Attention photographers: Even if you don’t copyright your work, you can still collect a nice settlement if your photo is used without permission.
That’s what Jesse Cuevas of Normal Heights learned last week when a New York-based law firm told him he was getting a nice settlement for the use of his drone-delivered photo of the Coronado Bridge. That photo was plucked from Cuevas’ Convex Captures photo marketing website by former San Francisco shock jock Kevin Klein who used the photo to announce his arrival to the San Diego airwaves.
Klein wanted San Diego to know he would be anchoring mornings on the new “Machine 97-3” station that was to debut in March. In February he posted on social media the phrase “Jump…to a new morning show” imposed over Cuevas’ aerial photo of the Coronado Bridge.
The reaction to the fun-with-suicide meme was so strong that not only did Klein never make it on the San Diego airwaves, the entire Machine 97-3 comedy/sports/classic rock hybrid format was scrapped by radio conglomerate Entercom Communication for a more traditional all-sports station called “The Fan 97-3.” Entercom also owns local stations KYXY, Alt 94-9, KSON and Sunny 98.1
Cuevas was not amused over the use of his photo. “It’s a horrible way to use it, connecting it with suicide,” he told me at the time. “This all has personal meaning to me.” He says he was told of New York City-based Liebowitz Law Firm, PLLC which specializes in David-versus-Goliath copyright cases. Liebowitz took Cuevas' case on a contingency basis.
Cuevas says he can not discuss the amount he is getting from Philadelphia-based Entercom for the use of his bridge pic. But one well-connected source says cases such as these have historically been settled with five-figure payouts.
Although Cuevas says it is a good idea for photographers who post their work on Instagram or Facebook to protect themselves with copyrights, he says he thinks this case was settled for two reasons: “There was a button on my web site that you can click to buy photos. They clearly didn’t use that tool. They just took it. Also, they used it in an extremely inappropriate manner.”
Is there is a moral to this story? “This shows that independent photographers can go up against big corporations and win,” says Cuevas.
While Klein never made it on the San Diego airwaves, he resurfaced at Entercom-owned KROQ in Los Angeles where he is an afternoon DJ/sidekick. Radio insiders say Klein was assured a job with Entercom because San Diego Entercom execs knew about and approved the “Jump” meme and that Klein’s firing could have set up Entercom with an unfair termination lawsuit from Klein had he not been rehired.
Bob Bollinger, general manager for Entercom San Diego did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
Meanwhile, the inability to sell Escondido’s KFSD (AM 1450) may result in the owners pulling the plug.
Soon after 50-year radio veteran Art Astor died in December, 2016, his son Kevin put two AM stations on the market including 1,000-watt KFSD which covers North County and Ontario-based KSPA which covers the Inland Empire with 10,000 watts. San Jose-based Intelli recently bought KSPA/Ontario and switched it to a Vietnamese format. But Escondido’s KSPA has been on the market for over a year and there are currently no prospective buyers. That is according to broadcast broker Andrew McClure of the Exline Company which is handling the sale for the Astor estate.
McClure says that there was one buyer who was willing to buy KFSD for $200,000 with just $20,000 down and a promise to make nine other $20,000 payments. That deal fell through last month. McClure now says “any reasonable offer” will be accepted for KFSD. He says that if no offers are forthcoming the Astor family may simply pull the plug on 1450 AM and let the station go dark.
Since the senior Astor’s death, KFSD has been broadcasting a “nostalgia” format playing jazzy lounge tunes and American pop standards by dead singers including Frank Sinatra, Mel Torme, Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee. KFSD has no live DJs and no commercials. McClure says whoever buys 1450 AM would get a small plot of land that includes the tower and transmitter which is enveloped by the parking lot for Stone Brewery Escondido. It costs about $300 a month in electrical bills to keep KFSD on the air.
Broker McClure says the value of AM stations has “plummeted.” He says the once famous KNRY-AM (called “the cannery” by locals) in Monterey sold 20 years ago for $750,000 but was recently re-sold for just $200,000. “It was Monterrey’s heritage station going back to the 30s," says McClure. "I have one station in Portland that was once worth $800,000 and is now selling for as little as $50,000. Things have turned upside down with AM radio.”
KFSD/1450 AM was known as KOWN in the '60s and '70s when its DJs played Top 40 hits in a broadcast booth visible by shoppers at the Escondido Village Mall.