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Finnish photographer shocked by widespread illegal use of his image by foreign media

Photo of Angry Birds evening dress was used without permission even by the Los Angeles Times and the Daily Mail

Finnish photographer shocked by widespread illegal use of his image by foreign media
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Finnish freelance photographer Matti Matikainen is an angry man, and not without cause. Matikainen's photograph of the Rovio game developers' marketing director Peter Vesterbacka and his wife Teija Vesterbacka has spread illegally on the Internet pages of several foreign newspapers.
      Matikainen took the photograph during the Independence Day Reception at the Presidential Palace on Tuesday, December 6th. At the gala ball, Teija Vesterbacka was dressed in a red evening dress resembling the graphic look of Rovio’s world-famous Angry Birds mobile game.
      Matikainen photographed the dress for the Finnish late-edition tabloid newspaper Iltalehti, which published it on its website promptly the same evening.
      Several forms of foreign media, including the Los Angeles Times, the Daily Mail, as well as numerous Internet blogs, published an article on the subject and attached Matikainen’s photograph to it without permission.
The matter was brought to light by Matikainen’s colleague, photographer Kari Kuukka, who wondered in his English-language blog why nobody respects photographers’ intellectual property rights.
      Kuukka’s blog writing, which also spread like wildfire on the Net, was later also commented on by Los Angeles Times reporter Martin Beck, who apologised for what had happened and explained that the paper had agreed on a compensation with Matikainen.
      Iltalehti owns the rights to the image in Finland. The paper has said that Matikainen is free to look after the matter overseas by himself, if he so wishes.
Matikainen contacted the American National Press Photographers' Association NPPA, as well as the American Polaris Images agency, for whom he has taken pictures before.
      Matikainen authorised Polaris to act as the seller of the image. The agency oversees the use of the image and takes royalties for the published images.
      “I am satisfied that Polaris is on the case. Through the legal route I don’t think I would have received a penny.”
      Afterwards Polaris received a compensation for the use of the image from the Los Angeles Times, some of which will be paid to Matikainen.
      Matikainen says he did not pursue the matter in hopes of getting rich, but simply as a matter of principle.
      “These are not large sums of money. The Los Angeles Times, for one, pays 50 dollars for an image published online. In all, we are talking about hundreds of euros only, not thousands. At the same time, I have never encountered such barefaced illegal use of a photograph before.”
Matikainen also says that the American news channel CNN contacted him by email and asked for permission to use his image free of charge.
      Matikainen told CNN to contact Polaris. He did not receive any further emails from CNN.
      According to Matikainen, the only media outlet that spontaneously paid him for the use of the image was the online publication Huffington Post.
The dress itself attracted a good deal of comment, and clearly did no harm in terms of publicity for the already hugely successful game, though it did also prompt one or two caustic remarks that henceforth we might be seeing sponsored outfits and product placement stunts in the hand-shaking line at the Palace, or a few recognisable corporate logos finding their way surreptitiously onto ball gowns.

Helsingin Sanomat

  9.12.2011 - TODAY
 Finnish photographer shocked by widespread illegal use of his image by foreign media

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