Dispute Over Use of Photo: Edgar Barseghyan vs. News.am

Anna Barseghyan


Photographer Edgar Barseghyan is asking for 40,000 AMD (about $85 USD) for using his photograph without permission, while News.am attorney Aramazd Kiviryan is asking for proof.

The news agency used Barseghyan’s photo in the March 23, 2015 article “Military Conscript Said, I’m Unwell, Give Me Water, and Fainted: Details” [AM], then removed it from the site when Barseghyan posted a status update on Facebook, asking for compensation for the use of his photo. 

“If News.am pays a journalist who writes text , why shouldn’t it pay a photographer, who illustrates that text? Particularly at the moment when I saw my photo on their site, the story had had about 10,000 shares (according to the site). That is, it turns out, according to a rough calculation, that the story was viewed about 40,000 times, if we count that every fourth person shared it. There was an ad next to the story, which means the website is earning money on my account.” 

Barseghyan was upset not only because the photo was used without permission, but also because it was placed in the wrong context.

“This photo was the winner of a photography contest on the topic of the army organized by Razminfo, for which the money I received I gave to the mother of the soldier depicted in the photograph. The photo had nothing to do with death. This isn’t the first time that News.am uses another person’s photo without permission. Several comments left beneath my status update asked News.am not to steal their photos. I think it’s very important for editors to learn to approach the issue responsibly, to understand that [the work] belongs to someone and stealing it doesn’t differ from, say, my entering their newsroom, taking one of their notebook computers, and returning it when they tell me, you know, that was our notebook computer — or not return it at all,” says Barseghyan. 

Apart from posting an update on Facebook, the photographer also wrote a letter to the site’s chief editor, in which he states his demands.

“I suggested we resolve the issue through peaceful means, but I have yet to receive a response. I hope I still will, since this is a serious matter of principle for me and many other photographers. This is also an important precedent for the industry. If I don’t receive an answer, I’ll go to court,” says Barseghyan. 

According to News.am attorney Aramazd Kiviryan, if Barseghyan finds that his copyright was violated, he can appeal to the court for protection.

“I have no information that a photo was used unlawfully by News.am. And I myself haven’t seen such a photo. In any situation, to come to a conclusion, including also to provide a legal assessment, first one has to become familiar with the circumstances. If a photo was used that was later removed, this leads to numerous questions: is this photo a copyrighted item or not? Does it belong to him under copyright or not? Perhaps Edgar Barseghyan should present his rights regarding the photo. Let him present the evidence, which we’ll examine and express a position accordingly,” says Kiviryan. 

According to the attorney, by removing the photo from the site, the photographer’s violated right was reinstated.

“If the photo was uploaded [on the site] for some time and then removed, if we imagine that there’s been some sort of violation, then that violation was eliminated. In addition, the [injured] party must prove the damage caused to him. What is the amount of the damage? Does Edgar Barseghyan say what harm he suffered, how he came up with the value of this loss? All this has to be understood in detail. Let him present the damage caused to him, all these facts; we’ll discuss it; we’ll see about the situation,” said Kiviryan.

Anna Barseghyan

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