Former White House photographer sued over copyright over his own photo

Former White House photographer Pete Souza says he is being threatened with legal action for displaying a photo he took of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on his personal website.

Souza, 67, took the photo aboard Air Force One in 2009 during Obama’s first foreign trip as president and included it in a photo gallery on his website after he left the White House in 2017.

In an Instagram post on Saturday, Mr Souza said he had been notified by a copyright enforcement company that he had infringed WENN Rights International’s ownership of the image.

Mr Souza added that the photo had been placed in an official gallery of Mr Obama’s first 100 days in office and that there was no “copyright attached to official White House photographs”.

“You can’t make this up,” Mr. Souza wrote.

Mr. Souza said he was told he was “legally obligated to compensate (WENN) for the damages caused by this copyright infringement.”​​​​

“So, to recap: I took this picture. It is in the public domain. WENN has licensed this image for publication. Copytrack is threatening to take legal action against me for displaying this photo on my website because their partner WENN claims they own the copyright to the image.​​​​

Former White House photographer Pete Souza says he’s being threatened with a lawsuit over one of his own photos

(Pete Souza/Instagram)

One of Mr. Souza’s images taken during Barack Obama’s presidency

(Pete Souza/The White House)

Mr Obama and his national security team oversee the raid that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011

(Pete Souza/The White House)

WENN Chairman Lloyd Baney said The Independent that the copyright threat was sent in error and they will take no further action.

“I informed Copytrack to drop the matter so that Mr. Souza would not hear from Copytrack again.”

Mr. Souza was the official photographer during Obama’s two terms and under Ronald Reagan from 1983 to 1989.

He was granted virtually unlimited access to the 44th president at the White House, during official events and overseas tours.

Mr. Souza took many of the most famous photos of Mr. Obama’s presidency, including in the Situation Room during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden and of a young boy rubbing the president’s head.

Representatives for Mr. Souza did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.

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