American Pie 20.04.01

When a photographer takes pictures at a sporting event, who owns the rights? The photographer, the organisation he is working for – or the event’s promoter? That’s been a thorny – and very legal – question here. Last year the US National Basketball Association filed a suit against the New York Times after the paper started selling on its website a collection of archive pictures – including some historic basketball photographs. The Times claimed it had the right to do so under the US’s freedom of the press laws. The NBA countered by claiming that on the back of its press passes there is a line prohibiting the use of news or pictures except for news reports. After almost a year in the courts, they have reached a settlement. The Times has agreed to display the NBA logo on its website and in any ads for its photographs, and will direct callers to the NBA website. Will this satisfy everyone? Probably not. Now the Baseball League is asserting its rights to control pictures and reports about its games.

Still on pictures: Life magazine may no longer be alive, but its library of famous pictures lives on. In fact Time Inc, taking a lesson from the New York Times, plans to market some of its classic pix in US department stores and shops. Life has in its archives some of the most famous pictures ever taken, including Alfred Eisenstaedt’s VJ Day picture of a sailor smooching a nurse in Times Square, also Carl Mydan’s picture of General Douglas MacArthur wading ashore in the Philippines in 1945. Plus lots of historic pictures of the Kennedys.

Headline of the month: "Does Cleavage Sell Magazines?" – the cover line on this month’s Vanity Fair alongside a picture of actress Jennifer Aniston in a totally unbuttoned blouse.

The old journalistic hangouts in New York are vanishing. Costellos has long gone, as has Charlie O’s. Most recent to vanish was Hurley’s on Sixth Avenue, noted for its direct phone line from the bar to the nearby NBC newsroom. Now the most famous of all, PJ Clarke’s, could go. In the days when Third Avenue here was being built up with skyscrapers, Clarke’s managed to hang on to its ancient weather-beaten building, dating back to 1891. It survived, tucked into the corner of a modern office block. The saloon, a popular newsmen’s hangout, was also frequented by such celebrities as Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, humourist Robert Benchley, Aristotle Onassis and even Jacqueline Kennedy who occasionally dropped in for a hamburger. It was also the setting for the famous Ray Milland movie The Lost Weekend. (Actually it was a studio set.) Now the bar’s owners have filed for bankruptcy. What will happen to PJ’s? New York newsmen are holding their breath.

In these days when pink slips (US euphemism for being fired) are everywhere, it’s good to report someone going up in the world. Chris Anderson, business editor of The Economist for seven years, is to edit internet magazine Wired. Bought by CondŽ Nast in 1998, the magazine’s circulation in the past year has climbed almost 10 per cent to well over 500,000 – despite the slowdown in technology.

Yet one more sign of the (bad) times: the New York Post is folding its weekly sports paper after less than a year. The reason? The present economic climate, says Post publisher Ken Chandler. Although it was priced at $1.50 (70p), Sports Week was largely given away to regular Post readers. Its print run never topped 42,000, however.

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York

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