An iconic photograph of a young Trayvon Martin in his Bulldogs football uniform, staring stone-faced into the camera, has been published in print and online around the world.
The Optimist Club team photographer, Lucricia Woodside of North Miami, owns the copyright to the picture and never authorized its use. Now she is a member of a growing number of entrepreneurs, artists and even some opportunists who have found ways to cash in on a new cottage industry.
Call it Trayvon Inc.
Woodside's attorney have sent letters to news organizations and bloggers advising that after the teen's death, her company, Photos "R" Us, registered the photo's copyright, and anyone who published it owes her license fees. She seeks $500 from those who published the picture before she registered the copyright and $750 for those who ran it afterward. The lawyer identified at least 300 unauthorized uses of the photo, which was clearly marked as belonging to Photos "R" Us.
Woodside's attempt to collect demonstrates how in times of tragedy, many people and companies often wind up profiting. From sales of T-shirts to books and controversial hoodie-themed gun-range targets, the killing of an unarmed Miami Gardens teenager stands to make some people, if not rich, at least better off.
Even Trayvon's parents were criticized for collecting donations and registering trademarks on phrases such as "I am Trayvon."
"I don't think it's exploitive," said M.J. Bogatin, the photographer's attorney. "She got, quote-unquote, lucky. What happened to Trayvon is outrageous. If the residuals belong to her as a photographer, I see no moral implications at all."
The latest to capitalize on the case was George Zimmerman's best friend, Mark Osterman, who wrote a book about the case but said he did not collect an advance.
And after Zimmerman raised more than $200,000 from strangers, his parents launched a website -- robertandgladys.com -- that seeks contributions from the public. Zimmerman's attorney had already done the same so he could get paid.
In the height of the controversy, websites popped up selling everything from Trayvon hoodies to T-shirts, bracelets and Skittles -- the candies Trayvon was carrying when Zimmerman shot him during a scuffle.
At least two websites are dedicated to selling Trayvon-related clothes. Dean Gonzalez, owner of one of them, trayvonmartinshirts.com, said that he sold 100 T-shirts and hoodies and donated most of the proceeds to the foundation created in the slain teen's name.
"I'm not an opportunist. If I was an opportunist, I'd be playing both sides of the fence selling Zimmerman T-shirts too," said Gonzalez, a Miami music producer. "My father was murdered, and the killer was never charged. For me, this is a really sad case that really strikes a nerve."
Despite what he called the "free for all" he saw in T-shirt sales at rallies, Gonzalez says he was contacted by someone representing the Justice For Trayvon Martin Foundation, who asked him to stop using a particular copyrighted image. The warehouse that distributes Gonzalez's shirts also called him and wondered whether they were stepping into murky legal territory.
"I went to the rally in Miami and brought a lot of people with me," Gonzalez said. "This was something I felt really strongly about. I don't have to defend myself. It wasn't even lucrative."
Hank Loyd of North Carolina registered several domain names hoping someone would fork over $25,000 for websites such as trayvonmartinfund.com.
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