The Arizona Republic ran a story on its website yesterday vilifying a Tucson photographer for trying to get the Gannett-owned newspaper -- and several other news outlets -- to cough up some (a lot of) cash for using a photo of a 9-year-old girl killed during the January 8, shooting rampage in Tucson, to which he owns the rights.
Defending a guy trying to cash in on tragedy is never easy, however, we'll do our best.
Photographer Jon Wolf owns the copyrights to several photos of Christina Green, the 9-year-old girl tragically killed by Jared Loughner in Tucson last month. One of those photos was distributed to the media by Green's family, and was used by at least 140 news outlets across the country. Wolf now wants to be compensated for the use of the image -- to the tune of $125,000, according to the Republic.
Because it appears that he's trying to profit on Green's death, according to the mainstream media, now he's the asshole -- despite offering to donate a portion of his earnings to a charity that helps grieving children and their families.
After learning that Wolf was trying to collect on the media's use of his work, the Green family has said they're furious he would do so. A Facebook group has been organized calling for a boycott of Wolf's business, and the Tucson charity, Tu Nidito, to which he offered to donate a portion of the money, has said it would not accept any donation from Wolf.
All because the guy wants to be compensated for his work, which is now worth a lot more than it was when he originally took the photo.
Granted, the circumstances that made his work at all valuable were beyond tragic. That said, is it wrong to sell a painting that's value has increased only because the artist who created it croaked?
In other words, regardless of how they became that way, the photos are valuable and Wolf is entitled to appropriate compensation -- maybe not the $125,000 he's asking for, but certainly more than the "standard licensing fee."
The bottom line is the photos belong to Wolf, and the press just helped itself to intellectual property it didn't own -- all so the media could cash in on the tragedy in its own right.
As the saying goes in the media biz, "if it bleeds, it leads." As sleazy as it sounds, the media relies on tragedy because it's what people are interested in, and on that tragic day in Tucson, the Arizona media said cha-ching!
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Not to mention, if the Arizona Republic -- or any large-scale member of the fourth estate -- owned the rights to the photos of Green, and those photos were being circulated by other news outlets all over the world, without compensation, we can't imagine Gannett brass just letting it slide because something tragic happened
We contacted Wolf's studio for comment and were directed to a statement on his website, which you can see below.
For those who have been following the coverage of the story of Christina Green's portrait, the following was released to media outlets today.
My actions regarding this matter have been misunderstood and sadly mischaracterized. My intent from the beginning always has been to use the proceeds from my creative work to make a charitable donation in Christina Green's memory. I sought and received the Green family's approval to do so. At no time did I intend to profit personally from this tragedy. As a result of the mischaracterizations in the news coverage and the resulting community outcry, and in the hope of saving the Green family from further association with this matter, I have chosen to halt filing legal action in the hopes of reaching negotiated settlements with those that have used this image. I will turn the proceeds collected to date over to a charity in Christina's honor. I truly and deeply regret the additional distress this matter has placed on the Green family, and I apologize for that. - Jon Wolf
We left a message for Wolf to call us. We'll let you know if he returns the call.