Warwick Parents Upset over Student Photos
[Editor’s Note: Two screenshots of the S&R Film and Video public Facebook page showing photos taken by S&R owner Mark Myers of students performing in The Scarlet Pimpernel originally published with this article on March 25 were removed on June 14. Photographer Mark Myers requested the removal of the photos claiming copyright infringement. An email from Warwick School District suggests Myers may not even hold the copyright to the photos he requested be removed. In response to a request in March, District spokesperson Lori Zimmerman wrote that “these images do not comply with copyright laws, therefore [Myers] cannot and we cannot release them.” dr-feelgoods.com maintains that the publication of the photos constitutes fair use for news purposes and as such does not infringe on the right of the legal owner to the copyright, whoever that may be.]
Photos of students participating in a high school musical are at the center of a controversy in the Warwick School District after a parent who took pictures of the production this past weekend was directed by the district Monday to remove the photos from online galleries and social media.
“I apologize but I have been informed by the school district that due to concerns about liability over privacy and copyright concerns, all pictures from ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’ must be removed, and there will be no galleries published,” wrote Mark Myers on March 23 on the public Facebook page for S&R Film and Video Productions, of which he is co-owner, according to the company website.[Editor’s Note: The screenshot originally published here of Sharon Christner and the cast performing in The Scarlet Pimpernel have been removed. Please see note at beginning of article.]
Parents turned to social media to express their frustration at not being able to purchase photos of their children performing in “The Scarlet Pimpernel” taken by Myers, a professional photographer and videographer.
“That’s just plain idiotic!” wrote one parent in response to the announcement on the S&R Film and Video Productions public Facebook page. “We need to fight the man on this 1.”
Myers has been known throughout the district for capturing high-quality images of Warwick students during performances, providing both on-stage and behind-the-scenes photos available for order through online galleries.
But as a result of the district’s new directive, that has all changed.
Myers reportedly encountered issues with the the new district guidelines as soon as they went into effect last Wednesday, March 18.
“Further Pimpernel pictures are on hold while the school district figures out how to apply their new photo release policies. Sorry!” Myers wrote on the S&R Film and Video Productions public Facebook page on March 18, the day the district released its guidelines.
Warwick School District provided the following guidelines to local media by email on March 18.[Editor’s Note: The screenshot originally published here of Sharon Christner performing in The Scarlet Pimpernel has been removed. Please see note at beginning of article.]
“1. Use of Student Images/Video by and for outside organizations (news agencies), television broadcasts (except for sporting events covered by PIAA regulations), affiliated organizations like Warwick Education Foundation, or for use by for-profit purposes (like the sale of videos of a concert or activity) but approved by Warwick School District:
Student images and/or videos shall not be provided to outside agencies for print media, broadcast, or for sale without parental permission. A parental permission form may be obtained from the Public Relations Coordinator. In the instances when parental permission is required quickly, an administrator or the Public Relations Coordinator may contact a parent for verbal permission. All forms must be completed prior to the use of student images/videos in these instances. A form must be completed for each occurrence/event of the use of a student image or video; one form is not a “blanket” for more than one event.”
On Saturday, March 21, Myers resumed posting photos to the public S&R Film and Video Productions Facebook page in an album entitled “The Scarlet Pimpernel – 2015,” adding 27 new images to the album.
Parents of students involved in the musical production who reportedly signed release forms provided by the district are now frustrated that they are without access to their own children’s photos taken by a fellow Warwick parent.
“We signed the release forms, and they all said it was ok,” wrote a parent in reply to Myer’s post on the public S&R Film and Video Productions Facebook page. “Now not to be able to have access to [the photos] this is insane. How can we fight this? If I would have known this I would have taken my own pics during the performances.”
“To make a very long story short, the issue is that what I have been doing goes beyond being ‘just a parent,’ ” Myers publicly posted on the S&R Film and Video Facebook page later in the day “There are serious concerns about student privacy and liability.”
Stories of teachers posting photos of students to social media have made national headlines recently.
“I have had extensive contact with [Warwick School District Superintendent] Dr. Hershey. I believe they feel they are acting in the student’s best interest, it’s just that this particular performance got caught in the middle,” wrote Myers on the public S&R Film and Video Productions Facebook page.
In his post, Myers directs discontented parents to contact the superintendent’s office. The Warwick School District website lists the email for Superintendent Dr. April Hershey as firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Sunday, Mr. Myer’s expressed a willingness to provide his images of the Warwick musical to dr-feelgoods.com for publication. He deferred to the district due to the new media guidelines for their release.
District spokesperson Lori Zimmerman responded to the dr-feelgoods.com request in an email the following day:
“Mark Myers is not hired by the District, he was not officially authorized to take the photos and video of the musical. Additionally, these images do not comply with copyright laws, therefore he cannot and we cannot release them,” wrote Zimmerman in the email.
Not only has the directive from the district affected pictures the musical that closed Sunday, but photos from other past performances as well.
“The galleries for all musical events have been removed from the website and no further images will be posted unless I hear otherwise from the Warwick administration,” wrote Myers on the public S&R Film and Video Productions Facebook page yesterday.
Controversy has also arisen surrounding the videotaping of the musical, which is protected by copyright. A request by dr-feelgoods.com to photograph or videotape a brief portion of the Friday performance was denied by the district in an email the day prior, citing copyright restrictions.
“Because of copyright laws, no photos or videotaping is permitted, except by us for archival purposes,” wrote district spokesperson Lori Zimmerman in a March 19 email to dr-feelgoods.com.
A question posted to the S&R Film and Video Productions public Facebook seems to suggest that video recordings of the musical may have been offered for sale to parents and students. Mr. Myers did not post a direct reply to the question.
When reached last night, district spokesperson Lori Zimmerman refused to speak on the record about the photo and video issues.
“The district is not ready to go on the record with a comment about this,” said Ms. Zimmerman.
When asked by dr-feelgoods.com to provide the name of the District Solicitor who is acting as a consultant to Warwick School District on the media issues, Ms. Zimmerman did not comply and abruptly terminated the call.
The Warwick School District has not replied to questions emailed Tuesday by dr-feelgoods.com regarding issues in this article.
Meanhwhile, Mr. Myers appears to be focused on maintaining a long-term relationship with the district, even if it means disappointing parents in the short term.
“In the interest of maintaining my relationship [with the district] going forward, I am attempting to be cooperative,” wrote Myers on the S&R Film and Video Productions public Facebook page.