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Photographer sues Tribune-Press for copyright infringement

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GOUVERNEUR — The owner of a photography studio in the village is suing the Gouverneur Tribune-Press in federal court over claims the newspaper reproduced dozens of her copyrighted photographs without permission.

According to a complaint filed in January in U.S. District Court, Amy Elliott maintains the paper infringed upon her rights by copying and distributing at least 38 of her images from about September 2008 until June.

Mrs. Elliott, who operates Impression Studio, shoots portraits, including children, high school seniors and weddings, according to her lawsuit and her website.

The lawsuit apparently centers on portraits of high school seniors published annually by the Tribune-Press to honor Gouverneur Foundation scholarship winners, according to an article about the case published in the weekly newspaper’s Friday edition.

Messages left for Mrs. Elliott and her attorney, Syracuse-based George R. McGuire of Bond, Schoeneck & King, were not immediately returned Monday afternoon.

Tribune-Press Publisher M. Dan McClelland referred questions about the case to a New York City attorney, but said he believed the paper had been acting in good faith.

“There was never any intent to hurt anyone on our part,” he said.

Reached by telephone on Monday, defense attorney Robert Penchina declined to comment on the case, to which a response has not yet been filed.

In its article, the Tribune-Press reported that following a meeting with Mrs. Elliott and her husband, Paul, four years ago, the paper enacted a policy to “do its best to secure written permission” from photographers whose work is submitted for publication, adding it is not always possible to do so.

According to the article, the paper maintains most of the photos are provided by the foundation, school officials or the students’ parents, and that “in some cases we know who took the photos, in many cases we don’t.”

Mrs. Elliott’s suit claims “on numerous other occasions” the newspaper “obtained express permission” to “copy and distribute copyrighted photographic images owned by Elliott,” demonstrating an awareness of her rights and its obligation to obtain permission for reuse.

The article reported Mr. McClelland “called Amy Elliott several weekends ago to ask for a meeting” but she responded by text message directing him to her attorney.

Court documents reviewed by the Times did not include a dollar amount for the damages sought by Mrs. Elliott. The newspaper’s story calculated a victory by Mrs. Elliott could cost the publication up to $150,000 in damages.

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