Copyright Lobby Takes Subtle Approach

Event showcases three famous photographers

Advocacy on Capitol Hill is rarely subtle, let alone highbrow. But an event held Thursday by the Copyright Alliance, which lobbies in favor of legislation including the PROTECT IP Act, which focuses on intellectual property rights, was better suited to a museum or art gallery than the halls of Congress.

The brainchild of CA’s new executive director, Sandra Aistars, the event, Recording Our History: Faces Behind the Camera, featured three renowned photographers: Matt Heron, known best for his civil rights photographs (he calls himself “a social activist with a camera”); Denis Reggie, the Kennedy family photographer (his pictures include the famous shot of John F. Kennedy Jr. kissing Carolyn Bessette’s hand after they were married in Cumberland Island, Ga.); and John Harrington, past president of the White House News Photographers Association, who has photographed presidents and other important U.S. subjects.

Interestingly, the panelists—speaking to a room filled mostly with staffers and not politicians—rarely discussed the copyright issue head-on. Instead, they showed their work and discussed their personal stories, a tack that turned out to be an elegantly subtle defense of their belief that copyright protects artists of all stripes in a digital world.

While showing his work, Herron said the five-day Selma-Montgomery march in 1965 was the five most intense days of his career. It also produced some of the most iconic photographs of the movement. “We became the event,” Herron Said. “I have no memory of where I slept, how I ate. All I remember is the camera, the walking.”

It was because of copyright, Herron said, that he was able to keep together his collection of Selma pictures. “Copyright isn’t so I can keep it all for myself, but so I can present it in a way that is coherent,” Herron said. “Otherwise they might be used to advertise shoes.”