Federal judge dismisses photographers’ suit against AP
NEW YORK–In early December, a federal District Court judge in Manhattan dismissed copyright and other claims brought by the National Association of Freelance Photographers and three individuals who provided freelance photographs to The Associated Press.
Kevin Larkin, Joseph Tabacca and Paul Hurschmann, New York-based freelancers and NAFP members, sued AP over a dispute involving the ownership of pictures taken by the photographers while on assignment for the wire service. NAFP had asked AP to return the photographs created on these assignments and sought compensation for any further use of the photographs by the service.
The photographers argued that “check-endorsement agreements” established by AP to obtain copyrights of the created photographs were not valid. AP pays freelance photographers by a check that includes a legend stating that “endorsement signifies consent” to surrender copyright claims, according to both parties.
AP argued that the photographers did not provide sufficient evidence to prove any of the claims. They also noted that courts have upheld the use of check-endorsement agreements as a legitimate method of establishing copyright ownership.
Judge Denise Cote dismissed five of the six claims in the suit. She upheld AP’s use of the copyright-transfer endorsement legend, rejecting the photographers’ argument that they still owned the copyrights to their photographs. AP had not asked the court to dismiss the one remaining copyright claim.
The photographers asked the court to reconsider their claims in January. (National Association of Freelance Photographers v. Associated Press; Media Counsel: Robert Penchina, New York)