Interesting story from the New York Times about Ken Light, a California freelance photographer who just got royally screwed by Al Gore’s Current TV — and the San Francisco Superior Court.
Here’s the setup:
In 1994, Mr. Light photographed Cameron Todd Willingham, a Texas death-row inmate. “I enterprised – I got permission to get onto death row,” Mr. Light said. “I funded it myself.”
The photograph had never been published until The New Yorker magazine ran it with a September 2009 report about whether Mr. Willingham had been wrongfully executed.
Current TV then showcased the photograph, without crediting Mr. Light, on its Web site by electronically fishing the image from NewYorker.com using a practice known as in-lining or framing. The New Yorker had paid Mr. Light for the use of his photograph, but Current TV did not, so he sent the channel a bill for $500, plus $1,500 in penalties not obtaining prior permission.
Light wound up taking Current TV to small claims court and won $588 in damages and court fees. But it didn’t end there. Instead of paying the relatively modest award — for a photo they used after all — Current TV appealed in superior court. And get this, they just won. After hearing the case for two hours Judge A. James Robertson II overruled the original award, providing no explanation for his decision.
One has to wonder what the implications of this decision will be going forward. Is it now OK to steal whatever you want and post it online, offering no credit whatsoever? Because if it is, we want to tell you about this great little book we’ve been working on called “The Metamorphosis.” Seriously, we’re fucking geniuses. We’re going to be posting it online in increments for the next six months. Enjoy.