reacted to the stories about Wolf and rushed to create a Facebook campaign to boycott Wolf's business. A charity contacted by Wolf rushed to decline the donation. (Proceeds from the image eventually made their way to a different charity.)

With the luxury of looking back through time, Wolf did nothing unethical or out of the ordinary. Photographers license images in connection with horrible situations every day. Bad news does not mean that news providers suddenly switch to non-profit status.

Jon Wolf's only mistake was not being sufficiently sensitive to the knee-jerk behavior by many of those involved in spot news and the non-expert sensitivities of his local customers.

The Good
Bullet No Good this month.

The Bad
Bullet If you upload images to TwitPic, you may be inadvertently be giving away usage rights. TwitPic's terms of service allow the company to license rights to your images without compensating you.

The Ugly
Bullet Bloomberg News for its all-rights (including copyright transfer) contract.

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.

  • The Kansas City Chiefs gave freelancer Hank Young an ultimatum: Either sign over the rights to his images of the Chiefs or his nearly 40-year tenure as team photographer would be over. According to Young's attorney, Patrick Stueve of Kansas City, Young's agreement with the team provides that the photographer retains non-editorial rights to his images. Meanwhile the deadline on the ultimatum coincided with the press preview of the newly refurbished stadium, which features numerous photos by Young — a usage that Young says violates the agreement. Young has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the Chiefs, the architecture and design firms and at least three corporate team sponsors. We'll see if the Chiefs settle with Young before the NFL settles with the Players union.
  • We've all seen them, contracts that claim every right in the universe not only to the end of time, but also back to the Big Bang. Attorney Samuel Lewis put together a nice list of ways avoiding them in DigitalPhotoPro. My favorite: "Decide If The Rights Are Worth The Money, Or Walk."
  • The Plus Coalition has opened a public beta of the Plus Registry for a global image rights management and search resource. You can check it out at
  • Eugene Mopsik has had enough. In response to the latest changes in Getty Image's contract terms the ASMP president told Photo District News that he is advising photographers to consider outlets other than Getty. "My position has always been that photographers should take back control of the sale of their images. And as time goes on, there are better and better channels for self marketing images."
    The challenge is that Getty is far from alone in onerous contract terms. Photographers are well advised to specialize their marketing and work only with agencies that offer favorable terms. Nobody said that this was supposed to be easy.
  • It's got to be hard sending people into combat. No, I'm not referring to the president. Former New York Times executive editor Bill Keller penned a self-soothing piece for the Times Sunday magazine about publications' moral responsibilities when sending photographers into war zones. Keller mentions "equipment and training." What Keller failed to mention is that most war shooters are freelancers who provide their own equipment and training. The Times hired freelancer Joao Silva only after he was critically injured while on a freelance assignment for the Times. Freelancers cannot depend on such a safety net from their publications.