Photojournalism Ethics in the Bin Laden Story

4 05 2011

Great piece on Nppa.org about ethical issues related to photography this week as the bin Laden story evolves. Big decisions about gruesome images and staged photo ops.

Read about it here:

http://www.nppa.org/news_and_events/news/2011/05/binladen.html





Tuesday Time Killer

19 04 2011

If your looking for some time to kill you might find this pissing war between a Boston TV station and some local street photographers – well, I won’t call it entertaining, but it is almost interesting.

Here is the original story by WBZ in Boston:

http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/04/15/downtown-crossing-street-photographers-crossing-the-line/

And here is a response by one of the photographers in question:

http://thephotorecession.webs.com/

The photographs in the blog are not great, but they seem to be attempts to mimmick good street photography. The photographers look a little like they don’t know what they are doing, and I’m guessing they go after their subjects in that way because they are still learning how to shoot. People apparently are annoyed, but I am annoyed when people approach me on the street passing out leaflets or screaming political stuff or bible verses – the fact is that when you are in public people do annoying things.

The TV station seemed to find it interesting that legs were used in the photos. I don’t know what is in the mind of these photographers, but I do know that in my mind, legs make great graphic elements. In fact every photographer I know has taken photos using legs as a framing device or as a graphic element in a photo.

I found it almost laughable, and certainly hypocritical, that the street photographers wanted the TV station to stop videotaping them.

Bottom Line Regarding the TV Station: The TV station ran a story that is not a story; these are amateurs; legs make good graphic elements in photos; I have seen no evidence that they have done anything wrong and the tv station showed them doing nothing wrong. Stories like this make it harder for me to do my job as a photographer.

Bottom Line Regarding the Photographers: Okay, you have a right to take pictures in public. But seriously, so does the TV station. Also, if you want to be a better photographer, you need to learn to relate to your subjects. Find ways to shoot that don’t make your subjects so uncomfortable and you will see how drastically your images improve. Pick a scene and stick with it for a while. If you have confidence in your photography, your subjects will have confidence in you. Darting in and out of pedestrian traffic like a squirrel, it seems like you want to photograph people, but you are afraid of them. It’s very hard to take good pictures of people when you act like you are afraid of them.





Iowa Law Would Criminalize Publishing Farm Exposes

18 03 2011

Author’s Note: This is a cross- post from my NPPA Advocacy blog.

Recently we told you about a bill banning photography of farms in Florida. We have learned that there is a similar bill, prohibiting photography (among other things) of farms and crops without the permission of the owner. The Iowa bill has been compared to the Florida bill, but a quick read of the bill shows that it is far worse. To Iowa’s credit, it appears that photography from the street wouldn’t be affected, however, mere possession and distribution of undercover photography of a farm would be a crime. This elevates editors and news organizations to the status of criminals if they publish, or even possess undercover footage of farms, crops or animal facilities.

Specifically the bill states that “distribution or possession” of photographs that were illegally obtained (through violations of earlier portions of the bill). Under the proposed law, “A person is guilty of animal facility interference if the person. . . [p]ossess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility which” is  a “reproduction of a visual or audio experience occurring at the animal facility, including but not limited to a photographic or audio medium” without the consent of the owner.

To give some perspective to the blatant unconstitutionality of this bill consider this – the only time that the Supreme Court has upheld a law that bans distribution and possession of any kind of photography it was a law against possessing and distributing child pornography. As powerful of a lobby farmers are, elevating exposes of farms to the level of child pornography is absurd and I can’t see how this would hold up. Just last year the Supreme Court ruled that a law banning possession and distribution of video of cruelty to animals was unconstitutional. See U.S. v. Stevens, 130 S.Ct. 1577 (2010). The intent of that law was to prevent animal cruelty but even it went too far (the NPPA signed an amicus brief advocating for the overturning of that bill).

The government can’t even prevent the possession and distribution of documents that put U.S. security interests at risk so it is hard to imagine how the public relations interests of farms would be considered more compelling than U.S. security interests.

Several years ago (2001), in a case called Bartnicki v. Vopper, the Supreme Court ruled that when a news organization lawfully obtained a recording, they could not be held liable for the publication of the details of the recording, even though the recording itself was illegally obtained. The Iowa law would make a news organization liable for publishing a recording, even if the news organization had nothing to do with obtaining the recording.

The NPPA has contacted lawmakers in Iowa regarding the bill.

Journalists and Photographers in Iowa should be very concerned about this bill. While it would no doubt be struck down in court, it is much easier for all of us if it never makes it to the governor’s desk.

From HF589:

Sec. 9.1(a)(2) makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the animal facility” which was taken without permission of the owner.

Sec. 14.1.b makes it a crime to “Possess or distribute a record which produces an image or sound occurring at the crop operation which was” taken without permission of the owner.





The State of the Union Live Web Feed- Are you listening Seventh Circuit?

25 01 2011

The New York Times is broadcasting the State of the Union on the front page of its website as I write this. It is a lovely thing to watch, and it is a clear example of how newspapers have changed- in what they can do and how they can deliver the news.

If the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) was in charge of the State of the Union, the New York Times would not be web-casting the State of the Union, in it’s entirety. Instead they would be limited to two minutes worth of highlight footage, with no live blogging allowed. Sound absurd? That is exactly what WIAA claims it can do with its high school championship games. A federal judge agreed with them and the case is now under appeal. WIAA is a state actor, and if you say that WIAA can restrict coverage of its events, where is the line drawn?





The photo editors of social networking

19 07 2010

There is an interesting story in today’s New York Times about a growing profession of screeners whose job it is to look at social networking images and flag them for inappropriate content- pornography, violence and other disturbing images. Some of the work is outsourced, but some is done in-house, depending on the company needing the review.

Like journalists, many of these individuals suffer psychological consequences from constantly seeing disturbing images. Oddly the article doesn’t mention anything about how they handle referring illegal activity to law enforcement. But it is fascinating to realize that in a world where content is provided by the masses, there is still a level of gate-keeping.





Digital Economy Bill passes in UK- without orphan works provision

7 04 2010

Busy day. The controversial Digital Economy Bill has apparently passed in the UK. The good news is that the controversial orphan works provisions in the bill were removed, due primarily to the efforts of photographers. YEAH photogs.

Read about it here.

My previous post on the controversy, and photographers efforts is here.





Photo groups file suit against Google

7 04 2010

Well, several photo groups, along with some photographers, have filed suit against Google regarding their google books project.

I won’t repeat what has been said in the various articles. You can read about it:

In the New York Times;

On the ASMP website;

Read the complaint itself.

One thing I will say is that the recent Supreme Court ruling of Reed Elsevier v. Muchnik has paved the way for this case.

Here is why.

Many of the photographers covered  in the Google Books photographers class action suit have likely not registered their copyrights. This means that they could not bring suit themselves and still get statutory damages. But in the Muchnik case, the Supreme Court ruled that the court can still have jurisdiction over a copyright case in a class action, even if the members of the class covered by the settlement have not all registered their copyrights. Of course the google suit asks for statutory damages for each infringement, and a court is not likely to award statutory damages for infringements where the copyright is not registered. But getting a judgment and getting a settlement are two entirely different things. The way is now clear for a settlement.

Photographers should be aware of the danger of class actions suits. Google may get hit in the pocket book, but there is always a risk that photographers who aren’t in the original suit will not see much of the money. Here’s hoping that the photo groups don’t let that happen.