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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stephen Mallon and the Salvage of Flight 1549

I was sitting in the airport in January waiting to board my plane back to New York when I saw Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. I figured the odds of it happening again on the same day were nil, but the flight back was a bit unnerving, even as I sat and watched the news reports on the tiny television screen in front of me.

As amazing as the story was, and as OMG as that one photograph of all the people on the plane’s wings was, little did I realize the story wasn’t over.

It wasn’t until I saw these photographs that I realized another amazing story was unfolding. Actually a continuation of the original story had surfaced. Stephen Mallon was allowed to photograph the salvage of the USAirways plane from the water, and amassed an incredible, beautiful document of the recovery.

You could have gone to Stephen’s website to view the photographs until he received a cease and desist letter from the insurance company AIG. Remember them? They’re the company that ran our economy into the ground and have received billions upon billions of our dollars to keep them afloat. What does AIG have to do with all of this? Well, they are USAirway’s insurance company and don’t want anyone to ever see Stephen Mallon’s photographs.

I say fuck them! What right do they have to permanently embargo this work? Stephen was not in their employ, nor in the employ of the airline. He was working with the crane company, and no one objected to his work at all. In fact, the NTSB wanted his photos of the salvage. That is until AIG’s lawyers stepped in.

Stephen is hoping to negotiate with AIG, but no luck so far.

We all have a right to see these photographs as they document an important, very public event. And Stephen Mallon has the right to show his work as he sees fit. This is a free speech issue in my eyes, and it’s another example of AIG showing their total disregard for the people of this country. Stephen Mallon’s photos are a thing of beauty, and show not only the fragility of such large machines, but the truly heroic work done by those who pulled it out of the icy Hudson.

Americans got a chance to honor the wonderful crew, the rescue tugboats and tour boats who were first responders, and the rescues workers of New York City. Why not the recovery workers? Don’t they deserve our recognition of a difficult job well done?

Why is AIG trying to hide this? I invite all of you to ask that question of them as well.

if you wish to voice your opinion to USAirways or AIG- their contact info is here:

USAirways customer relations:

media contact is 480 693 5909 or

AIG aviation can be reached at or on their home page here

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would suggest that this is just the sort of thing that the Electronic Frontier Foundation would love to get their teeth into

March 26, 2009  
Blogger Julia Z said...

I mentioned this situation on a discussion list and here's what we came up with:

"My guess is they used a DMCA takedown notice....If this guy was working as a contractor for the crane company and the crane company signed a MNDA, then a cease and desist might have some
legal weight, as he took the pictures under their employ. If he took them for the NTSB, then they're subject to a FOIA request,
which should take about a week, tops."
Just in case:
DMCA - Digital Millennium Copyright Act
MNDA - Mutual Non-disclosure Agreement
FOIA - Freedom of Information Act.
So do we know what Stephen signed if anything? I'm super curious!

March 26, 2009  
Blogger TheMeltingSun said...

Thank you for posting this, Stella. AIG is ridiculous.

March 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally agree ... what the hell is AIG trying to hide?

March 26, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Stella,
Great post, we should all support Stephen. I posted a link on my Facebook page, part of a group with tons of photo professionals. If you are FB, friend me.
Kristina Snyder

March 26, 2009  
Blogger bomath said...

I've asked somebody from EFF and the reply was something along the lines of „if Mallon would contact EFF to discuss, they'll be happy to take his call; else... EFF doesn't ambulance-chase” the potential cases, just in case :)

March 26, 2009  
Anonymous Aggie Villanueva said...

Thankx for all your info. I've linked to you in my report of this issue also, at

I've enjoyed your great blog.

April 01, 2009  
Blogger Michael Chen said...

I did e-mail US Airways and this was their response.
"US Airways has been fully cooperating with the investigation of Flight 1549 since the event occurred. The aircraft hull which operated as Flight 1549 is under the control of our insurance company and the NTSB. We are aware that a photographer would like to publish or sell photographs of the aircraft hull that may include our trademarks, service marks, etc., and we are currently seeking information from the photographer to determine if the photographs' release or sale would violate the intellectual property rights of US Airways or otherwise interfere with the NTSB investigation of this accident."

April 01, 2009  
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