Photojournalist Being Sued For Publishing Image Of Aftermath Of Paris Attacks

from the a-thousand-words dept

Typically, when we've talked about photojournalists in the past, it's been about how they will occasionally make demands for payment for the pictures or videos they've taken with little to no regard for the way fair use works. For the times we've instead focused on stories involving any kind of trouble for photojournalists, the stories are usually about how law enforcement harrasses anyone who tries to document it doing its job. That makes the story of Maya Vidon-White, a photographer in Paris, a new one for me. Maya is currently the subject of criminal charges in France. Her crime? Documenting the aftermath of the now-infamous Paris terror attacks.

Vidon-White was in Paris at the time of the attacks and managed to snap photographs of the immediate aftermath just outside of the Bataclan concert hall, where gunmen murdered 89 people and wounded hundreds more. One photograph she took and later sold to a news outlet for publication showed an injured man, Cedric Gomet, on the ground receiving medical attention. Under an obscure French law, this is apparently a crime.

About two months after she took the photo, Vidon-White was told that she was being prosecuted under the so-called Guigou law, which prohibits the publication of photos showing the victims of terrorist attacks in a way that violates their "human dignity." The lawyer for Gomet's family, Jean Sannier, says the photographer and VSD violated the law by publishing the Bataclan photo on a double-page spread, and by not blurring out Cedric's face. The family has filed charges against both Vidon-White and VSD, and are seeking damages totaling €34 000, in addition to legal fees; the photographer could face a fine of up to €15,000.

"The fact that VSD thought it was right to publish this photo on November 17th, saying that Cedric was still alive, was extremely painful for the family and those close to him," Sannier said in a phone interview. "Even if the family knew he was at the Bataclan the night of the 13th, his friends were not necessarily aware, and they were all happy to learn [from the photo] that he was alive."

Part of the issue here is that French weekly magazine VSD mistakenly stated in its story, of which the picture was a part, that Gomet was still alive. In actuality, he had died after the photo was taken from his wounds. There is nothing to suggest that this mistake was anything other than an error, yet the family and its lawyer keep bringing up the point. It's hard to imagine that an honest mistake would suddenly open up a news organization to criminal charges and civil damages, nevermind that Vidon-White had nothing to do with the facts relayed within VSD.

As for this application of Guigou law itself, the attempt is every bit as ridiculous as the law itself. The legislation invoked here appears to be named after Elisabeth Guigou, one-time Minister of Social Affairs and Minister of Justice in France. In 2000, she had sponsored the law which was aimed at keeping news publications from publishing photographs of those accused of crimes if they were wearing handcuffs or in scenes where it might somehow indicate a presumption of guilt. That in itself is a silly bit of control exerted by government over what might otherwise be a free press...but it's difficult to see how its aims would apply to the photograph taken by Vidon-White.

Vidon-White's lawyer appears equally confused.

The lawyer representing Vidon-White, Vincent Tolédano, says the case should be thrown out because the law only applies to victims who are still alive, and therefore does not cover the families of the deceased. The Guigou law was passed in 2000, after survivors of a 1995 metro bombing filed a lawsuit against a magazine that had published images of them. In an email, Tolédano pointed to a document circulated by the Judicial Ministry, which says that images violating the law must contain a "degrading" element, and that an image of a victim, in itself, isn't "sufficient."

"The image produced by Maya Vidon-White... does not contain the 'degrading' dimension required by law," Tolédano said in an email. "We must therefore not confuse, in the horror of an event, the pain of the victims, who command the utmost respect, and the work of journalists."

After all, there's no implication that the victim of the terrorist attack shown is guilty of anything at all. He's a victim. On top of the questionable application of the law, someone is going to have to explain to me exactly how we're supposed to operate in an age where the picture, or video, is everything in news stories, but we're going to attempt to legislate limits of those depictions that can be shown to the public. If a photojournalist isn't allowed to faithfully portray the aftermath of one of the most newsworthy and important events in recent French history, one with global implications, then don't pretend to have a press anymore. There's no point.

The case currently sits before a French judge who will decide whether the case can proceed. It should be tossed immediately.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: bataclan, cedric gomet, crimnal, france, guigou law, maya vidon-white, paris attacks, photojournalism
Companies: vsd


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread


  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 3:39am

    In actuality, he had died after the photo was taken from his wounds.

    No wonder he died—the photographer took the photo, shoved it in the guy’s wounds, and pulled it back out!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 3:53am

    "the photographer and VSD violated the law by publishing the Bataclan photo on a double-page spread, and by not blurring out Cedric's face"

    French law is rather silly at times, but how exactly is the photographer responsible for either of those things? They seem to be stating that if a photographer sells a photo, then they're directly responsible for any future usage, including the text and editorial positioning. That's insane.

    "the law which was aimed at keeping news publications from publishing photographs of those accused of crimes if they were wearing handcuffs or in scenes where it might somehow indicate a presumption of guilt. That in itself is a silly bit of control exerted by government over what might otherwise be a free press"

    Hmmm... I'm not sure if I agree with the application but I can see where the sentiment comes from. The problem with a "free press" is that it's only a good thing if they're fighting to publish the truth. I'm not sure of the standard of French publications, but I can think of many occasions where British tabloids have exploited innocent people with such photos. Lives have been destroyed because front pages carry photos of the accused for days, often with lies to back up a narrative, then nary a word once it's found they were innocent.

    I'm not sure this kind of law is the right way to do it, but if the press is literally destroying people by misuse of its freedom then who steps in to prevent that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 20 May 2016 @ 5:14am

      Re:

      Interesting...I was initially thinking her offense was violating some sort of medical privacy law similar to HIPAA by documenting that a particular person received a particular treatment.

      This polarization between privacy rights and press freedom is unavoidable - the French seem to be trying to prevent undue distortions in the court of public opinion from perp walks and similar police activity. This is very similar to the "right to be forgotten" that has also been applied in the EU. It'll be interesting to see how this goes, I'm not going to judge the evidence based on one article that only quotes the lawyer for the photographer's side.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 5:53am

        Re: Re:

        Good strategy. As presented, it's utterly ridiculous but there could be more to the story. I'd hope there's a lot more if the photographer is indeed being held accountable for actions that took place after she sold the photo, but you never know.

        Yes, the disconnect is inevitable - but having grown up seeing the lies and distortions clearly present in the UK gutter press I find the cries of "free press" rather naive. There are some real problems, the silly "right to be forgotten" and this law may not be the answer, but it has to be admitted that giving the press full reign actually destroys people if those reporting lack morals. I agree with the concept that the press needs to be there in part to keep the government in check, but if all they're doing is printing gossip and ruining innocent people, what's the step to prevent that without muzzling them when they're needed?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 10:43am

          Re: Re: Re:

          [Lots of my comments have been submitted for moderator approval recently. And none of them have actually been approved despite being no more out of line than what follows here. Its enough to convince me to stop putting in the effort and give up contributing. I doubt I'm the only one.]

          > what's the step to prevent that without muzzling them when they're needed?

          Maybe some sort of right to respond. If a press organization is big enough (maybe measured by number of page hits and/or paper copies?) then someone who is reported on gets to have their say published by the same organization in the same fashion (front page coverage gets front page published repsonse). That's much more workable for websites than it is for dead trees. And of course its imperfect too. But perhaps less imperfect than anything else?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Mason Wheeler (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 12:17pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Have you included links in your submissions? IME that seems to trip the automated filter pretty reliably, if you put more than one link. (A bit ironic considering how liberally they tend to be scattered throughout the typical Techdirt article...)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 8:45pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              > Have you included links in your submissions?

              Nope. And even if they did, that shouldn't blackhole the submission - on submission it says they are going to be held for staff approval. 3 times I've come back 24hrs later and they still weren't posted.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mason Wheeler (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 6:38am

      Re:

      I'm not sure this kind of law is the right way to do it, but if the press is literally destroying people by misuse of its freedom then who steps in to prevent that?

      The justice system, by way of libel laws. That's pretty specifically what it was designed for.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:01am

    Money or dignity?

    Since the guy is dead he can't complain or be hurt by a photograph.

    His family can pretend to be hurt so they can get some money tho. I guess somehow money will make them feel better that he is dead, after all if it weren't for this photograph he'd still be dignified and alive.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:06am

      Re: Money or dignity?

      Come on, his family can actually be hurt by the photo being published.
      Still kind of stupid to criminalize taking the photo and not a degrading or harmful use of it, but so many laws are stupid that way that it isn't entirely surprising.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 6:03am

        Re: Re: Money or dignity?

        then we are entering cloud-cuckooland, where ANYONE can get 'offended' by ANYTHING when they get a whiff of moneies to be extorted...
        bullshit on top of stupidity chased by butthurtism...
        *sigh* just another in an endless series of jerk moves that force me to the conclusion there is NOTHING worth saving in this so-called civilization...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 6:20am

          Re: Re: Re: Money or dignity?

          "ANYONE can get 'offended' by ANYTHING"

          Out of curiosity, what's your standard for being allowed to be offended by something? Clearly the dying moments of a murdered relative isn't offensive enough for you, so what's the bar where someone might be genuinely offended enough in your mind?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Almost Anonymous (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 8:59am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Money or dignity?

            Let's flip that around. What offense do you perceive being given to the family?

            Yes, their family member was killed, and that is tragic. But the picture didn't kill him, nor did the article.

            Yes, the article had a mistake (and a pretty bad one at that), but surely no one thinks that it was intentional? And if not intentional, then no offense could be intended.

            So, unless you come up with another reason to be offended, all we have left is a money grubbing lawsuit that is not only not intended to "protect" the dead man's dignity, but instead essentially robs him of whatever dignity he may have had.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 10:49am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Money or dignity?

              Yes, the article had a mistake (and a pretty bad one at that), but surely no one thinks that it was intentional? And if not intentional, then no offense could be intended.

              That sounds an awful lot the justification for automated DMCA takedowns.

              In other words, being a major publisher comes with responsibilities. It isn't enough to say, "we didn't intend to do the wrong thing" when they had the capability of doing the right thing. At best that's negligence.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Wendy Cockcroft, 23 May 2016 @ 2:46am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Money or dignity?

              An argument can be made about the journalist milking the moment for $$$, but to be fair it's a newsworthy event, i.e. this is the human cost of the ideology that underpins terrorism, so it was indeed in the public interest to photograph it.

              All news reporting is exploitative on some level, when you think about it. The question to be asked, then, is where the limits, if any, ought to be.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John85851 (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 12:27pm

          Re: Re: Re: Money or dignity?

          then we are entering cloud-cuckooland, where ANYONE can get 'offended' by ANYTHING when they get a whiff of moneies to be extorted...
          Yes, we do live in that kind of society.
          If I think this comment offends me and I can find a lawyer who's willing to take the case (either because he wants money or attention), then I can sure.
          Whether I win or not is another issue, though it may not even get to the point if I can get a lawyer who can hound the other party into a settlement.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:22am

    I see why the 1st amendment was the 1st

    The more I read about stuff like this going on in Europe the more I understand why the 1st amendment was 1st.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:26am

      Re: I see why the 1st amendment was the 1st

      Upon further thought, think of all the great photos that would not have been taken if laws like this existed. Like the poor young girl running naked down the street after a napalm attack. The man with a gun to his head as he is being executed in the street. Photos like these, as difficult as they are to see, make a powerful statement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:36am

        Re: Re: I see why the 1st amendment was the 1st

        Dude standing in front of a tank

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 5:53am

          Re: Re: Re: I see why the 1st amendment was the 1st

          There are far too many of those to mention.

          Every amendment is important and weakening any of them is a serious issue. Right know everyone of the are under assault, from the anti-gun nuts to the do everything a cop tells you or else crowd.

          Shit is serious and the only direction everyone(not just U.S.) wants to head is tyranny and the insurrection that is likely to occur from it!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 6:46am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: I see why the 1st amendment was the 1st

            I agree, there is an all out assault on the entire constitution. Unfortunately, the government is using the divide and conquer tactic and convincing large numbers of people to agree to the attacks.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 6:25am

        Re: Re: I see why the 1st amendment was the 1st

        You can often find a law to make something illegal.
        Ironically the iconic napalm little girl photo technically illegal in UK due to young child nudity

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:45am

    French laws have already gone too far

    The entire country of France is too far gone along the path of feel good laws. They are desperately trying to create new laws leading to an impossible Utopia of complete equality. The end result is lawyers picking and choosing laws to sue people and companies into doing their will. The rich and powerful have articles and pictures deleted from local records. They expunge, litigate and otherwise pull and twist existing laws to cocoon themselves from the rest of us. The french revolution was great and needed at the time. The next one is already needed, but I doubt we will see it for another decade and a half.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Richard (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 5:32am

    The original purpose of the law

    she had sponsored the law which was aimed at keeping news publications from publishing photographs of those accused of crimes if they were wearing handcuffs or in scenes where it might somehow indicate a presumption of guilt. That in itself is a silly bit of control exerted by government over what might otherwise be a free press.

    No it isn't - as anyone familiar with this case will be aware. People's lives can easily be ruined unnecessarily by the press jumping to conclusions - so in fact the law itself is a completely reasonable thing.

    However I fully agree that in the current situation this law is clearly being misapplied to a ridiculous degree.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 5:54am

      Re: The original purpose of the law

      Jefferies is certainly the first thing that jumped to mind regarding abuse, but far from the only example I can think of.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 4:29pm

      Re: The original purpose of the law

      keeping news publications from publishing photographs of those accused of crimes if they were wearing handcuffs or in scenes where it might somehow indicate a presumption of guilt.
      I can see someone wanting a law restricting news commentary that goes beyond bias and into strong implications of guilt, but the law specifically mentions photographs, and unaltered photographs taken in public seem to count. The photo captions or main article can be intentionally misleading (including implications concerning a photo's interpretation), but an assumption made when viewing the photo in isolation is the fault of the viewer/reader/consumer.

      This law says that the government knows that people aren't terribly bright, which means that it has the right to edit reality to make sure that citizens don't have anything to misinterpret. (OK, maybe that's not what the law says; but finding a silly slippery-slope interpretation of the law can be fun.)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    sman88, 20 May 2016 @ 5:42am

    We never should of taken France back from the Germans. Should of let Germany keep them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 6:15am

    Isn't blurring out a person's face, then taking a picture of it, itself the act of a terrorist?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 6:17am

    The paper screwed up

    Seems like they should have tried to varify the guy's condition at least if they where going to run the spread 4 days after the attack, so I can see why the family is pissed, on the other hand to criminalize this stuff is dumb, family should sue the paper, but involving the photographer is extra special dumb

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 12:49pm

    I'm confused! The photojournalists didnt publish the picture, she just sold it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 20 May 2016 @ 4:16pm

    Do You Know Me?

    The censorship of history.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    infamous shooter, 20 May 2016 @ 5:35pm

    I geddit now

    Oh I wish I had read this before going insane. Big thanks to Anonymous Coward for clearing up the charges I never fully understood.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 May 2016 @ 5:48pm

    Does this mean no more french fries or french toast?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat

Warning: include(/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_promo_discord_chat.inc): failed to open stream: No such file or directory in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_module_promo.inc on line 8

Warning: include(): Failed opening '/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_promo_discord_chat.inc' for inclusion (include_path='.:/usr/share/pear:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395:/home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/..') in /home/beta6/deploy/itasca_20201215-3691-c395/includes/right_column/rc_module_promo.inc on line 8
Recent Stories
.

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.