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. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), 23 Feb 2011 @ 12:13am

    Re: I personally know Jeff and...

    This is a bogus article.

    No, it's an accurate article. You may disagree with it.

    Jeff is great local business owner and takes wonderful care of his clients.

    Good for him. That's got nothing to do with the subject at hand.

    When Jeff took this picture he agreed to let the state use it. The state totally understood this agreement and provided Jeff with a model release for the governor so he could market the image as a stock image. Neither the state nor Jeff ever did anything to give anyone the impression this image was free to use

    Using it and distributing it as the official headshot of Palin absolutely suggests that.

    Some people thought they wouldnt get caught and decided not to pay for it

    That's simply not true of the guy in the article. He -- for very good reason -- believed the image was free.

    This is a slanderous article

    The only "slander" Trent, is you accusing me of slander. If you cannot back up that claim, I would suggest a retraction.

    In the meantime, did the Jeff get paid for the photograph? If so, who paid him originally? Was it the state of Alaska?

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