New Times, old photo?

May 14, 2010

In a much to do about nothing scenario, New Times co-publisher Alex Zuniga sent out e-mails that said both CalCoastNews and Arroyo Grande High School had broken copyright laws because they had put a New Times photo of the high school on their websites.

Meanwhile, school officials argue that their photographer took the picture and not the New Times photographer who has since published it as his work.

The controversy began when the New Times asked CalCoastNews to remove the photo from their site.

“I thought you should know about an unauthorized image that you are currently using with the Arroyo Grande athlete story, Zuniga said in an e-mail to CalCoastNews. “Somehow someone figured it to be a copyright free image for some reason. Obviously, it isn’t. So, if you could please let them know about that and have them replace it or taken down soon, I’d appreciate it.”

CalCoastNews responded by saying the image was from the school’s website and is a legal use.

“That would be true if the Lucia Mar School District owned the photo, but they also are using the New Times copyright photo without permission,” Zuniga responded,. “I have asked them to do the same thing (remove it from the website) with the image.”

Lucia Mar School District officials said they took the photo down while they worked to verify the creator. They plan to put it back up because they have since discovered it is not the property of the San Luis Obispo New Times.

Meanwhile, Zuniga said the school district has now agreed the photo is the property of New Times.

“We were able to talk with Alan (the head of the IT for the website) and the photographer who was initially thought to have taken the photo,” Zuniga said. “Both were able to clearly confirm that the photo in question is not theirs. Alan has taken the photo down but we’ve given them permission to use the photo in an existing slideshow, assuming they can technically get a photo credit on it.”

Update: The last quote from Zuniga was added on May 15. CalCoastNews removed the photo.

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There is some things I would like to point out.

1) I once worked for a few media companies. They sent letters out all the time when their images are used by unauthorized users. Photographers get very upset when their images are used by those who who do not have permission to do so. The letter the publisher sent is not out of the ordinary. I have seen some examples of image desist letters that are far more harsh.

2) My best friend’s wife works for the Lucia Mar School district. The name of the person who created the image (its in bedded in the file) is someone named Steve E. Miller.

3) Why is this website always so nasty? Why is Dave (whoever that is) calling for someone to get fired? And making fun of someone’s pastor?

I guess you need a Twinkie for breakfast along with Mark. This is all so ridiculous. The high school told CCN that it is there photo and that CCN can use it. She got it off their web site. She didn’t go over and take it from the NT’s website. It has been on the the AG high school web site for how long now? NT wouldn’t have cared a hoot if it was on that web site, they care because it’s on CCN’s website. It’s a shitty photo but it’s convenient. What is this, a bunch of boy’s in skirts? Like I said, prove it’s really yours and I will drive down to f**king AG and come back with a GOOD one for her.


You’re correct. At least 1) and 2). I don’t know about 3).

Sorry, but you people are completely wrong. Just because someone else stole a photograph and you subsequently stole it from them doesn’t make you right.

And here’s the funny part: the copyright holder was just being nice by sending CalCoast a casual email. What he COULD do is to send a formal DMCA Takedown Notice to’s Internet Service Provider. CalCoast would then have about 24 to remove the infringing material or its entire website would be yanked off the web. Don’t think this doesn’t happen. I’ve had it done several times with people who lifted my material. ISP’s know the law and they don’t mess with infringers–it opens them to liability too.

Bottom line is, the copyright belongs to the photographer who took the picture, and CalCoast is infringing on his rights. He has clear legal remedies he could pursue. He’s just being nice by not doing so.

It’s pretty pathetic that CalCoastNews doesn’t even know basic internet law.

I think co-publisher Alex Zuniga was informal and friendly (really) and he could be wrong or in error or maybe right. When exchanges were made, I think one side was offended and escalated. This stuff is too petti! Alex and Karen THE BOTH OF YOU JUST LET IT GO!

The both of you are of high quality “YOU ARE NOT ENEMIES”

Alex let it go, no big deal!

Karen let it go, no big deal!



Mike J,

Learn to read. The AG High School owns the original photo. AG high School administration contracted the photo from their own resources. GET IT SO FAR?

Then New Times did a story a couple of years ago on AGHS and the NT photographer went over to the AGHS web site and downloaded the photo of the school which he then provided to NT for their article. He also placed his little caption on the bottom of photo that said he had in fact snapped it, but he didn’t snap it. He got it from AGHS website. GET IT THIS FAR?

Then a couple of years later, as in last week, CCN did a story on AGHS and decided that she would use the photo from the AGHS website! AGHS had no problem with this, they don’t have a problem with anyone using photo’s from their web site and that includes the New Times who had downloaded it and published it two years prior. ARE YOU WITH ME?

Then today New Tmes comes along and claims that the photo on CCN is their photo because they have identified it in one of their previous publications and the photo in their paper indications that it was shot by their photographer. They make a big deal and tell CCN to take it down but they have no rights to the photo because the photo belongs to and always did belong to AGHS. They also tell AGHS to take theirs down to. AGHS figures that NT must know what they are talking about so they take it down and then investigate and determine that it is definitely their property and that NT has no rights, never had any rights and they don’t care that NT used it and they don’t care if CCN is using it. They put the photo back on their web site and tell CCN not to worry about it.



Wrong, wrong, and wrong. I’ve talked to the photographer. He works for New Times. It’s his photo that’s on the AG High School website. This can be proven. What you’re stating as facts, aren’t. You are simply mistaken.

We are more than well aware of basic Internet law, Mr. Mike J., but thanks for the appropriate sarcasm and indignation. The problem is that Arroyo Grande High School can’t seem to make up its mind — first they’re claiming it’s their photograph, then they’re not so sure. If indeed this photo of a building is the exclusive property of New Times, we’ll be happy to follow the law.

Thus endeth the lesson.


If CalCoast had just done the proper thing and assigned its own photographer to take its own picture for its own story, instead of pilfering a random picture from the internet, then it would own its content itself and nothing would be in dispute.

Here’s the funny part. New Times could submit a formal DMCA Takedown Notice to CalCoast’s ISP (internet service provider). The ISP would then demand of CalCoast that it take the infringing content down. If it didn’t, then the ISP would pull the plug on CalCoast’s website. It would be off the Web until it complied.

So if you folks all come here a few days from now and find CalCoast’s website mysteriously “down,” you’ll know what happened.

This site cracks me up…. always has. I usually dismiss the comments on this site because they’re always so negative and malicious for the most part but Dave’s comment was just too good to pass up.

Gee Dave, quite a bit of tone change from your previous comment… “fire the photographer”. Why is an editor making these kind of “condemning” comments anyway? You must have been chomping at the bit to get that harsh comment out. Maybe you should have waited more than 5 minutes to determine if Karen’s story was true before you posted it (which was filled with sarcasm and indignation). The district realized their mistake and took it down like any respectable business would do in this situation… will you? Will you attempt to clarify or retract now that you know the facts? That’s an easy one. No, you won’t. It’s not the way you guys do things. Like I said, this site cracks me up. By the way… why is your first comment (which was the very first comment) no longer in the thread? Do you not stand behind that comment anymore? Where’s the integrity? Amazing how the truth changes things. Need any help taking your foot/ankle/knee out of your mouth?

Thus endeth the facts.

Boy, you’re awfully bright, Solar. But also rather yellow for not putting your name to your opinions. I don’t defend myself against criticism by Anonymice.

If websites would just get into the habit of crediting photos instead of using them like just so much window dressing then a lot of this issue would just evaporate. If CCN wants to be able to use a blanket copyright for their entire site content then CCN needs to go the extra mile and confirm ownership before posting work it did not create, Again, BEFORE posting it.

Content creators have fought long and hard to protect against unauthorized use of their work, and the battle is ongoing, but everybody benefits when proper credit is sought, and attribution given.

MarkJ, Stick a cork in it. The photo is on the schools website. Nobody stole anything, it isn’t worth anything. I’ll tell you what, prove it is your photo and I’ll go down to AG and take a new one for Karen, a GOOD one. Now go have a Twinkie for breakfast.

Where does it say that a photo that appears on a school website is public domain? It’s my understanding that the copyright holder can give permission to the school to use the photo but that doesn’t forfeit their copyright.

The school website is a government entity. If the gov has it out there for public consumption, it’s public domain. Anyone can use it. You ‘may be’ correct when you say “It’s my understanding that the copyright holder can give permission to the school to use the photo but that doesn’t forfeit their copyright.” However, that isn’t the case here. The photo was taken by the school, they are the copyright holder. The NT just so happened to think it was their copyright because their photographer made the error of claiming it as his work when they published it .

By the way, I am almost certain that if the photo had been the NT’s copyright, they still would have forfeited that right as soon as they ‘consented’ to ‘allow’ it to be placed on a gov website.

I was commenting on the line in the article which makes it sound like since the photo was on the school website, it was legal to use.

Public domain refers to things that don’t have copyrights or the copyright has expired. You’re wrong in thinking that everything on a government website is in the public domain and is ok to use freely.

The AGHS website also has logo’s from company’s on it but those logos aren’t owned by the school, nor are they in the public domain.

You’re just completely wrong in your assumptions–no other way to say it. It’s public domain if it appears on a Government website? Completely false. Government websites are subject to ordinary laws like every other website. The photographer forfeits copyright when consenting that it be placed on a Government website? Completely false. Who told you these things? Or did you just make them up? You obviously don’t know the first about copyright law.

The photographer knows who took the photo and he can prove it because he can provide the original file with the metadata intact. That would stand up in court. He or his employer owns the copyright. The owner of an image doesn’t give up anything they don’t contract or consent to give up. Photographers sell usage rights. You can sell a picture to Coca-Cola for use in a print advertising campaign and they still can’t legally use it on their website. The client only gets the usages it purchases. The only exception is called a “buyout” and that has to be specified by contract.

CalCoast are infringing the rights of a copyright holder in this matter. It doesn’t matter a whit whether it’s a “rare photo” or “a picture that could have been taken by anyone, anytime.” The law doesn’t make either of those distinctions. CalCoast is just lucky they’re not being called on this.

Just to be clear, I’m talking to PaulJones, not keithb.

Jeez New Times! Who gives a damn? It’s a public place and a picture that could have been taken by anyone, anytime. Big deal. What a waste of time for the NT to fiddle with this. Steve Moss would be horrified.

“It’s a public place and a picture that could have been taken by anyone, anytime.”

That’s a great argument. “It’s not very valuable, therefore it’s okay for me to steal it.” If the picture’s so easy to take, why doesn’t CalCoast go take their own instead of stealing someone else’s?

It sounds like an informal belief and request via e-mail.

It also sounds like a friendly belief although mistakened.

Its Friendly and informal.

On the other hand why make a bigh deal out of a picture of AG High School, its like public domain to me, I could snap several pictures freely and I bet you could not tell the difference to the one alledged to be copyright.

Truthfully if I was the owner of the New Times and someone else used this photo its no big deal.

I would only make a big deal of it if ti was a hard to get or rare photo.

I couldn’t agree more. As it turns out CCN and the NT both took the photo from the school web site.I’m certain the AG administration have been very nice about the fact that they had to take down a photo that belonged to them and research it to be certain that they were not in violation of copyright infringement before they put it back up with confidence. This was all very petty, over a worthless picture than no one would even take a second look at. I’m surprised the NT even remembered that they had it in an article a couple of years ago.

LOL, This is really funny, I wonder if Karen realizes how hysterical this is, only because it’s the New Times, of course. I don’t think she would have wrote it if it had been the Tribune? Maybe yes, Maybe not but since it’s the New Times, it’s way too good to pass up. Still LOL.

This story is “edgy” news, ha, excuse me I think I just laughed milk out my nose. Sounds more like Cal Coast News is starting a pissing contest by bringing such a non-story to the public.

But the best part is that after New Times accused others of misappropriating their work it turned out that New Times was actually the real OFFENDER and maybe even broke the law. They actually put their own name on the photo which is government property and claimed it as their own private property, all while denying privileges to CCN and even to the true owners !!

As of 5/15, AGHS has now agreed the photo WAS actually the property of New Times, as New Times originally asserted. So New Times is not an “offender” but simply the owner of the image. The original note from Zuniga at New Times was casual and polite, and private, by the way. Seems to me that CalCoastNews was the party that started acting aggressively.

“Fire the photog” is a little strong, but I, too, wonder what New Times hopes to gain.

The two obvious gains are

1) To protect their copyrighted material.

2) To take a poke as CCN, which has supplanted New Times as the “edgy” news leader.

I am thinking there is more to the story. Do we know anyone who investigates that kind of thing?

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