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Photographer Demanding Cash From Sites Using Palin's Official Governor Photo

from the copyright-gone-mad dept

Pickle Monger points us to the latest ridiculous story involving copyright and the government. Apparently, a photographer named Jeff Schultz, who has taken many photos of Sarah Palin, took the photo that Palin used as her "official state photo," while she was governor of Alaska. Members of Palin's administration say they regularly handed out that photo to all sorts of folks as Palin's official headshot. Not surprisingly, the image can be found widely on the internet.

However, it appears that Schultz is now claiming that those who use it are violating his copyright, and are demanding they pay up. And not just a marginal sum, but $11,750, according to the demand letter embedded below. The story covers a demand letter that was sent to a restaurant owner who, back during the last Presidential election, hosted an event where he showed the VP debate between Palin and Biden. In promoting that event at the restaurant, the owner pulled Palin's official pic and put it on his website, where it has remained "in the archives" where almost no one sees it. However, Schultz or his lawyers found it and demanded money from the restaurant owner. Even after the image was pulled, they still demanded money, and rather than fight it, the restaurant owner eventually paid up. Schultz's lawyers also demanded a gag order, that he not talk about the threat and the demand for cash, but he refused to agree to the gag order. Of course, this just makes you wonder how many other folks did pay up and can't talk about it...

Palin's deputy press secretary while she was governor notes that Schultz did, in fact, retain the copyright, but that seems silly. If you're going to post a headshot like that for an official government figure and use it as distribution material for all sorts of media, it seems like you should automatically relinquish any copyright on it. That Schultz is going around now, years later, and demanding cash (and silence!) from those using it seems like yet another story of copyright trolling.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Feb 2011 @ 4:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    First, I might have misunderstood your original statement. The photographer owns the copyright, but that does not necessarily give him the right to use the image however he wants. For example, he can't suggest the photographed person endorses some product without their permission. He does have a right to stop others from using it under the copyright law.

    As for the cell phone pic to relatives, that might (a) be a fair use, or (b) be covered under an implied license from the photographer to the customer.

    What usually happens in scenarios like this (without a written contract) is that the cutsomer gets an implied license to use the photo or other work in some way (thought the scope of the license may be disputed), and the contractor retains the copyright.

    I wouldn't attribute everything said by a Shakespeare character to Shakespeare himself.

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