SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A Fresno man who is selling photo negatives dubiously attributed to Ansel Adams must defend himself against trademark infringement claims in San Francisco, after a federal judge denied his motion to dismiss or transfer venue.
The Ansel Adams Trust sued Rick Norsigian in August, when Norsigian began advertising “Ansel Adams Lost Negatives” prints and posters on his website.
Norsigian had found 65 photo negatives at a garage sale 10 years ago and believes they are the work of the famed late photographer, but the trust says talented amateur Earl Brooks actually captured the images.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White rejected Norsigian’s claims for dismissal, writing that the First Amendment does not bar the trust’s right of publicity claim.
Norsigian and co-defendant PRS Medias’ “use of the Ansel Adams name and likeness was for purely commercial purposes – to market and sell ‘Ansel Adams’ prints and posters,” the ruling states.
White also found that using Adams’ name does not constitute nominative fair use, as he was using the name to describe products for sale on his website.
The federal judge refused to hear oral arguments on the case, which had been scheduled to occur on Nov. 12, because he said he did not need them to make his ruling.