One Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words 

For those not familiar with the Gulf Breeze, Florida (USA) UFO story or one of its most controversial characters, Edward (Hanson) Walters, I will present a brief history. A complete account can be found in The Gulf Breeze Sightings: The Most Astounding Multiple Sightings of UFOs in U.S. History. Ed Walters and Frances Walters. Morrow Publishing, 1990.

According to Walters, on November 11, 1987, he was at his home in Gulf Breeze, when he looked out of a window and saw a grayish blue craft hovering just beyond a pine tree in his front yard. He grabbed his Polaroid Colorpak camera and proceeded to take five photographs of the mysterious object. After showing the photos to his wife, Frances, they decided to turn them over to friend and editor of the Gulf Breeze Sentinel Newspaper, Duane Cook.

Six days later, on November 17, Ed Walters presented Duane Cook with the five photographs. The first and fifth of this series, along with a letter from the photographer, "Mr. X.", were reproduced in the Sentinel on November 19. Ed Walters claimed he continued to photograph the object(s) until May 1, 1988. It is impossible to know exactly how many photographs Walters actually took. Thirty eight of Walters' photos are used in the book, along with two from allegedly undisclosed sources. This paper will focus on the two other photographs and issues involving them.

The first photographs seemingly corroborating Walters' photos were submitted to the Sentinel newspaper on December 3, 1987, accompanied by a letter by an anonymous person, later to be called, "Jane" by Walters.  A second batch of nine photographs was submitted to the Sentinel on December 23, 1987 by a person using the pseudonym of "Believer Bill". One of the nine photos, along with a letter from Bill, was printed in the Sentinel on December 24; these are photos 39 and 40 in the book. What do they have to do with Ed Walters other than they prove his story? Well, actually they dispute his story.

During the first week of January 1988 a friend of the Walters' family, Tommy Smith, came forward and stated that he had been involved in Walters' UFO "prank". Smith said that Walters had originally asked him to claim to be the photographer of hoaxed photos and to deliver them to the Sentinel but he refused. Among Smith's other assertions was a claim that the "Believer Bill" and "Jane" photos printed in the Sentinel were actually taken by Walters in cooperation with another friend.

The Gulf Breeze Sightings was published in 1990 and included the following copyright notice and acknowledgment:

"Copyright: 1990 by Ed Walters and Frances Walters. Clippings on the page following page 256 reprinted with permission of Pensacola News Journal."

Why weren't "Believer Bill" and "Jane" acknowledged as the Pensacola News Journal had been? How could Walters use the "Believer Bill" and "Jane" photos without the permission of the photographers? I wrote to the publisher, William Morrow, and asked them who owned the copyright to the "Believer Bill" and "Jane" photos. They said Ed Walters.

In order to understand the significance of that admission, it is necessary to learn a little bit about Title 17 of the United States Code - Copyright Act of 1976. The most important thing to remember is that copyright belongs to the original author, in this case the photographer (1), until the copyright expires or is transferred to another party through a legal a document called a "transfer agreement" (2). It does not matter if the author is anonymous, or uses a pseudonym, nor does the work need to be registered at the Library of Congress for the copyright to be in effect. However, registration is a safeguard against infringement. Thus, whoever Bill and Jane are they own the copyright to the photos and letters submitted to the Sentinel and Walters need to get their permission to use them...if they existed.

Duane Cook used the photos in the newspaper (allegedly) with the permission of Bill and Jane. How can that be if they don't exist? Because Copyright law states that when the photos and letters were sent to the Sentinel for publication they (Bill and Jane) gave Cook a nonexclusive license to publish the materials. This means that the copyright owner allows the work to be used in a specific way, with permission, without relinquishing any of their own exclusive rights, or copyright. This allowed Cook to use the materials in the Sentinel or any derivative work in the same series (3). But it did not give permission to anyone else to use the letters and photos, namely Walters. When Cook published the Bill and Jane materials, he actually secured their copyright as part of a collective work, the newspaper. That material is now attributed to two people, Bill and Jane. (4). Even though Cook had possession of the material objects, the photos and letters, he did not own them, nor did he have the authority to turn them over to a third party (Ed Walters) for publication (5).

There are only two ways that Walters could legally own the copyright. He could have a transfer agreement (6) from Bill and Jane or he could be the photographer. I obtained a copy of his Registration from the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. USA. Walters copyright registration for the photographs used in The Gulf Breeze Sightings is VAU-164-606, this is public record. It is a two page document, but we will only be concerned with questions 1,2 and 4; the remainder being irrelevant to this discussion. The following is taken from the registration form.

1) Title of this work: Gulf Breeze Sightings   Nature of this work: Photographs
2) Name of author: Edward Daniel Walters
3) Nature of authorship: Photos taken by Edward Daniel Walters
4) Copyright claimant(s): Edward Walters / P.O.B 715 / Gulf Breeze, Fl.
Transfer: N/A

The copyright form gives the following instructions for item four: "If the claimant(s) named here in space 4 are different from the author(s) named in space 2, give a brief statement of how the claimant(s) obtained ownership of the copyright".

In questions 2, 3 and 4 Ed Walters states the he is the author of the work - the photographs - and he claims the copyright ownership; there is not a transfer agreement. This can not be misinterpreted. He claims to be the photographer of all photographs used in the Gulf Breeze Sightings which does include the "Believer Bill" and "Jane" photos.

I decided to write to Walters and ask him about this. I began a brief correspondence with him in February of 1997. I wrote four letters, received three replies. In the second reply March 3, 1997, Walters does not specifically say he owns the Bill and Jane photos but that the photos I requested are copyrighted.

He says:  "You are on notice.  I will take appropriate action to protect  my copyrights. The photos you requested are protected by a Reg. Copyright." Signed: Ed Walters  "PS: I have no idea who you are and I assume nothing about you.  I receive many requests for the use of my copyright material."

At this point he still had not conclusively admitted to owning the Bill and Jane photos. I pressed him in letter three, March 8, 1997.  He replied:   "Ownership was given me by Cook. The reg. copyrights are recorded w / Lib. of Cong. You are still on NOTICE. Signed, Ed Walters. P.S. next day. My copyright attor. assures me I have ownership. (Also copyrighted with Morrow Publishing. I will not address this further.) SEE YOU IN COURT.”

I finally got what I wanted. He mentions getting ownership from Cook which would specifically apply to the  Bill and Jane photos since he would not have to ask Cook for permission to use his own photos. There can be no squirming out of this admission.  I think he was too greedy and egotistical to realize that he just admitted to committing fraud.

Walters' ownership is confirmed. Walters states he owns the copyright to the "Believer Bill" and "Jane" photos and his attorney backs that up. Morrow says he owns the copyright, his attorney says he owns the copyright, and he says he owns the copyright then I think it is clear that Ed Walters owns the copyright. Unfortunately for Walters this admission gives credibility to Tommy Smith's claims that Walters took the Bill and Jane photos. With this in mind, all of Tommy Smith's claims should be looked at as true. 

From the copyright evidence it is apparent that Ed Walters created "Believer Bill" and "Jane". He took the photographs, used two different types of cameras, a "Hot Shot" for Bill and a 35 mm for Jane. This demonstrates his ability to use cameras other than the Colorpak and to produce multiple exposures. In addition to the photographs and letters, he fabricated a telephone call from the nonexistent Jane; including a transcript of the make believe conversation as a chapter in his book. It is obvious that Ed (and his wife, Frances) Walters were both very capable of creating an elaborate hoax and sustained deception.


Title 17 - United States Code - Copyright Act of 1976.

1) Chapter 2 - Copyright Ownership and Transfer. Section 201 (a). Initial Ownership. Copyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work.

2) Chapter 1 - 101 - Definitions. Transfer agreement. A transfer of copyright ownership" is an assignment, mortgage, exclusive license, or any other conveyance, alienation, or hypothecation of a copyright or any of the exclusive rights comprised in a copyright, whether or not it is limited in time or place of effect, but not including a nonexclusive license.

3) Chapter 2 - Section 201(c). Contributions to Collective Works. Copyright in each separate contribution to a collective work is distinct from copyright in the collective work as a whole, and vests initially in the author of the contribution. In the absence of an express transfer of the copyright or any rights under it, the owner of copyright in the collective work is presumed to have acquired only the privilege of reproducing and distributing the contribution as part of that particular collective work, any revision of that collective work, and any later collective work in the same series.

4) Chapter 4 - Section 404 (a). Notice of Copyright: Contribution to Collective Works. A separate contribution to a collective work may bear its own notice of copyright, as provided by sections 401 through 403. However, a single notice applicable to the collective work as a whole is sufficient to satisfy the requirements of section 401 through 403 with respect to the separate contributions it includes... regardless of the of the ownership of copyright in the contributions and whether or not they have been previously published. (Sections 401-403 say that any work protected under this act should display copyright notice where it can be easily seen or perceived.)

5) Chapter 2 - Section 202. Ownership of Material Object as Distinct from Ownership of Material Object. Ownership of a copyright, or any of the exclusive rights under a copyright, is distinct from ownership of any material object in which the work is embodied. Transfer of ownership of any material object, including the copy of phonorecord in which the work is first fixed, does not in itself convey any rights in the copyrighted work embodied in the object; nor, in the absence of an agreement, does transfer of ownership of a copyright or any of the exclusive rights under a copyright convey rights in any material object.

6) Chapter 2 - Section 204 (a). Execution of Transfers of Copyright Ownership. A transfer of copyright ownership, other than by operation of law, is not valid unless an instrument of conveyance, or note or memorandum of the transfer, is in writing and signed by the owner of the rights conveyed or such owner's duly authorized agent.

Copyright information can be found on the web at the Library of Congress website.


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