SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A Fresno man who claims to have glass negatives by the late Ansel Adams sought dismissal of a copyright complaint from the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust. Rick Norsigian’s motion calls the Adams Trust’s complaint against him “brazen,” and claims that its lawsuit “will have a chilling effect on the ongoing widespread debate, which has proven to be a matter of a high level of public interest and concern.”
The trust sued Rick Norsigian in October 2009, after he sold prints and posters from the 65 negatives he claims he found at a garage sale in 2000. The trust accused Norsigian of violating and diluting the Ansel Adams trademark.
In his motion to dismiss, Norsigian’s attorney Arnold Peter wrote: “The lawsuit represents a brazen attempt by The Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust to muzzle public, scholarly and academic dialogue concerning the authenticity of 65 glass negatives as the works of famed photographer Ansel Adams. This litigation, if allowed to proceed, will have a chilling effect on the ongoing widespread debate, which has proven to be a matter of a high level of public interest and concern.”
Peter’s Beverly Hills firm PRS Media Partners is also a defendant in the case brought by the Adams Trust. The Trust called Peters “a tireless promoter for Norsigian,” and claimed he helped developed the website on which Norsigian promoted and sold the so-called Adams prints.
In his motion to dismiss, Peter and co-counsel Rick Smith allege a “vital” distinction between negatives and prints. They claim Norsigian never profited from the negatives, only from prints derived from the negatives, which prints were not created by Adams:
“This entire lawsuit is premised on the suggestion that the ‘Ansel Adams’ trademark is being improperly used in connection with the sale of the prints and posters. However, defendants have only stated that the negatives were created by Ansel Adams. At no point, have defendants suggested that prints were developed and/or created by Ansel Adams or anyone trained, associated, or affiliated with him. Rather, in an abundance of caution, defendants published the following statement in a press release:
“Initially, 17 images selected in consultation with famed photographer Jesse Kalisher will be available for purchase through the David W. Streets Gallery. Kalisher will also create the limited edition prints. …”
The motion to dismiss the federal complaint requests, in the alternative, that the case be transferred to either the Central or Eastern District of California.
The dispute has garnered national media coverage, including a claim from a woman in Oakland who told The New York Times that she thinks at least one of the disputed photos was taken by her old Uncle Earl.