Haley Barbour Accused of Ripping Off Hurricane Photos

By Erik De La Garza

JACKSON, Miss. (CN) – A photographer claims in court that former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s book on Hurricane Katrina includes copyrighted images of the deadly 2005 storm that he has refused to remove from the book, social media and book signing appearances.

In a complaint filed Thursday in Jackson, Miss., federal court, professional photographer Suzi Altman claims that at least two of her photographs have been used in Barbour’s 2015 book, “America’s Great Storm,” that she copyrighted from the two weeks she spent shooting the disaster.

Altman sued Barbour, who was 20 months into his first term as governor when the storm hit, and the University Press of Mississippi, a nonprofit book publisher supported by Mississippi’s eight state universities.

According to the lawsuit, Altman was retained by Mississippi Emergency Management Agency to take the photographs in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that MEMA could use in its publicity of emergency efforts.

Altman says she still retained ownership rights to her photos, and that despite putting Barbour and his publisher on notice, they have “continued unabated with their illegal use of said photographs.”

“The defendants are still continuing to use the plaintiff’s images and are doing so in total and continuous disregard for the rights of plaintiff,” the lawsuit says.

Altman says that Barbour has also been using “several of her photographs in his slideshow/book signing where the books are being sold.” She also claims that the images have been featured on the book’s social media sites for over six months without any compensation to her.

The Jackson-based photographer seeks $350,000 in statutory damages for alleged copyright violations.

University Press of Mississippi publicist and advertising manager Clint Kimberling said on Tuesday that they were not yet aware of the lawsuit and declined to comment “while we await further information about the claim.”

Barbour did not return a request for comment.

Altman is represented by Bill Luckett with Luckett Tyner Law Firm of Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Barbour, a former Republic National Committee chairman in the 1990s, served two terms as Mississippi governor from 2004 to 2012. He is currently an attorney with the Jackson law firm Butler Snow, where he practices government relations.

In 2012, the MEMA headquarters in Pearl, Miss. was named the Haley R. Barbour Building in his honor.

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