Tom Privitere, left, and Brian Edwards with the original photo that was… (Ed Andrieski / Associated…)
Photoshop is the devil’s playground.
There’s so much out there in the InterTubes that it can be easy to set off the rules tripwire, and with copyright law, as a conservative group with the legal-sounding name of Public Advocate of the United States found out.
In its ad mailers against two Colorado Republicans who evidently weren’t conservative enough to suit Public Advocate on the issue of same-sex unions, the group published a photo of two gay men in a chaste peck-on-the-lips pose -- and warned darkly something like, is this what Candidate X wants in Colorado’s future?
Well, even the gay couple in the photo weren’t in Colorado’s future. They’re in New Jersey. The photo was taken from the couple’s wedding blog, and the Public Advocate people evidently Photoshopped the Brooklyn Bridge out of the background of the original photo and doctored in some snowy pine trees to make it look like this supposed vileness was all happening in Colorado.
Just because an image is on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s free for the taking. The Southern Poverty Law Center is suing Public Advocate on behalf of the New Jersey couple and the photographer, Kristina Hill. It says it’s a copyright case through and through; even in the age of "hey, the Internet is free!," copyright and intellectual property laws exist; paradoxically, they’re among the matters the U.S. is constantly doing battle with China over.
Photographer Hill told the Denver Post that whenever anyone asks to use one of her copyrighted photographs, she always asks what it’s for. Not only was her permission not requested in this case but she "never, ever" would consent for one to be used as this one was.
And the couple, Brian Edwards and Thomas Privitere, say the shock of finding out their image was used to try to savage same-sex unions has ruined what had been one of their favorite photos.
For me, the most silvery lining of this is what a mensch one of the targeted candidates has been. Jean White was the Republican incumbent state senator who was beaten by double digits by the challenger on whose behalf the campaign mailer was sent out. White had supported a Colorado civil unions law that went nowhere in the legislature. But her impassioned remarks on the floor of the state Senate last year got her a wider audience.
"It occurred to me that if I did not come to the mic[rophone] in support of this bill today that I would be voting quietly for it, [by] not having the courage to stand up for what is right. Not having the courage for me to step out of the shadows and tell my story …
"I have two brothers; they each have two children. One has two daughters and one has two sons. And they each have a child who is gay. My niece and my nephew, whom I have loved from the moment they were born. My nephew, who [is] so proud of me that he came to be here for my swearing in.… Today, I want him to know that I am proud of him, by voting for this today. My vote is for love, respect and commitment. My vote today is for my niece and my nephew.’’
What she said reminded me of former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. He wept at a 2007 news conference when, instead of pledging himself to opposing marriage equality, he declared himself to be in favor of it, after finding out his daughter was in a committed lesbian relationship. The local GOP withdrew its endorsement of Sanders because of that.
This week, at a news conference in Denver about the lawsuit, White reaffirmed her position and said of the New Jersey men, who were also there in Denver: "I value their family and the love that they have. Their love has no effect on my relationship with my husband."
Sen. White, you might consider a political future in California. You may be our kind of Republican.
And if there's a big damage award forthcoming, the plaintiffs might want to exact the ultimate cost and demand that Public Advocate make out that check to a Colorado same-sex marriage civil union group.
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