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Just two days into a federal jury trial, two photographers reached a settlement with talk show host Oprah Winfrey over ownership and access to thousands of photographs they took on the set of her popular Chicago-based show. Paul Natkin and Stephen Green had both testified in the trial being heard before U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo that they simply wanted to have returned to them the pictures they had taken of Winfrey between 1986 and 1995. That concession being on record, it apparently became plain to Winfrey and her defense team that the veteran photographers were not pursuing the lawsuit for money. And a belated settlement was suddenly doable. The accord’s details are confidential, said Mark Barinholtz, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. But it apparently includes an acknowledgement that the photographers own and have access to the coveted pictures. “They get to possess their own work, own their own work, and have the copyright to their own work,” said Barinholtz, who worked with Melinda Schramm on the case. Meanwhile, Oprah and her company Harpo Productions reportedly retain some right to influence which publishers can use those photos. Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Elliot R. Zinger, of Elliot Zinger & Associates in Chicago, said the issue to be decided at trial on the pivotal licensing agreement between the photographers and Harpo was always secondary to the plaintiffs. “From the first day I met (Natkin), he was interested in property rights and marketing and using his own works,” Zinger said. “They were both happy being given the copyright ownership and being able to exploit their own works,” he concluded. Three weeks before the trial, Castillo had already ruled that Natkin and Green were sole owners of the copyrights to the photographs and that Winfrey was not a joint owner just because the photos had been taken at her studio. The jurist also ruled at that time that the photographers were not employees of Harpo when the photos were taken. Lead defense counsel Charles L. Babcock, of the Dallas office of Jackson & Walker, acknowledged that when Natkin testified on the stand that Harpo could have access to the photos, he knew there was no controversy left and worked for a settlement. “We had always been willing to share the photos with these guys,” Babcock said. “The fear on Harpo’s side was that the lawsuit was about trying to get out of their obligation to get our permission before they sold the pictures.” Carl Butzer, Nancy Hamilton, and John Edwards, also of Jackson and Walker, and David Sanders of the Chicago firm of Jenner & Block assisted in the defense. Natkin, a mainstay of the local and national concert scene, and Green, a photographer with the Chicago Cubs, worked as freelancers when they shot approximately 60,000 photos of Winfrey at her studio. Harpo Productions had possession of all of Green’s photos and 15,000 of Natkin’s color photographs. Filed a year ago, the lawsuit arose when Winfrey used 11 pictures that the pair had taken in a best-selling weight-loss book. Natkin and Green alleged copyright infringement and sought to have their pictures returned to them. Testimony in the trial began Tuesday with Natkin; Green took the stand on Wednesday, Barinholtz said. “We got through about a half hour of Stephen Green’s testimony when the judge called for a recess,” he continued. “At that time there were some discussions initiated by Babcock.” Castillo himself became a help in pushing the two sides to reach an agreement, Barinholtz said. “He’s one [judge] who’s willing to sit down with the parties and engage in mediation,” he explained.

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