AP Is Suing & Sued Over Copyright Infringement for Times Square Bombing

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The Associated Press has added three new lawsuits claiming copyright infringement involving the artist Shepard Fairey's Hope image of Obama. At the same time, AP is being sued for violating the copyrights of a video production company. (Credit: Adweek, Screenshot detail)

The Associated Press has been sued by a video production company for selling surveillance footage of the 2008 Times Square bombing to other media outlets, AdWeek reported.

Ken Petretti Productions, a New Jersey company, alleges that the AP is “free-riding” because it has sold the footage of the bombing. Reuters reported that the production company “uses video cameras to monitor billboard advertising for its clients.”

According to AdWeek, Petretti’s “cameras captured the entire sequence” and he “turned over the footage to the New York City Police Department for their investigation and filed for copyright protection.” The police gave the AP the video to air “to assist with the investigation.”  The AP then “sold the film to CNN, Fox News, ABC, and Clip Syndicate — a violation of Petretti’s copyright, according to the complaint.  He alleges that the wire service sold the footage again on each anniversary of the bombing.”

AdWeek reported that the AP “said that they had not seen the complaint and declined to comment further.”

According to AdWeek, “generally, news outlets are allowed to use a portion of copyrighted material for their reporting under the ‘fair use’ doctrine. It remains to be seen if that allows the organization to sell copyright material to others.”

Reuters cited precedent of President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination and Rodney King’s 1991 beating.  According to Reuters, “In both cases, courts found that fortuitous images of the historic news events were free for all to use. Such footage is likely to become more common in an era of cell phone cameras and widespread use of security video.”

Petretti is reportedly asking for a minimum of $150,000 in damages, and called the alleged actions by the AP a “concerted scheme” to “violate its copyright in the security tapes and to steal hot news.”

StinkyJournalism is writing to Petretti for comment and will update with any response.

Obama Hope

Meanwhile, the AP has filed three new lawsuits of its own alleging copyright infringement, AdWeek reported.  The lawsuits are over use of the Obama “Hope” image, and the AP claims that Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Zumiez violated the AP’s copyright by using the photo.

The photo of Obama was taken by an AP photographer but “manipulated by artist Shepard Fairey.”  As AdWeek explained, the AP sued Fairy in 2009 “for misappropriating the Obama image.”  The AP and Fairey settled the lawsuit in January 2011.  But, the AP still has a lawsuit against Fairey’s company Obey Clothing.  Obey Clothing “supplied the three retailers with the clothing in question.”

AP spokesperson, Paul Colford, is quoted as saying:

“When a commercial entity such as these retailers, or the company that sold the shirts to them, gets something for nothing by using an AP photo without credit or compensation, it undermines the AP’s ability to cover the news and devalues the work that our journalists do, often in dangerous locations where they may literally risk life and limb to cover a story.”

BusinessWeek noted that the AP is “seeking unspecified damages.” AP photographer Mannie Garcia took the image in 2006.

The BBC detailed the past copyright battle for the photo:

“Fairey sued AP in 2009, seeking a declaration he had not violated its copyright with his iconic image. AP then counter-sued, saying he had done so through his uncredited and uncompensated use of its picture,  The deal agreed in January called for both sides to work together with the image and share future rights to merchandise based on it.  As part of the deal, Fairey agreed not to use another AP photo in his work without first obtaining a license.” .

iMediaEthics wrote in Feb. 2009 about the case.  Garcia stated that he was OK with the photo manipulation. Garcia claimed he had the copyright, but the AP called on Fairey to pay for the photo and to provide some of the profits.

iMediaEthics is writing the various parties and asking for comment.

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AP Is Suing & Sued For Copyright Infringement for Times Square Bombing

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