Fair­fax Me­dia’s photo ar­chive com­ing home


Fair­fax NZ’s photo col­lec­tion looks set to re­turn to New Zealand from the United States, end­ing a long-run­ning le­gal saga.

Fair­fax, the pub­lisher of Stuff and news­pa­pers in­clud­ing The Sun­day Star-Times, The Do­min­ion Post and The Press, agreed in 2013 to trans­fer sev­eral mil­lion pho­to­graphs that had been taken in Aus­tralia and New Zealand over more than 100 years to Rogers Photo Ar­chive (RPA). The com­pany was to digi­tise and ar­chive them all for free in re­turn for some sales rights.

But alarm bells rang at the Cul­ture and Her­itage Min­istry af­ter a small num­ber of the orig­i­nal prints ended up on auc­tion site on eBay. RPA was put into re­ceiver­ship the fol­low­ing year.

RPA founder, John Rogers, who ar­ranged sim­i­lar deals with other pub­lish­ers, pleaded guilty to fraud in re­la­tion to other mat­ters in March, ac­cord­ing to the US De­part­ment of Jus­tice.

Rogers ad­mit­ted in a plea agree­ment that he com­mit­ted fraud be­tween 2009 and 2014 through RPA and an­other Arkansas-based busi­nesses, Sports Card Plus, re­sult­ing in losses of more than US$9.5 mil­lion (NZ$13m) in losses for in­vestors, cus­tomers and fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tions.

Fair­fax lawyer Ker­rie-Lee Mag­ill said all Fair­fax NZ’s pho­tos had now been scanned on to hard drives, tagged with meta­data and pro­vided to Fair­fax. A court in Arkansas would shortly sign off on an amend­ment to the set­tle­ment agree­ment reached with RPA’s re­ceiver, with the orig­i­nals re­turned to New Zealand, she said.

The pho­tos would be owned by RPA, which is now in the hands of a US bank, but would be un­der Fair­fax’s copy­right. RPA would not then be able to sell any phys­i­cal pho­tos that were cov­ered by the Pro­tected Ob­jects Act out­side New Zealand with­out the re­quired con­sents, she said.

Mag­ill ac­knowl­edged Fair­fax would prob­a­bly never know how many of the orig­i­nals might have gone astray.

Fair­fax had sent them to be digi­tised in part be­cause the con­di­tion of some of the pho­to­graphs was de­te­ri­o­rat­ing and the col­lec­tion was in a state of some dis­ar­ray.

Cul­ture and Her­itage Min­istry spokesman Tony Wal­lace said the digi­ti­sa­tion work was of a high stan­dard.


Fair­fax NZ owns Stuff and news­pa­pers in­clud­ing The Sun­day Star-Times, The Do­min­ion Post and The Press.

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