Pictures of art structure at Hudson Yards become subject of controversy

Posted at 11:48 PM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 23:48:24-04

NEW YORK — It has become a hot destination in the city of New York. Pictures of Hudson Yards and a climbable sculpture are getting circulated around social media and around the world.

Do the photos belong to the person who took them? How can they be used?

Terms and conditions that visitors must click on to secure a free ticket to the 150-foot structure, which some have compared to an upside-down pine cone, have included language granting the Vessel the right "in perpetuity" to publish or distribute any photos and videos of the structure posted by visitors on their social media accounts.

The policy also said the owners of the Vessel, which opened Friday, have "the unconditional, irrevocable right" to use their own photos and videos of visitors "in all media and formats, whether now known or later developed."

Jessica Scaperotti with Related Companies, the owner of Hudson Yards says its document was modeled after similar plans.

The policy has now been amended to address and clarify social media posts. It states in Section 8 that the original photographer will "retain ownership of any photos, texts, audio and video depicting or relating to the vessel."

"As we are a new destination, we wanted to over communicate, be transparent and disclose to all users that we may re-share select social posts on our social channels and website that visitors have already shared publicly on their social channels," said Scaperotti.

NYC Councilmember Ben Kallos, from the Upper East Side, said he planned to introduce legislation to make sure that tourists' photos and videos "are not taken and sold to the highest bidder."

"Security cameras can help keep us safe, but storing footage for marketing is a nightmare," Kallos said. He suggested that if photo-use policies similar to the Vessel's are in place elsewhere the Council should examine that as well.

Social media companies also have terms and conditions that grant permissions for use to the company.Purchasing a ticket for many other attractions and events also gives consent for photography.

The Vessel's terms and conditions drew fire from organizations that represent photographers as well.

"Needless to say, an attraction like this in NYC means that Hudson Yards need never spend a dollar on advertising or content creation; they have every visitor to do it for them for free," Thomas Maddrey, an attorney for the American Society of Media Photographers, said in a statement.

Kai Reevey, an intellectual property attorney in Manhattan, says there's a difference between granting a license for use and giving up ownership.

She encourages people to read the terms and conditions.