Critics question policy on photos of climbable sculpture

Confetti swirls around "Vessel" on its opening day at Hudson Yards, Friday, March 15, 2019, in New York. Hudson Yards, a $25 billion urban complex on Manhattan's west side, is the city's most ambitious development since the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. When fully complete, the 28-acre site will include 16 towers of homes and offices, a hotel, a school, the highest outdoor observation deck in the Western Hemisphere, a performing arts center, Vessel and a shopping mall. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

By KAREN MATTHEWS Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Days after a climbable sculpture called the Vessel opened at New York’s Hudson Yards megadevelopment, critics are questioning a policy that grants the attraction’s owners broad rights to use photos posted by visitors.

Terms and conditions that visitors must click on to secure a free ticket to the 150-foot structure, which some have compared to an upside-down pine cone, include language granting the Vessel the right “in perpetuity” to publish or distribute any photos and videos of the structure posted by visitors on their social media accounts.

The policy also says the owners of the Vessel, which opened Friday, have “the unconditional, irrevocable right” to use their own photos and videos of visitors “in all media and formats, whether now known or later developed.”

Jessica Scaperotti, a spokeswoman for developer Related Cos., said the terms and conditions are modeled on policies that are in place at similar local and national attractions.

“As we are a new destination, we wanted to over communicate, be transparent and disclose to all users that we may re-share select social posts on our social channels and website that visitors have already shared publicly on their social channels,” Scaperotti said Tuesday. She added, “If someone takes a great photo we want the ability to share it on our social channels.”

But City Council member Ben Kallos, a Manhattan Democrat, said he planned to introduce legislation to make sure that tourists’ photos and videos “are not taken and sold to the highest bidder.”

“Security cameras can help keep us safe, but storing footage for marketing is a nightmare,” Kallos said. He suggested that if photo-use policies similar to the Vessel’s are in place elsewhere the Council should examine that as well.

“Now that we are aware of the problem I will be looking into this citywide and I hope I will have the help and support of Hudson Yards,” Kallos said.

The Vessel’s terms and conditions drew fire from organizations that represent photographers as well.

“Needless to say, an attraction like this in NYC means that Hudson Yards need never spend a dollar on advertising or content creation; they have every visitor to do it for them for free,” Thomas Maddrey, an attorney for the American Society of Media Photographers, said in a statement.

Mickey Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, said the controversy shows that too many people check boxes on terms and conditions without reading them. “It just goes to show how important reading and understanding those terms are before agreeing to them,” he said.