North Texas Daily

Student photographer told to discard online portfolio

Student photographer told to discard online portfolio

June 06
16:42 2015

Julian Gill / Staff Writer

Sophomore Anthony Mazur was just starting to realize his love of photography when he joined the Flower Mound High School yearbook staff. He took thousands of photos with the school’s camera and promoted them on his Flickr account, trying to carve out a career for himself.

Then he had to take them all down.

“I started selling my pictures to parents, tried licensing them to news organizations and getting internships to learn as much as possible,” he wrote on his Flickr page. “It felt great to receive such amazing support from parents, players and friends. I believed I found my place. One day, that all changed…”

The school’s assistant principal Jeffrey Brown called Mazur down to his office, where his Flickr page was displayed on the computer.

Brown threatened to suspend Mazur and ban him from all extra-curricular activities if he continued posting the pictures for his personal use, citing a violation of student privacy.

Mazur claims Brown also made a “concealed threat” by asking that any money he made from the pictures be returned to the school.

Mazur said FMHS insisted he was “working on behalf of the school and they expected [the pictures] to be used for school purposes only.”

When he signed an administrative directive ordering him to take the pictures down, he posted it on Twitter.

The directive gave no indication Mazur violated student privacy rights, only saying he breached school policy by using the pictures for personal gain.

“FMHS’s students, parents, teachers, coaches and administration expect pictures taken during these situations be used for the sole purpose of school related publications,” the directive read. “Anthony has violated this understanding when he posted the pictures on Flickr for personal gain.”

The photos have since been removed from Mazur’s Flickr account, and his parents have filed two unsuccessful appeals to the principals and superintendent, respectively.

Now, Mazur has taken the fight to social media, asking people to support Federal Copyright Laws and tweeting #IAmAnthony, his personal call for awareness.

With several local media outlets taking notice, a broader issue is starting to surface.

Title 17 of U.S. code 106 states “the owner of copyright under this title has the exclusive rights to do and to authorize pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work…and to display the copyrighted work publicly”

In this case, Mazur would legally own the pictures because he is the author.

Mazur also cites a section of the Lewisville ISD policy manual, which says, “A student shall retain all rights to work created as part of the instruction or using district technology resources.”

According to an article published in the Lewisville Texan, some of the photos on Mazur’s Flickr account were taken for his yearbook class.

Lewisville ISD then released a statement with a different reason for punishing Mazur, saying he violated the district’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) for technology.

“The district considers the use of [school] technologies to be inappropriate when a student electronically posts data (including but not limited to audio recordings, video recordings, images and personal information) about others or oneself when it is not related to a class project and/or without he permission of all parties,” the policy reads.

The original administrative directive did not cite an AUP violation.

Evan Stone is an intellectual property lawyer in Denton who has extensive knowledge on U.S. copyright laws.

He thinks the district stands on relatively firm footing.

“If the students all entered into an agreement stating when and how they can use the school equipment and the students breached that agreement, then yes, that’s a problem,” he said.  “Now whether or not Anthony still owns the copyrights to the stuff he shot, I would say that he does. But that doesn’t mean he can’t be sued for a breach.”

Stone added that Mazur, the author of the work, is legally able to sell the pictures with proper authorization.

“If any of these students are buying images of themselves, that’s implied consent,” Stone said. “Absent a work-for-hire agreement or an employer-employee relationship, there is no way the school owns any of the copyrights to those images.”

Mazur has his own camera now and continues to post the pictures on Twitter.

Neither the school nor the Mazur family has filed any charges. Lewisville ISD declined to comment for this story.

Here is the statement from Lewisville ISD in its entirety:

“According to Lewisville ISD’s Acceptable Use Policy for technology, the electronic communications system is defined as the district’s network (including the wireless network), servers … and any other technology designated for use by students, including all new technologies as they become available. The district considers the use of said technologies to be inappropriate when a student electronically posts data (including but not limited to audio recordings, video recordings, images and personal information) about others or oneself when it is not related to a class project and/or without the permission of all parties.

Lewisville ISD’s practice is if anyone attending a public district event takes photos using their own device from an area accessible to the public, the district would not interfere with those photos being posted to a third-party site.

“The district is not at liberty to share student information pertaining to this situation due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act [FERPA].”

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