Saturday, September 14, 2013

Sarah Palin and SarahPAC are being sued for using iconic 9/11 photo without permission - Will Sarah Palin now play the victim again? - UPDATE: Read the full filed complaint!

"I’m the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can’t."
Sarah Palin during her time as mayor of Wasilla, quoted by "Salon"

By Patrick

It does not happen very often that Sarah Palin is sued, but maybe people are not as afraid of her as they used to be. Or not even afraid at all.

Sarah Palin's political action committee SarahPAC recently started placing its logo on all sorts of photographs, often with some text added under the photos, in order to "strengthen" the Pac's political message. These "enhanced" photos were then usually published on Sarah Palin's facebook page as well as the SarahPAC website.

However, many people started to wonder whether SarahPAC actually had permission to use the photos and put the SarahPAC logo on them. Just several days ago, Sarah Palin on her facebook for example used an iconic image of Martin Luther King, taken during the March on Washington in 1963, and had no hesitation to prominently display the SarahPAC logo on the picture.

It appears that this question has now been answered, at least for some of the photos in question, as the use of another iconic image by SarahPAC today promptly led to a lawsuit against Sarah Palin and SarahPAC.

A few days ago, on September 11, Sarah Palin posted the following photo on her facebook, an iconic image from 9/11, again with the SarahPAC logo attached on the photo:

Photo Copyright 2001, The Record (Bergen County, NJ)  "as altered by SarahPAC"

The rights to this photo belong to North Jersey Media Group Inc., and they are not amused!

Bloomberg reports:

Sarah Palin and her political action committee SarahPAC were sued by a newspaper publisher over the use of a photo of firefighters raising the U.S. flag at the World Trade Center site after the Sept. 11 attacks.

North Jersey Media Group Inc., publisher of The Record and Herald News daily newspapers, accused the 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate and her political action committee of using the photograph without permission in a complaint filed today in federal court in Manhattan.

The picture is of three firefighters, covered in soot, hoisting the flag while standing amid the ruins of the World Trade Center the day of the attacks and taken by a photographer working for North Jersey Media Group, according to the lawsuit. Copies of the image are posted on Palin’s Facebook page and her political action committee page,, according to the complaint.

The publisher, which alleges copyright infringement, seeks a court order barring Palin and SarahPAC from using the image.

SarahPAC representatives didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The photo was taken by Record photographer Thomas E. Franklin. The U.S. Postal Service in 2002 issued a stamp called “Heroes” with the image.

This is an interesting development because Sarah Palin is in this case not being handled with "kid gloves", as has so often happened in the past.

Sarah Palin today removed the famous 9/11-photo from her facebook page in an apparent response to the lawsuit.

The iconic photo of MLK which I mentioned above is another particularly shameless exploitation by Sarah Palin, the SarahPAC logo is an insult:

Our reader maelewis also pointed out that in another photo used by Sarah Palin, the "composition" which was created afterwards distorts the real facts:

Sarah is really hitting that Union stuff. At least her logo is on her own trademarked self. Now for the hypocrisy. I'm amazed that Google images can find a photo if I ask the right question. Sarah wants people to thing that her FB photo shows her addressing her union brothers and sisters. Nothing could be further from the truth. That photo comes from a rally in Madison, Wisconsin where Scott Walker was dismantling unions - teachers unions. Sarah was not on the side of unions. She was for Scott Walker cutting his budget any way that he could. First photo: Sarah's FB, second photo, the anti-union rally. And, just to drive home the point that Sarah was anti-union in that photo, click here.

By the way, Sarah is speaking as part of the Tea Party, and the sign on the podium is "Americans for Prosperity," a Koch Brothers enterprise. They are anti-union, anti-workers' rights. Funny that the FB people covered up the AFP logo, and tried to imply that Palin was addressing some union members. Ain't so.

Sarah Palin's "composition" on facebook, created for propaganda purposes:

There, the logo for "Americans For Prosperity" had been cut off, so as not to disturb Sarah Palin's message to her "union brothers and sisters."

An "uncropped" photo from this event in Madison, Wisconsin reveals that she was speaking for the Koch-funded "Americans for Prosperity":

It truly was a terrible "screech" by Sarah Palin, in which she was acting as a paid shill for the Koch Brothers and their infamous fake-grassroots organization "Americans for Prosperity" - watch the speech:

A friend of unions or union-members she is definitely not, our crafty Sarah. She only likes the folks with big pockets like the Koch-brothers who will happily pay her gigantic speaking fees.

Our reader JCos had some suggestions for the future use of the SarahPAC logo:

I think Sarah Palin should seriously consider the last proposal...just think about the headlines!

Good night, everyone!



The defenders of Sarah Palin, as well as Sarah Palin herself, don't have a leg to stand on in this controversy. One look at the website of SarahPAC reveals that the primary goal of her political action committee is fundraising:

Using iconic images without permission primarily for fundraising purposes therefore constitutes a particularly serious violation of copyright rules, and any other organization would have been sued for such a violation as well.

Even worse: More than 90 percent of the money that SarahPAC raised over the years was not used for the official purpose of SarahPAC - supporting other candidates. The money was used for Sarah Palin herself, in order to pay for her numerous and expensive consultants, for her travels, and even her long-time personal lawyers are being retained by SarahPAC. It's her own personal slush fund, ensuring that Sarah Palin can avoid what she hates most: Actual work.

Her PAC ensures that for example speeches, facebook posts and press articles are being written for her, just like it was the case with speeches, press articles and other items when she was Governor of Alaska. There is only one person, apart from her highly paid staff, who hugely profits from SarahPAC: Sarah Palin herself.



Because we are having so much fun today - Kathleen found an excellent Palin-joke in the comments of Huffington Post:

When they were prepairing SP for VP, they had a security audit checking the passwords on her computer accounts. During the audit, it was discovered that Sarah was using the following password:


When asked why she had such a long password, she said she was told that it had to be at least 8 characters long and include at least one capital.


It turns out that it was Sarah Palin's own fault that the was slapped with this lawsuit - from (h/t NJfan):

Jennifer A. Borg, vice president, corporate secretary and general counsel for North Jersey Media Group, said the lawsuit was filed when neither Palin nor the PAC responded to a letter.

“It is important to enforce our copyright on this iconic photo,” Borg said. “When neither Ms. Palin nor representatives from her PAC responded to our demand letter to remove the photograph, we were left with no choice but to seek redress in court.”



We got a link to our story at "CNN Trends!"

Surely Palinbot-heads will explode when they see that! :-)




The full original complaint by North Jersey Media Group Inc. has now been published. They specifically mention in the complaint that the photo was used for fundraising purposes by SarahPAC. They also demand a jury trial.

Screenshot from the complaint:



The controversy about the use of the picture by Sarah Palin and SarahPAC is now already a few days old, and still no word from Sarah Palin! No apology, no word to her supporters not to reproduce the SarahPAC-graphic any more. Talk about "mitigating the damage" isn't happening.

We know from history that Sarah Palin cannot take it if she is challenged for alleged "misconduct", dare anyone to challenge her! How dare they! After all, isn't Sarah Palin an iconic item herself? Way more important than a silly photo, right...?

But "joking" aside:

Many thanks to BanditBasheert for pointing out that this iconic photo, taken by photographer Tom Franklin on 9/11, has been used multiple times very successfully for raising funds for good causes, for example for supporting 9/11 victims. The firemen who are depicted in the photo were also involved in the successful attempts to raise funds for good causes, as well as the photographer Tom Franklin himself.

The news website "Patch" provides more details:

It's one thing when a picture you've taken earns you celebrity status. But not everybody's work gets turned into a stamp. That happened in 2002 when the U.S. Postal Service introduced the "Heroes" stamp, featuring the flag-raising photo.

Proceeds from the stamp have raised more than $10 million to help families and rescue workers of 9/11.

Also that year, an autographed original print signed by Tom and the three firemen sold for $89,625 at Christie's Auction House, with proceeds benefiting two 9/11 charities. The photo has also been instrumental in raising money for other charitable causes, including Juvenile Diabetes, autism, cerebral palsy.

In addition, photographer Tom Franklin explained the following in an interview (which, by the way, is worth reading and contains great images) from 2011:

"The North Jersey Media Group, which owns the Bergen Record, owns the copyright of the photo. They have used the image in many ways to raise money, which then has been allocated to aid certain NJ families affected by 9/11. The "Heroes" stamp, which is a semi-postal US Postage stamp (semi-postal stamps are stamps where proceeds are used for charity, like the Breast Cancer stamp) features the image, and has raised over ten million dollars by itself. Those funds I believe were controlled by FEMA and allocated to 9/11-related victims. I believe that some of the funds leftover were used to aid Katrina victims."

Therefore it has to be noted, in order to understand the full context, that we are not talking about an ordinary photo - it is not just an "iconic" photo, but also a photo which has been used multiple times for fundraising purposes for various good causes. It is this context which makes the use of the photo by SarahPAC for their own fundraising particularly reprehensible.

In any case, Sarah Palin and her highly paid staffers messed it up. The photo is also displayed at Wikipedia, but at the same time, Wikipedia provides a precise warning to anyone who wants to use the photo for free, and accurately explains the limits of "fair use." Hint: Fundraising for your own for-profit PAC is never "fair use." Anyone would understand this and immediately offer a swift and sweeping apology, but we betcha that Sarah Palin feels that she was singled out unfairly. After all, she is the victim here, isn't she?

Wikipedia explains:
This image is a faithful digitisation of a unique historic image, and the copyright for it is most likely held by the person who created the image or the agency employing the person. It is believed that the use of this image may qualify as fair use under United States copyright law. Other use of this image, on Wikipedia or elsewhere, may be copyright infringement. See Wikipedia:Fair use for more information. Please remember that the non-free content criteria require that non-free images on Wikipedia must not "[be] used in a manner that is likely to replace the original market role of the original copyrighted media." Use of historic images from press agencies must only be used in a transformative nature, when the image itself is the subject of commentary rather than the event it depicts (which is the original market role, and is not allowed per policy).



Many thanks to our readers Maelewis and Sleuth for pointing out that this photo even has its own website, on which the rules for using the photo are explained in greater detail.

Quote from the website:

The Record (Bergen County, NJ), owns the copyright to the photograph. The following copyright notice must appear with the photo at all times: (c) 2001 The Record, (Bergen County, NJ).

• For personal, non-commercial use, visit Prints are available framed or unframed.

• For editorial use, please visit Getty Images.

• For nonprofit reuse, please call (973) 569-7014 or email

• For licensed products, please use officially licensed vendors.

At the bottom of this website, there is a clear warning:

Please contact us if you find people who may be using our photo without permission.

We seek to ensure that the photograph is not used for personal gain and that it is used in a dignified and proper manner.

Therefore the rules are clear. Non-commercial use is possible with permission. For editorial use, the usual licence fee would apply, but the photograph is not to be used for personal gain. Then there are the "fair use" rules which apply to any photo, as mentioned above.

Nothing here speaks in favor of Sarah Palin or SarahPAC, who used the photo commercially without permission, for their own fundraising purposes. Exactly the opposite is the case: From the rules stated on the website, it is apparent immediately that this type of usage by Sarah Palin and SarahPAC would have never been allowed.

Amazingly, the world is still waiting for a statement from Sarah Palin. What's the problem, Sarah?

1 comment:

  1. In apparent response to the law suit, Sarah Palin removed the famous 9/11 photo from her facebook.

    Andrew Felix