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  1. #1

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    Right of first refusal or blackmail?

    Some of you may have heard of this case....

    Photographer Convicted in Diaz Photos Case By DANNY POLLOCK, Associated Press Writer


    LOS ANGELES - A photographer who took topless pictures of Cameron Diaz before she became a star was convicted of forgery, attempted grand theft and perjury Monday for a scheme to sell the images back to the actress 11 years later for millions of dollars.


    Photographer John Rutter, 42, faces up to six years in prison. Sentencing was set for Sept. 15.

    The actress was a 19-year-old aspiring model when the pictures were taken in 1992. She posed in leather boots and fishnet stockings in a warehouse for the shoot and at one point held a chain attached to a male model's neck.

    During the nearly two-week trial, Rutter told jurors he thought Diaz had signed a release form around the time of the shoot giving him ownership of the photos.

    He said he didn't realize the form he had was forged when he offered to sell the photos to Diaz for $3.5 million shortly before the 2003 release of "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle."

    Rutter told the jury he was simply giving the actress "right of first refusal" before offering the photos to prospective buyers worldwide.

    Diaz testified that Rutter told her the buyers were "going to use this against you" by portraying her as a "bad angel" in a huge magazine spread and bus and billboard ads. When he wouldn't identify the purported buyers, she suspected blackmail and contacted authorities, who arranged a sting operation.

    Rutter's theft charge was for the alleged blackmail scheme, forgery for the signature on the form and perjury for declaring in a separate civil case that the signature was authentic. That case is pending.

    Judge Michael E. Pastor agreed with prosecutors that Rutter was a flight risk, revoked the photographer's bail and ordering him taken into custody.
    Now here is what worries me...

    To say a signature is "forged" requires experts. Experts are NOTORIOUS in the court system for being, how shall we say, "iffy". Attorneys often shop around for an "expert" who will testify exactly as they want. Mostly because many things are subjective. So who knows on the signature.

    I DO know that there is a video from apparently the same shoot where Diaz is cavorting around for the camera.

    See, here is where it gets a little chilling....

    I have NO DOUBT, in light of the video that was made at around the same time (if not simultaneously) that Diaz was a willing participant. Now, as an A-List celeb she is having some regret.

    Now, the photog is most likely a sleaze bag. But if she willingly participated in the photos, how is it "extortion" to offer her first refusal?

    Seriously. Think about this.

    Say you do a shoot with someone who later becomes famous. Does this mean you can't do anything with the pics? Will they simply claim "forgery"? And extortion? I mean come on....the guy may have wanted too much, but offering first refusal is NOT extortion.

    Except when the highly paid lawyers on the other side work you over.

    This is chilling folks.
    Official Photo.net Villain
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    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]DaVinci never wrote an artist's statement...[/FONT]

  2. #2
    mikewhi's Avatar
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    I know the photographer who took the pictures of Vanessa Williams (former Miss USA\America). They were published in Penthouse. He tried several times to sell her the photographs but she refused to pay. He was never charged with anything and I don't know if he had a release or not. This guy was pretty sleezy, too, but she was more than a willing participant and I'm sure he did nothing wrong. He even offered to sell me (and a few others) the negatives (I suspect they were copies).

    -Mike

  3. #3
    noseoil's Avatar
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    Seems to me that if he had a signed contract, he has nothing to worry about now. Will have to let the lawyers make the real money on this one. "If you lay down with dogs, you get up with fleas." tim

  4. #4

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    If he actually said something like "going to use this against you" then he's a idiot. Is that enough for blackmail? Don't know.

  5. #5
    gr82bart's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Kennedy
    This is chilling folks.
    It really is. There are so many of these sleazy pixelographers around now - though this guy probably shot film at the time, especially the so called "guys with cameras (GWC)" I hope this guy goes to jail for a long time. He gives a bad name to legit photogs.

    Art.
    Visit my website at www.ArtLiem.com
    or my online portfolios at APUG and ModelMayhem

  6. #6

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    It is also chilling in that it opens the door for "I regret doing this so..."

    I mean she DID do the pics. While he was a sleaze bag, I don't see how per se him offering first refusal is a crime. Now, the PROBLEM is other people will read this and think "Hey, if someone has pics I don't like...."
    Official Photo.net Villain
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    [FONT=Comic Sans MS]DaVinci never wrote an artist's statement...[/FONT]

  7. #7
    gr82bart's Avatar
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    He should have gotten a signed release. This is standard practice. Even the most novice of novices who are up and up, get a release. If they don't, they know they can't sell the pics. The fact this guy knowingly violated that practice speaks of unprofessionalism at best. The fact he forged a signiature and tried to blackmail her is a crime. Like I said, hope he gets put away for a long time. We need less people like him in the photography world.

    Simply put. If you're going to photograph a model, get a release. If you're going to shoot nudes, get a copy of her ID - real ID to verify her age and attach it to the release. Again, standard practice (in the US that is, though I do this in Canada as well)

    Art.
    Last edited by gr82bart; 07-26-2005 at 09:17 AM. Click to view previous post history.
    Visit my website at www.ArtLiem.com
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  8. #8

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    I don't think having a release is much of an issue with this one.

    Let me put it this way. Somebody knocks at your door and tells you " Buy this fire insurance or your house is going to catch fire". The fact he owns the insurance he wants to sell you doesn't make what he's doing legal.

    The other thing is he claims to have other buyers for the photos. Who are these people? You'd think he would have showed those buyers to the court to prove he was just offering first refusal.

  9. #9
    Andrew Sowerby's Avatar
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    I agree with Nick above. If Diaz is telling the truth when she says that Rutter told her the buyers were "going to use this against you" then it's blackmail. Robert seems to be implying that Diaz probably isn't being truthful, but I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt -- the judge obviously found her to be a credible witness.

    Nothing chilling about a sleazy blackmailing photographer going to prison is there?

  10. #10
    df cardwell's Avatar
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    If I sell you a baseball bat and you wait ten years, then track me down in a dark street at midnight, and offer to sell me the bat back for a thousand dollars, that is extortion. The bat is not worth a thousand dollars, and the circumstances of the business offer are threatening. And it will look like extortion to any jury.

    The Diaz case has a bunch of pictures in a drawer for over a decade, which come to light at a time when the subject is especially vulnerable to bad publicity, and used as an implicit threat against her in order to raise an amount of money far in excess of the street value of the pictures.

    Arguing the photographer is being treated unfairly because Diaz is a celebrity is specious: the photographer obviously approached her because of her celebrity, and her vulnerability.

    All the rest is irrelevent. Was there a release ? Was it forged ? No matter.

    It all comes down to the threat, the timing, and the demand for an exhorbitant amount of money. It’s extortion, not blackmail, not business.

    Throw away the key. Photographers are granted the ownership of images when they are made. There is a responsibility to that ownership. They cannot be used against the subject.

    don

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