NPPA Member Justin Cook Reaches Agreement With UNC

DURHAM, NC (November 5, 2014) – Photographer Justin Cook released a statement today saying that he has reached an agreement with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill regarding their unauthorized use of one of his images on a UNC Facebook page.

"Yesterday The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and I came to a resolution," Cook wrote.

"They agreed to pay my fee for their use of my image, and I agreed to drop my copyright claim on the condition that the Department of Psychology collaborates with me, the UNC School of Law, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the Media Law Center and others to hold an interdisciplinary public forum about the importance of creative rights."

UNC had refused to acknowledge any copyright infringement and UNC lawyers told associate vice chancellor David M. Parker not to pay Cook's invoice. They also said that there was no way UNC could have known that Cook's photograph was "not free to use."

UNC has both a School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as well as the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy. Photographer Cook is a 2006 UNC graduate and an NPPA member.

Cook and UNC exchanged a series of letters over recent months in which Cook repeated his claim that the school used his work without permission and owed him compensation, and the school continued to deny any infringement or debt.

To help Cook, NPPA general counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher stepped in with his own letter sent to UNC leaders and their lawyers in August. 

"I read those letters with a mixture of disappointment and disbelief,"Osterreicher wrote. "Disappointment that representatives of such an esteemed institution of higher learning, which expects compliance with copyright law, can believe that a copyright infringement of a photograph can be mitigated by the poor excuse of 'inadvertent use' along with a half-hearted apology. Disbelief in reading (from an attorney no less) that since 'the photograph did not have a copyright notice, watermark, or any other warning that publication for non-commercial use was prohibited,' this in some way justifies its misappropriation. Surely Mr. Parker knows that there are no such requirements under U.S copyright law."

About his agreement with UNC, Cook wrote, "This resolution is a win for everyone that is more meaningful than what any lawsuit could have afforded us, and it’s consistent with UNC's core values. A community of impassioned friends and strangers united and pushed us to this huge victory that will further build community and foster conversation. That’s The Carolina Way!"

While UNC had continue to balk at paying Cook any small amount of money for their unauthorized use of his image, the school has spent $782,000 to hire a public relations firm to help handle their recent academic and athletics credibility scandal.

In an eMail last night to Osterreicher and others, Cook thanked NPPA for being instrumental in the process of reaching an agreement. Today NPPA lawyer Osterreicher repeated his previous offers to help educate students, professionals, as well as UNC officials on the actuality of current copyright laws, as well as NPPA's support and participation in UNC and Cook's upcoming interdisciplinary public forum which is part of his agreement with the college.