Saturday, September 10, 2011

The ACLU and Photographers Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union has come out with a remarkable - and timely - resource in their piece "You Have Every Right to Photograph That Cop" (ACLU website - 9/7/11). Ten years ago tomorrow, my ability to cover the attack at the Pentagon was cut short by an overzealous FBI agent despite my having been in the same location for over 5 hours and behind a fence line. That had not been my first experience with overzealous police or federal authorities - in this case one who refused to provide his name and only flashed his badge - and it also has not been my last.

At right is a Supreme Court police officer approaching me to admonish me that cannot be where I am - the public front steps of the US Supreme Court - to take photographs - this, before 9/11, as if that's actually a valid excuse. It is not.

(Continued after the Jump)

Countless times I have been directed (or watched others directed) by overzealous authorities with a badge (and sometimes a gun) to leave an area because we were press, while the general public was allowed to wander aimlessly in the area - or even shoot pictures with a point-and-shoot - and threatened with arrest if the directions were not heeded. This is, and has always been, unacceptable. Yet, I take high offense when the blanket excuse is " can't do that/be here because of national security..." .

The ACLU cites law enforcement programs that "suggest that photography is a 'precursor behavior' to terrorism, and direct the police to react accordingly." So is driving a car to your intended destination to commit terrorism, and feeding yourself during the process. Ludicrous, I know. Yet, it's the comparable. Further, anyone who really wants to take a photo can do so surreptitiously.

As someone who has worn a press credential for over 20 years, and who served two terms as the President of the White House News Photographers Association, I have seen too many egregious encroachments on the tenets of the First Amendment, and it's nice to see the ACLU taking a stand on this issue.

Be sure to read, print, and carry a copy of the ACLU's "Know Your Rights: Photographers" guide to "Taking photographs of things that are plainly visible from public spaces is a constitutional right – and that includes federal buildings, transportation facilities, and police and other government officials carrying out their duties."

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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Gannett Acquires US Presswire

According to sources familiar with the deal, US Presswire has been acquired by Gannett (NYSE: GCI). In a conference call last night amongst contributors and US Presswire management, the details of their new deal were discussed.

Among the details, US Presswire photographers, who previously shot on spec and had to cover all their own expenses, now would be compensated, albeit at a nominal amount. According to sources, US Presswire's Bob Rosato, who is set to stay on as the Chief Operating Officer of US Presswire under the new Gannett deal, told photographers that now, with an "assignment fee" of $100, which must include all expenses, that all the photographers are getting their expenses paid. This lead to some grumbling amongst conference call participants who concluded that some photographers have been getting expenses paid, while others have not. Under the terms of the deal, the $100 assignment fee will apply for the first year, with $125 being the assignment fee paid in the second year.

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Further details of how revenues would be divided came to light during the conference call. Images that were previously a part of a subscription arrangement, similar to the one that USA Today was paying $600 for, which ultimately became a $1000 a month deal when they added and Sports Weekly, for with an "all you can eat" stream of images, would not earn those on assignment any additional fees, whereas it previously did, albeit at a nominal $5 or so per image, according to one source who's often been paid these amounts. Further, if USPW has a photographer on assignment at a game, and another USPW photographer requests a credential to cover the game, any images that the requesting "not on assignment" photographer submits will not generate any income from the subscription feeds, however any a la carte sales would remain paid at regular rates.

There are no planned departures, with all senior management reportedly staying on. A new contract that all contributors will be required to sign is in the works, and the timetable for the formal takeover, while happening soon, has not been announced with an exact date.

With Gannett re-launching their Sports Network brand (as noted here), it seems this is among the faster ways that Gannett can get a network of photographers rapidly, although it remains unknown if all of the USPW content will be used without charge within the Gannett family of properties (USA Today,, Sports Weekly, all of the Gannett newspapers, etc) or will there be some compensation.

Rumors abounded several years ago that Getty Images, seeing US Presswire as a thorn in their side more than a valuable property to acquire, offered an excessive amount of money to USPW owners - in the realm of $4m - $5m - which they turned down. Rosato, staying on as the COO, also is reported to have resigned his position as a photographer with Sports Illustrated, supposedly because of conflict of interest concerns if he were to stay on.

Photo Business News has written several articles about USPW in the past, and taken a critical look at how photographers have frequently gotten poor deals and the short end of the stick. With this new deal, management will likely have little room to offer as an excuse that they don't have any money to pay photographers, as they have in the past.

We've made outreach to Gannett throughout the day, and the response we received, was no comment.


US Presswire "Steps In It" With MLB and Getty Images

US Presswire - Introduction
US Presswire - A Conflict of Interest
US Presswire - Friends Don't Screw Friends
US Presswire - Contract Analysis
US Presswire - The Client's Perspective
US Presswire - The Freelancers Perspective
US Presswire - Closing Thoughts

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

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