Photographer threatens lawsuit against Jewish group over the 'unauthorized' use of Rep. Ilhan Omar image

A professional photographer is seeking up to $150,000 in damages after the Jewish rights group The World Values Network, led by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, ran a controversial advertisement condemning Rep. Ilhan Omar over her anti-Semitic remarks.

According to the April 24-dated letter obtained by Fox News and addressed to the New Jersey-based Boteach, the “copyright infringement claim” on behalf of the Boston-based Jason Grow of Jason M. Grow Photography stems from the unapproved use of an Omar image on two occasions.

“One in an advertisement published in the Washington Post and the other in a Go Fund Me appeal,” the letter, written by Massachusetts attorney, Andrew D. Epstein, stated. “In lieu of actual damages and profit damages, my client can elect to recover Statutory Damages under 504 (c) of the Copyright Act in a sum up to $150,000.”

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Grow’s biography notes that he “specializes in photographing exceptionally accomplished, busy people with real-time constraints in real environments” and has a photojournalism background with experience spanning refugee camps to conference rooms.

However, the Omar photograph – which Boteach claims was taken publicly from Facebook – featured prominently in The World Values Network full-page advertisement which shredded the perceived Omar sentiment that “Jews control the world with their money.”

The advertisement, which attracted a number of protesters in itself and prompted fellow freshman Democratic Congresswoman Rep. Tlaib to declare it a “fear-mongering” and “false and that only serves to incite violence toward a Black Muslim woman,” ran ahead of the AIPAC Conference on Sunday, March 24. The GoFundMe was created on March 22.

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The lawyer letter states that the hot-button photograph was registered with the U.S. Copyright Office effective March 25. However, Epstein contends that this has no legal bearing.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is interviewed by NBC "Today" television program co-host Meredith Vieira in New York Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009 (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is interviewed by NBC "Today" television program co-host Meredith Vieira in New York Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009 (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“The Copyright Act gives photographers three months after the first publication of a photograph to register their copyrights and recover statutory damages of up to $150,000, plus attorney’s fees and other costs,” Epstein told Fox News via email. “This means, for example, that photographers and news reporters can publish important news-worthy materials while they are fresh and not have to register the works with the Copyright Office before publishing them.  If the law were otherwise, photographers and reporters would have to register their works before they could publish them in order to get the full protection of copyright.  This would be a time-consuming exercise and would delay time-sensitive materials from being disseminated to the public.”

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Yet in Boteach’s view, it’s merely another attempt to silence the Omar critics.

“This past March, our organization, The World Values Network, took out a full-page ad in The Washington Post calling out Rep. Ilhan Omar for her blatantly anti-Semitic remarks and comparing them to classic texts of historical Jew-hatred. We used as a background for the ad a photo taken from her Facebook in accordance with Facebook standards,” he said in a statement. “We wish to make it clear we will not be silenced about Ilhan Omar and her personal war against the Jewish people. Those threatening legal action for the proper use of this photo wants to stifle the First Amendment rights or a Jewish organization that battles anti-Semitism."

The Rabbi has until May 8 to respond to the legal letter before the matter will be turned over the courts, Epstein wrote.