By: Brian Orloff
The Portland (Ore.) Tribune, a bi-weekly city paper, unwittingly found itself embroiled in ongoing national controversy after a photograph taken without permission from its Web site was used in a national ad linking the American Association of Retired People (AARP) with gay marriage. The now-infamous image depicts two men, Rick Raymen and Steven Hansen of Portland, Ore., kissing while standing in line outside the Multnomah Building last year after the county began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples.
The Tribune’s executive editor, Dwight Jaynes, said today in his paper that legal action against Mark Montini International, the company that produced the ad for USA Next, a conservative organization, is possible. The ad ran in the online conservative magazine The American Spectator., and elsewhere on the Web. Appropriating the photograph violates copyright law and it is not the paper’s policy to sell photographs for commercial use without the permission of its subjects.
“I will state the position of this newspaper as clearly as I can,” Jaynes wrote in an e-mail to Mark Montini, according to the article. “That picture belongs to us and we take copyright infringement very seriously.”
The photograph, part of USA Next’s strategy to undercut AARP after its failure to endorse the president’s social security plan, is riling up both conservatives and liberals. The actual ad features a green checkmark over the men, engaged in a lip-lock, and a picture of an American soldier with a red X across it along with the words, “The Real AARP Agenda.”
Montini said, according to the Tribune, that he initially thought members of his staff had properly obtained permission to use the Tribune’s photograph. But later he conceded that someone on his staff made a “mistake.” Montini then tried, several times, to purchase the photograph, but his money was refunded pursuant to newspaper policy, accordign to the paper.
Charlie Jarvis, president of USA Next, said that when his company hired Montini, the fee included photo rights. He did not realize the photo was used without permission. “I’m sorry that this happened,” he told the Tribune. “There will be beatings of a severe nature. In business terms that means fines and penalties. I’ll have to go back to the group and find out what’s going on.”
An American Specator spokeswoman also denied knowledge that the photograph was illegally obtained.
Montini sent the following statement to E&P late Friday afernoon:
“On Monday, February 28th I became aware of questions surrounding my company’s use of an image available for purchase on the Portland Tribune’s website in an Internet ad we were retained to create for one our clients. Upon learning of these questions, I immediately began investigating the details surrounding our use of the image and contacted the Portland Tribune photo desk to make them aware of my investigation and my desire to fully compensate them for use of the image should my investigation find that the image was used in error.
“Unfortunately, it appears that the image was used in the ad without having been subjected to the final approval process that we use for the hundreds of other online and print ads we produce every year.
“Upon reaching this conclusion, I paid the Portland Tribune $600, which is the amount they informed me they would have charged for use of the image. The Tribune has subsequently refunded that payment and has indicated they will not accept any payment for use of the image in question.”