Herald Tribune Postpones Photo Auction After Images’ Ownership is Challenged in Court

To celebrate 125 years of publication, the International Herald Tribune had planned to auction a selection of 300 photographs from its archives today at Drouot in Paris, but the newspaper has postponed the sale due to a lawsuit by photographers and photo agencies claiming ownership of the images. The photo exhibition that was to accompany the auction over the weekend was canceled.

According to Le Journal des Arts, the postponement of today’s sale was announced in a press release by photography expert Vivane Esders on Friday. That same day, Le Monde published an online slideshow from the collection, including images of John Lennon, Fidel Castro, Marilyn Monroe, and Cary Grant, some with editorial cropping marks drawn on them. In reply to a reader’s question about the sale’s cancellation, Le Monde editor Claire Guillot wrote that the sale was postponed “due to a lawsuit by several agencies (including Gamma-Rapho) who claim ownership of the Herald Tribune collection.”

Bernard Perrine writes in Le Journal de la Photographie today that the Herald Tribune “considered — deliberately or not — the photographs as anonymous documents, although each one should have had a signature with the rights that go with it.” The photographs were held by the paper as a convenience, to permit quick publication in the pre-digital era. So it comes as a surprise that the Herald Tribune would conveniently forget that they actually belong to someone else. Soon the matter will be in the hands of a Paris court, since attempts to resolve the issue have so far failed. “I spent five hours on my knees sorting out the photographs that belong to my client, the Gamma-Rapho agency,” an attorney named Lagarde told Mediapart’s Michel Puech, “and we were not able to come to an agreement with the International Herald Tribune.”

— Kate Deilming