Mountaineer suing over Everest pics

Rick CarrollAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN More than 10 years after the post-summit tragedy on Mount Everest claimed eight climbers, an Aspen mountaineer finds himself caught in legal battles connected to the saga.Neal Beidleman, who was a U.S. guide on the fatal trip on May 10, 1996, has taken two book publishers to court over photographs from the expedition that he claims are being illegally used. Reached last week, Beidleman declined to be interviewed for this story, saying the legal action is simply a byproduct of some contractual disputes that are common in the publishing industry. One of Beidleman’s lawsuits, filed last week in the U.S. District Court in Denver, claims Villard Books, a division of Random House, committed fraudulent concealment and copyright infringement. The suit also seeks an injunction to stop Villard from continuing to use Beidleman’s photographs. The suit alleges that when Beidleman agreed to provide some of his photographs for the illustrated edition of “Into Thin Air, A Personal Account of the Mountain Everest Disaster,” he was told there would be 25,000 copies of the book. However, the illustrated edition, which was published in 1998 as a spin-off of Jon Krakauer’s renowned “Into Thin Air,” generated 85,642 copies, the suit says.”By failing to disclose its use of more than 25,000 copies of Beidleman’s photographs, Villard intended to use his photographs without paying additional compensation to [Beidleman],” says the lawsuit, which does not specify how much money in damages it is seeking. The suit says it wasn’t discovered until earlier this year that “Villard was using [Beidleman’s] photographs in unlicensed, unauthorized, and uncompensated printings” in the illustrated edition.”Villard’s deceptive business practices deprived [Beidleman] and many others their rightful compensation for the use of their creative work and unjustly enriched Villard with excessive profits in the process,” the suit says.An attorney for Villard declined to comment, saying the publisher doesn’t not comment on pending legal matters.In a related lawsuit filed June 11, Beidleman is suing textbook publisher Holt, Rinehart and Winston – or HRW – on claims of fraud and copyright infringement. That suit seeks an injunction as well.Also filed in Denver’s federal court, the suit alleges that HRW used two of Beidleman’s Mount Everest photos in its 2000 edition of “Elements of Literature, Fourth Course,” as well as its 2003 edition of “Holt Literature and Language Arts, Fourth Course.” Beidleman claims the contract called for no more than 40,000 editions of each textbook using his images. But earlier this year, as was the case in the “Into Thin Air” illustrated edition, it was discovered that HRW was printing more than the agreement with Beidleman allowed, the suit claims.Rick Carroll can be reached at


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