Friday, 12 June 2015

struggle images and copyright

I have struggle images and copyright on my mind as South Africa heads into into a long weekend. Tuesday 16 June is youth day and the fortunate amongst us will take Monday off  and enjoy a four day hiatus from the office.  The events that unfolded on the 16th of June 1976 were recorded in various ways, the most striking of which is Sam Nzima's photo of Hector Pieterson (below).
source: Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum 

Sam Nzima
source: The Citizen 
Mr Nzima  took the photo within the course of his employment by The World which was then owned by the Argus Group, so copyright resided in his employer. It was only in 1998 when the Argus Group was purchased by the Independent Newspapers Group that copyright was assigned to him. By his own account here and here he did not, and does not, want to seek royalties from those who used his photo, particularly in the fight against apartheid. In any event, he could only seek royalties for post-1998 usage, when he acquired copyright. Prior to that date, the Argus Group had economic exclusivity over the photo. It appears that since 1998 Mr Nzima has received no royalties from the use of his photo. He continues to lead a modest life in Lillydale, where he fled in fear for his life in 1976, leaving his photojournalist days behind. His iconic photograph is usually attributed to him, but sometimes it is published without attribution. So when you see this photograph over the next few days, spare a thought for photojournalists, like Mr Nzima, who risk their lives whilst capturing these gripping images. And maybe we need to talk about copyright in the employment context, but wait, that's another post....

For other photojournalist's copyright struggles read about Jurgen Schadeberg's long-running dispute with Little Brown here (1995),  here (2005) and here

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