Photographer Fighting State Over Copyright Theft

Business School Claims Stealing Property is Good

Fundraiser for a Righteous Cause

Aug. 1, 2021

Internationally-known professional photographer Jim Olive is a native Texan, a longtime devoted environmentalist, generous contributor to many environmental causes, and a founding member of Save Buffalo Bayou, now on the advisory board.

He is also the founder and executive director of the Christmas Bay Foundation. Jim is a rare native species.

Now he is trying to raise money to appeal a very important property rights case to the United States Supreme Court. Ironically, it’s a business school on the other side, claiming they have the right to take private property without compensation.

An aerial photo Jim Olive took for Save Buffalo Bayou in April 2017. Buffalo Bayou flows between the forest of Memorial Park on the right and the River Oaks Country Club on the left.

The Issue

Recently the University of Houston Bauer College of Business, in an ugly teachable moment, won a case in the Texas Supreme Court, claiming that they can just take and use without any compensation or even any credit the copyrighted work of a photographer (among other copyrighted property).

Jim’s legal team had won in state district court. Three years ago State District Court Judge Caroline E. Baker held that the Texas Constitution prohibits governmental agencies from taking private property without adequate compensation.

But the school appealed and the state court of appeals reversed that decision. And in June the state supreme court agreed that the State of Texas and its institutions have “sovereign immunity.” They can’t be sued. The university can use Jim’s copyrighted materials for three years without paying a dime in compensation.

The University of Houston could have paid Jim a fair market price for using his work. Instead they decided to steal it and generate a lot of bad publicity for themselves.

Jim is appealing this decision to the United States Supreme Court. It’s an important case. But the appeal costs money. Jim is trying to raise at least $20,000 to pay for it. He already has some $125,000 in legal costs.

Here is how you can donate to this important cause.

Not the First Time

As Jim writes on his GoFundMe Page, “Over the past 20 years, there have been dozens of so-called ‘sovereign immunity’ cases brought against Texas state institutions. They’ve involved not only the theft of copyright, but also of patents and trademarks. It’s time we put an end to this wrongdoing.”

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