Stealing a Photo: Texas Supreme Court Says It’s Okay

It was just a small article in the June 18th Houston Chronicle. Texas Supreme Court ruled that it was okay for The University of Houston to use Jim Olive‘s photograph of downtown Houston without permission.

Read Gabrielee Banks article for yourself.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled that the University of Houston is protected by “sovereign immunity.” This well-respected university that is charged with teaching our young people is allowed to use something without permission due to “sovereign immunity.”

I’ve followed Jim Olive‘s case since it began back in 2014. It’s made my blood boil and my heart race since day one. As photographers we do everything we can to protect our photos from unauthorized use. We embed metadata, we disable right clicks on our websites, we even pay companies to troll the internet looking for unauthorized use.

Yet, a person or persons affiliated with “Houston’s Public Tier One University” really did right click or screen capture one of Jim’s photos. Then they used it to advertise the Bauer College of Business where “together, we rise together, we soar”.

I suspect those student at Bauer have to take a class in ethics. Years ago I taught an ethics class to freshmen business students at Lone Star College. One of my favorite chapters introduced the concept that something might be legal but its not RIGHT.

Let me give you two examples: In the 1800s slavery was legal in the US but slavery wasn’t right. Before the 1970s, women in the US could be fired from their job because they were pregnant.

It’s Legal but it Ain’t Right published by The University of Michigan Press

Well, It’s Not Illegal! published by the University of Central Florida News

Olive sent the University of Houston a cease-and-desist letter when he found out his photo was being used without his authorization. The university took his photo down from their site. Olive invoiced them for the use . . . and the university essentially said “sue me” versus acknowledging their error and making it RIGHT.

It boils my blood even more that the University of Houston was willing to pay a team of lawyers to defend their stand versus admit they were wrong and pay Jim invoice. I wonder how much the UofH has spent to fight Jim’s claim?

Fellow Photographers: We should all be outraged! Our work is our work. That applies if we are a high-level professional like Jim Olive or a beginning photographer posting our photos on Facebook. Our photos are our property.

Please spread the word about this issue. Share it on social media, at your camera clubs, and in your newsletters. As photographer we should be outraged.

Write a letter to the University of Houston and let them know you disapprove.

Let Dr. Khator and Dr. Pavlou know your thoughts on this issue. I’ve written both to let them know my disapproval.

Maybe you’d like to let the Board of Regents of the University of Houston know your thoughts as well. (Notice they have their Code of Ethics posted on that website.).

I’ve been a professional photographer for the past 26 years. Client pay to use my photos in magazines, books, newspapers, calendars, and websites. Professional editors, graphic designers, book publishers and creatives all know that you have to get permission to use a photograph and there will be a fee involved. That’s the way the business works. Except if you’re the University of Houston.

Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting me in this issue. Jim Olive needs to know the photography community is behind him and his cause.

Author: kathyadamsclark

Professional photographer leading workshops and tours.

12 thoughts on “Stealing a Photo: Texas Supreme Court Says It’s Okay”

  1. G-R-R-R. Well said and right on, Kathy. It is not right and UH should be ashamed of itself. Share, I will.
    ~Debbie

    Like

  2. I totally agree. I was terribly surprised that the university used the photo without permission or payment, and then didn’t just pay the invoice after they took the photo down. That they took it to court makes me think that they’re using a lot of other property without permission.

    On Sun, Jun 20, 2021 at 11:36 AM Kathy Adams Clark wrote:

    > kathyadamsclark posted: ” It was just a small article in the June 18th > Houston Chronicle. Texas Supreme Court ruled that it was okay for The > University of Houston to use Jim Olive’s photograph of downtown Houston > without permission. Read Gabrielee Banks article for yourself” >

    Like

  3. I saw that article snd was outraged. Ethics is important. Photos are the personal images if the photographer. To use without permission or payment is theft. Will write a protest to the Dean.

    Like

  4. Kathy – thanks! I’ll be telling UofH that, since they don’t pay for intellectual property, I will no longer pay for their TV and radio broadcasts. I will use them for free and will not be renewing my Houston Public Media membership……. unless and until they make a public apology and repay his legal expenses and pay him for the use of his photo. I looked at the comments on the Chronicle on-line article about this and UofH is being condemned in all of the comments.

    Best regards, Will Hamilton

    On Sun, Jun 20, 2021 at 11:36 AM Kathy Adams Clark wrote:

    > kathyadamsclark posted: ” It was just a small article in the June 18th > Houston Chronicle. Texas Supreme Court ruled that it was okay for The > University of Houston to use Jim Olive’s photograph of downtown Houston > without permission. Read Gabrielee Banks article for yourself” >

    Like

  5. I just dont understand so much of what goes on today. TOTALLY simple and obvious solutions to problems are just turned on their heads and inside out sacrificing all known logic.

    On Sun, Jun 20, 2021, 12:36 PM Kathy Adams Clark wrote:

    > kathyadamsclark posted: ” It was just a small article in the June 18th > Houston Chronicle. Texas Supreme Court ruled that it was okay for The > University of Houston to use Jim Olive’s photograph of downtown Houston > without permission. Read Gabrielee Banks article for yourself” >

    Like

  6. I cannot wrap my brain around this. If a crafter uses the U of H logo or mascot image and sells the items, the university will go after them and the crafter will pay several hundred to sometimes in the thousands of dollars for violating copyright infringement. So why can the university use a photograph without paying for it? The Ethics class was one of the first classes I was required to take in college, guess it does not apply to them.

    Like

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