University of North Carolina steals photographer’s work, claims it could not have known photo was not free to use

UPDATE (5 Nov. 2014): The University and Justin Cook have reached a settlement. Read this post for more info.

Original post: This is a case that defies belief. The University of North Carolina used a photo by photographer Justin Cook on a departmental Facebook page without permission. When Cook, who attended UNC and is based in Durham, North Carolina, contacted the university about the unauthorized usage, university lawyers wrote back saying that they removed the image, do not acknowledge that it was an infringing usage, and could not have known that the image was copyrighted and not intended for redistribution. The image was taken from Cook’s wife’s wedding photography portfolio site.

Cook has written back and forth with the University and its representatives, and NPPA General Counsel Mickey Osterreicher stepped in with a letter to UNC explaining just why their response is wrongheaded, abusive of copyright, and generally unbelievable. UNC refuses to budge on the issue, essentially saying that because Cook put the image online, he was essentially allowing free usage of the image by anyone. There’s a detailed look at the whole saga on the Crusade For Arts website.

“I felt like their counsel’s comments were a backhanded way of saying to me: ‘you shouldn’t have put your work on the internet if you didn’t want it used.'” Justin Cook

In my dealings with copyright infringement, I’ve generally followed this advice. A cordial but direct approach to the right people at the offending organization usually results in an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, removal of the infringing usage, and payment. But Cook wasn’t as lucky in this case. It seems like the only option now is to pursue legal action, and that’s a costly endeavor.

It’s sad to see a University treat a photographer–and a graduate of that University!–with so little respect and disregard for copyright. UNC has a host of issues at the moment, though, so my guess is that this copyright case is low on their priority list. But, the institution recently paid $782,000 to hire a PR firm to handle its response to scandals plaguing the university, so you’d think they could afford a few thousand dollars to settle the unauthorized image usage.

ISIS has killed 17 Iraqi journalists over past 10 months

Mohanad al-Aqidi (left), who is said to have been shot, and Raad Mohamed al-Azaoui, who was publicly beheaded. Photograph: Journalists Without Borders
Mohanad al-Aqidi (left), who is said to have been shot, and Raad Mohamed al-Azaoui, who was publicly beheaded. Photograph: Journalists Without Borders

Much attention was given to the recent killings of Steven Sotloff and James Foley by the hands of ISIS, and deservedly so. Their executions are a chilling reminder of the risks faced by journalists covering the world’s most dangerous places. But little has been written about the many other non-western journalists who have been kidnapped and killed by ISIS over the past year. In the past 10 months, the Guardian reports, as many as 17 Iraqi journalists have been executed by ISIS, sometimes in public beheadings.

Reporters Without Borders remains one of the best sources for information about the dangers to journalists working in ISIS territory and around the world. Here are some reports on killings of local journalists by ISIS militants over the past year:

  • Confusion About Iraqi Journalist’s Reported Death In Mosul
  • ISIS – Major Threat To Media Freedom In Both Iraq And Syria
  • Three Citizen-journalists Among Hostages Executed By ISIS
  • Islamic State Publicly Executes Iraqi Cameraman In Samarra
  • Jihadi Group Kills Iraqi Cameraman In Northern Syria
  • ISIS Threatening To Execute Iraqi Journalists (one of these journalists was reported killed last week)
  • First Media Victims Of ISIS Offensive
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists, another great source for this sort of information, reports that at least 80 journalists have been kidnapped in Syria since 2011, and about 20, mostly Syrian, journalists remain in captivity there. While ISIS has been in its current state only since about 2013, many of the journalists kidnapped in Syria between 2011 and 2013, including James Foley, ended up in ISIS’ hands.

    Magnum announces TV drama in development based on agency’s founding

    “We can get right inside the key events of the second half of the 20th Century through the lives and lenses of these photographers in a bold and completely original way.” -Carnival Films Managing Director Gareth Neame

    Magnum Photos has just announced the development of a television drama based on the founding of the agency. Produced with Carnival Films, the production company behind Downton Abbey, the series will “dramatise the story” of Magnum through the “lives and lenses” of the agency’s four founders: Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David ‘Chim’ Seymour. There’s precious little information about the show beyond what’s been written on Magnum’s blog. My guess is that will be a Mad Men-like show exploring news events and drama behind the scenes, but they haven’t even released a title for the series.