New York Stock Exchange claims you can't show pictures of it without permission

A trader facepalms at the New York Stock Exchange. Photo: Reuters.

The New York Stock Exchange threatened Talking Points Memo after the site used a wire photo of the exchange to illustrate an article. Josh Marhsall writes:

The New York Stock Exchange now claims that you have to get their permission (express or implicit) before you use images connected to the New York Stock Exchange. So if you find a wire photo of the trading floor and use it to illustrate a story on Wall Street, you're violating the NYSE's trademark because they've trademarked the trading floor itself.

We found this out yesterday when we got a cease and desist letter from the NYSE based on an article published at TPM back in November. You can see the letter here.

The original article is here.


  1. Kendra P. Goldenberg, Esquire. I need a name like that. Sounds official or something.

    1. I think the proper response in cases like these is, to use a legal term, “vade et caca in pilleum et ipse traheatur super aures tuo”.

  2. This is just bizarre. While an individual image might serve as a trademark if it is consistently used on specific goods, you can’t just claim a trademark on any image of a person or of a place. See, for example, ETW Corp v Jireh Publishing, Inc:

    In Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the plaintiff asserted trademark rights in the design of the building which houses the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, and claimed that defendant’s poster featuring a photograph of the museum against a colorful sunset was a violation of its trademark rights. 134 F.3d at 751. This court, with one judge dissenting, reversed the judgment of the district court which granted plaintiff’s request for a preliminary injunction. After reviewing the evidence, the majority concluded:

    In reviewing the Museum’s disparate uses of several different perspectives of its building design, we cannot conclude that they create a consistent and distinct commercial impression as an indicator of a single source of origin or sponsorship. To be more specific, we cannot conclude on this record that it is likely that the Museum has established a valid trademark in every photograph which, like Gentile’s, prominently displays the front of the Museum’s building.

  3. Considering how ridiculously skittish the markets are, a photo like this one could set off a selling spree…

  4. It’s a wire photo, and Talking Points Memo is a news organization.

    I think people ought to grab that photo and post it in as many places as possible.

  5. Even if they did have trademark on images of the trading floor (which I doubt), using a trademark to identify it’s owner or an aspect of the owner’s products is fair use, and protected by the first amendment, no?

    1. I think the issue is that the image wasn’t really being used in that way. At least according to the C&D letter, the story (“‘Eager Beaver’ FBI Agent’s Attempt To Flip Witness Exposed Feds’ Big Insider Trading Case”) wasn’t really about the stock exchange. I don’t think they have a leg to stand on here, but that’s what they’re complaining about.

  6. Isn’t this equivalent to Church of Scientology saying they are trademarked in order to prevent negative things being written about them?

    Most people completely do not understand IP law, what Copyright or Trademark mean, and what they are intended to protect.

  7. The NYSE trademark is the letters NYSE with a trapezoid next to the N.

    That photograph of the trading floor doesn’t have any recognizable NYSE logos in it. It’s just a bunch of LCD monitors and people in funny blazers with Barclays written on the back.

    Can we please kill all the lawyers already?

  8. Nah, we just need to let the market correct this problem. And by let the market correct, I mean set up a faux stock exchange staffed with extras to run photo shoots on and sell for less. To stock photography sites.

    Sorry for the pun, I had to!

  9. And whenever news orgs are actually forced to take down any pics, they should replace them with Next Media animations like the Daily Show did with the royal wedding. “We were forced to take down the actual picture. Here’s what it might have looked like…”

  10. And whenever news orgs are actually forced to take down any pics, they should replace them with Next Media animations like the Daily Show did with the royal wedding. “We were forced to take down the actual picture. Here’s what it might have looked like…”

  11. I wasn’t aware the NYSE was a work of art, but I suppose lying is gaining a certain artistic value these days…

  12. “they’ve trademarked the trading floor itself”

    Ha! I’ve trademarked the facepalm gesture. I expect to make billions from the NYSE trading floor alone in the next few rounds of financial crisis. Excellent!

  13. The NYSE is well-known for this type of aggressive action in the photography and publishing industries. I’m sure that film and tv production companies have felt their bite, too. I worked in the textbook industry and we always had to be careful about sourceing an image of the NYSE building- we couldn’t afford a lawsuit.

  14. After all the crap they’ve done to this country, I can’t say I blame them for being nervous about security. They should be.

  15. “we couldn’t afford a lawsuit.”

    That’s what these guys are counting on. They know they have no legal standing, but they have deep pockets and you don’t. Essentially, they are buying the legal system. So what’s new?

  16. Well that’s the rub; If it were an article about the NYSE, then it would clearly fall under fair use. But the article isn’t about the Exchange (in fact no where in it is the NYSE named either in acronym or full name). The article being about insider trading doesn’t automatically make all things that have to do with the financial world fair game (and the trading mentioned in the article could have been on the NYSE, AMEX, NASDAQ, a foreign exchange, etc etc).

    Photographers allowed onto the trading floor are given pretty strict ground-rules about usage that must be agreed to before they can create images on-site, and as the NYSE doesn’t sign a property release, they do have the right to control the use of the likeness of their property and images taken on their property as outlined in the agreement photographers sign to be allowed access to shoot on the floor.

    If you read the C&D, it specifically states their objection is that the specific placement of their properties are being used in conjunction with a negative news story that has nothing to do with the NYSE.

    There are MANY images of the NYSE being used for journalistic purposes every day – and the NYSE doesn’t challenge images in this manner if the article is about the NYSE, or if its about the market in general and specifically cites the NYSE – even if its negative.

    This is a wire-photo, so the photographer certainly isn’t to blame for getting it wrong, the use of his image along with a story ABOUT the NYSE would clearly be fair use for journalistic purposes – and Taking Points Memo probably thought this would be a fair use and most likely acted in good faith; but that intention doesn’t make it fall under fair use. Just being a journalistic enterprise does not automatically make everything fair use – it has to be specifically relevant. TPM just dropped the ball on this one.

    I’ve been a professional shooter for over 25 years, and spent over 15 of that as a photojournalist – I’m not taking any sides here (except what is correct by the copyright statutes) – Its important to have a good understanding of copyright and what fair use really means and includes. By misunderstanding it we only serve to weaken our rights when they come into question.

  17. Combat this by ensuring every photo of the NYSE used has jail bars superimposed over top. Or maybe ghost images of Michael Millikan, or the original Ponzi, or Thomas F. Quinn,or Tyco, World Com, or Enron, or perhaps just stock market slang like “pump and dump” “fleecing”or “suckers”, trailing like a stock ticker at the bottom.
    On another note, trying to feature the Chrysler building as a background in a movie/TV or stills shoot will guarantee you a lawsuit.

  18. Good grief, people. Trademark ≠ copyright ≠ photography rights.

    Trademark gives a brand/company the exclusive right to present themselves as such to consumers. You can’t build a camera and sell it as the “Leica X12345” because you’d be tricking consumers into thinking that your product is made by Leica, a company known for making high-quality stuff. There is no “fair use” here: If Group X could claim that you are fooling people by saying/implying that your stuff comes from Group X, then there is a trademark violation (if Group X has trademarked their name, logo, slogan, whatever).

    Copyright gives a person/company the exclusive right to decide who gets to make copies of their writing, images, etc. You can’t print and bind and sell copies of Harry Potter books because the publisher (or J K Rowling or someone) invested time and effort and money and resources into producing that work, so no one can make copies without their permission. Here, there is fair use: If your unlicensed copies will not hurt the sales of the licensed copies, if they’re only a small piece of the whole, for educational purposes, etc, then you’re probably ok.

    Photography rights are mainly a matter of property and contract (except for when it comes to taking pictures of military bases and other supposedly national-security-critical things, or when it comes to taking pictures of copyrighted things if your pictures could conceivably lower demand for the real thing). If you are in my house, I can say “While you are on my property, you may not take pictures. And you must hop on one foot, and never utter words that contain the letter Q. If you disobey this, then I can ask you to leave. If you do not leave, I will call the police”. It’s my property, I don’t have to let you be in there unless I feel like it. Similarly for contracts: If you sign a piece of paper that says that, in exchange for something from me, you will / will not do X Y and Z, then if you disobey those terms you violate the contract. Again, there is no fair use here. “I will give you a ticket to this show if you pay me money AND if you agree to not take photos” means that if you take photos, you broke the contract.

    Can the owners of a place claim trademark of the whole place, and claim that their trademark is being violated whenever a photo of the place is published (thus claiming that anyone who is showing a photo of the NYSE is an official representative of the NYSE)? Probably not. But crazier things have been tried in the IP world ;]

    1. yes. The NYSE may well have a case against the PHOTOGRAPHER for violating the conditions they issued as a prerequisite for admittance. But TPM is not a party to that agreement. Now unless their agreement with the wire service precludes them from using that photo for that use, I don’t think anybody can go after TPM.

  19. Not to be outdone by the NYSE, perhaps, but Spin Magazine gave me a Cease and Desist this week over my nickname on Twitter (@spin) claiming customer confusion.


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