DURHAM, NC (April 17, 2013) – The images following the Boston Marathon bombing were difficult to look at, but vitally important in telling the story of death and disability as well as heroes who raced into danger. But disgusting may be the first word that came to mind when a digital book using unauthorized photographs appeared on Amazon.com one day after the bombings.
The eBook, "Boston Bombing (First Photos)," claimed to be a compilation of the images from the tragedy. The book description was correct; it included more than 60 images from the Associated Press, Getty, and The New York Times. Unfortunately, the author, Steve Goldstein, didn't license any of the images and he was charging $7.99 for a digital Kindle download.
NPPA past president Bob Carey saw the book after a posting by Linda D. Epstein on the NPPA-L (NPPA’s list serv).
“My first reaction was to move on,” Carey said, “but I choose to download the book to see if it was as disgusting as it appeared, and to use it in my classes as an example of misuse of copyrighted material.”
“I was correct. The poorly done layout and lack of any copy other than Goldstein's copyright page for the book confirmed my opinion. Goldstein was obviously looking to make money on photos from a tragedy with no regard for the photographers’ rights.”
After ascertaining the pictures were taken from a variety of news sources – potentially without permission – Carey called Santiago Lyon, the AP global photography director in New York, to inform him of the potential infringements. At about the same time NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher posted on NPPA-L, commenting on the book and the apparent copyright infringement.
Within an hour, Amazon pulled the book from its online catalog. However, not before Carey was able to download it to his iPad.
Osterreicher contacted attorneys for AP, Getty, and the Times to inform them of the copyright infringements. Attorneys from the Times sent the author an eMail and received a reply from Goldstein. News Photographer magazine obtained a copy of his response:
Thank you for your letter and we will stop the use of the photos that you mention.
Sorry for the use without permission.
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“We would expect anyone with even a semblence of copyright understanding to know that use of these photographs is improper,” Osterreicher said. “It is unfortunate that we see so many instances where people infringe and then beg for forgiveness later.”
Goldstein apparently has developed this publishing model just recently. His Amazon author page lists digital books covering Reagan and Thatcher, the Mafia, Obama and the Budget, and Vargas Pinups. Several of the books appear to have photographs that may also be copyright violations.
Amazon claims protection from the copyright infringement under the “safe harbor” concept of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).