68 Photographers Sue Associated Press
April 3, 1997
National Association of Freelance Photographers
Files Federal Lawsuit Against The Associated Press
(March 31, 1997)--NEW YORK The National Association of Freelance
Photographers today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern
District of New York against the Associated Press.
The suit seeks a declaratory judgment that freelance photographers own the
copyrights to their work; an injunction prohibiting the AP from requiring
transfer of copyrights as a condition to the assignment of work to freelance
photographers; that the AP has infringed upon the copyrights of individual
plaintiffs in photographs of Dwight Gooden, Wayne Gretzky, and O.J. Simpson;
and that the AP is liable for restraint of trade, unfair trade practices and
The suit was filed by the NAFP's attorney, Joel L. Hecker, of Russo & Burke.
The suit alleges the AP has historically and illegally infringed upon the
copyrights of freelance photographers.
The suit also alleges the AP has violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, by
using its dominance in the market to coerce freelance photographers into
surrendering their copyrights in exchange for continued work.
The NAFP has filed this lawsuit due to the failure of talks between Kevin
Larkin, president of the NAFP, and Vin Alabiso, vice-president and director
of photography for the AP, to negotiate a fair arrangement for the AP=92s
Freelance photographers have been demanding recognition from the AP which
would protect the copyright ownership of their images. The freelance
photographers demanded such an arrangement after rejecting the AP's proposed
"stringers agreement" last June.
The NAFP was formed by the AP's freelance photographers to oppose the
"agreement". Over 300 AP freelance photographers across the nation joined the
NAFP's efforts to secure recognition and protection of their rights.
The AP's proposed "stringers agreement" would have codified, what the NAFP
alleges are AP's historical and illegal infringements upon freelance
photographers' copyrights. It would have also stripped the freelance
photographers of other rights they believe to be guaranteed by federal law.
The "agreement" was presented with an ultimatum to sign by July 1, 1996, or
never again work for the AP. Three days before the deadline, the AP withdrew
its "agreement" under pressure from the NAFP.
Unfortunately, despite constant efforts by the NAFP to resolve the current
situation between the AP and its freelance photographers, no resolution has
been reached. Therefore, the NAFP has concluded, that the rights of freelance
photographers may only be secured within the federal courts.
The NAFP hopes to secure a firm understanding from the AP which will become
the standard of fairness in the rapidly changing journalism industry.
Freelance photographers and writers play an increasingly important role in a
news oragnization's success. All they are asking in return is that their
right to earn a living be protected.
For a copy of the NAFP's lawsuit, and a look at its brief history, please
contact the NAFP web site at:
A copy of the suit will be posted Tuesday.
The NAFP would like to thank its many friends within the photojournalism
community for their support, especially the American Society of Media
Photographers, for their moral, legal, and financial help. The NAFP also
wishes to express gratitude to its members who found within themselves
the courage to stand up for their rights.