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.