REPATRIATING AN ORPHAN

Do you know this iconic image? It features Eddie Mabo and his legal team at the High Court of Australia in 1991.The image is often used to illustrate stories about native title or indigenous rights. Most recently I saw it used on the front page of an article in The Sydney Morning Herald (30 May)entitled “Mabo lawyer Bryan Keon-Cohen urges 'gutless politicians' to support Uluru decision”.


Solicitor Greg McIntyre, barrister Ron Castan, Eddie Mabo and barrister Bryan Keon-Cohen at the High Court of Australia© Lindy Castan Blashki 1991

Each of the people in the photograph was carefully identified but there was no mention of the photographer or of copyright.An image search revealed countless reproductions of this image, however most of them did not identify any copyright owner. In a couple of instances Bryan Keon-Cohen was identified as the copyright owner.
The general rule of copyright ownership when it comes to photographs is that the photographer owns the image.So if Bryan Keon-Cohen is featured in the photograph how could he have taken the photo? Did he use a self-timer? Who is the mystery photographer? Is this photo an orphan work?
As chance would have it, I happen to know the story behind this image.It was captured using Bryan Keon-Cohen’s camera but that does not mean that he owns the copyright. The mystery photographer happens to be my best friend, Lindy Castan-Blashki, daughter of the late Ron Castan AM QC.
At a time when one can simply right click on an image and copy it (as I did with this) it is very easy for photos to become “orphans”. You can help prevent this by making sure you always attribute the photographer.After all, you never know who is out there. Why take the risk?


Find Out More About Orphan Works Here
and read up on your rights with our Photographers & Copyrightinformationsheet

Written by Fiona Phillips, ACC