163 DREAMWORKS BATTLES STOCK AGENCIES OVER PR RIGHTS
August 13, 1998
The Wall Street Journal reports that DreamWorks SKG wants to stop stock agencies from acquiring
and reselling publicity materials. If successful, publishers and other media outlets would need
to get all their images directly from the studios to illustrate their movie-related stories.
Dreamworks is upset because of a photo of Tom Hanks that appeared on July 13th cover of Newsweek
illustrating their "Private Ryan" story. The reason they are upset is that Newsweek story
pre-empted an exclusive cover the studio says it had promised to Time.
The photo used also didn't come from the studios' authorized publicity kit, but was a frame from
the film itself. The photo was licensed to Newsweek for $1,000 by Photofest, a New York stock
photo agency that specialized in distributing legitimate film stills put out by Hollywood
Photofest president Howard Mandelbaum told the WSJ that he bought a 35mm frame of the Hanks and
some others earlier this year at a flea market on Sixth Avenue and 26th Street. He paid $1.00
each for the pictures and has no idea who the dealer was of where he lives.
Patrick Montgomery of Archive Photos in News York told the WSJ, "there's a huge underground
black market in film prints, trailers, anything you want." He also said that while Archive
does a small business in publicity stills, they don't deal in trailer shots.
Major film distributors often send out 20,000 copies of a movie trailer.
In an interview with the WSJ, Mr. Mandelbaum days it was a mistake to sell the "Private Ryan"
slide and he has returned it to the studio. He says he isn't trying to infringe on anyone's
copyright, and that Photofest tries to avoid using material copyrighted by photographers and
other agencies. "We couldn't stay in business if we were bootleggers or rustlers of other
people's copyrighted material," he said.
While it may be difficult to stop people from stealing frames from movies and movie trailers, it
might be fairly easy through legal action to force all legitimate publications to obtain all the
photos they publish directly from the studios.
In the past, the administrative hassle of dealing with countless small publications was one
reason that the studios were happy to have stock agencies and photographers handle the
distribution for them. However, not with digital delivery, it would much less trouble to deal
directly with publications.
DreamWorks marketing chief Terry Press complains that unauthorized images wreak havoc with
studios' elaborate publicity plans, and the contractual rights of many actors to approve
It is common for studios to make editorial demands on news outlets in exchange for fresh photos.
If the studio is the only source, and they can pick and choose who they allow to receive
images, they can shut out a publication from future images if that publication produces an