F/8 and be chic*

“PRIX is a photography lifestyle magazine for men. If you love to snap photos, chances are you’re into cars, naked women and guns.”

Ok, that’s not a real magazine, but here’s an introduction to a magazine which does exist. Or should that be ‘does sexist’? you decide. At the very least it strikes me as deeply patronizing, but here goes the intro from editor Jeanine Moutenot:

“PIX is a photography lifestyle magazine for women. If you love to snap photos, chances are you’re pretty creative and artsy about the rest of your world too. It’s important to you that your business is modern and cool, you’ve always got an eye out for hip clothing and accessories, and looking professional and shooting well are top priorities. If this sounds like you, PIX is here to help! In each issue you’ll find tips, ideas, products and trend reports for women in photography.” Shooting well? Whatever that means.

Fluffy and patronising? Am I the best judge?

The cover to the first edition features a photo of a young woman holding a camera awkwardly, Canon logo ham-fistedly edited out, cheap kit lens on, but at least her hair, nails and dress are pretty. That’s the main thing, right?

Never mind the intro and cover shot, we know there are some incredible photographers out there and many of them happen to be women who would give highly insightful interviews. So what does pix offer? “Photo gear designed for women,” “irresistible accessories,” and “smudge-proof makeup tips for long days behind the camera.”

Indeed, in the pages of PIX you’ll get advice on where to buy a striped skirt to go with your funky striped Lomo camera. Or perhaps you need some Summer pumps so your feet can stay “covered, comfortable and cute while you’re on photo shoots.” Cute?! The general tone of the magazine seems to be aimed at women more interested in cameras as accessories than tools of a trade.

There are maybe 12 pages of articles featuring working photographers buried within the 63 pages of puff, but references to their motivations, challenges, styles or paths to success are fleeting. Before you know it, you’re back to editorial featuring pretty things to buy.

Notably, an article on studio lighting isn’t about studio lighting at all, but about how to make lampshades from paper cupcake cases.

Maybe my being a man precludes me from passing judgement on a photography magazine aimed at women. Perhaps I’m missing the point and female photographers will relish the chance to read about flowery camera straps or an eyeliner that doesn’t smudge onto the viewfinder.

My gut feeling though is that PIX is incredibly patronizing, is aimed at aspiring photographers who are more interested in pretty things than the hard-nosed facts of photography and would have worked better if it had been aimed more at women simply by virtue of not featuring ads for glamour shoot workshops and men talking about the size of their kit.

PIX is really saying that if you’re a photographer and a woman, how you dress and the colour of your camera bag is at least as important as your ability and vision. In an industry with something of a male-dominated culture, is PIX redressing the balance or reinforcing stereotypes? I’d love to hear the views of photographers with fallopian tubes.

*The original quote “F/8 and be there” is attributed to New York photojournalist Arthur “Weegee” Fellig whenever he was asked how he got such striking images of news events during his career in the 1930s and 40s. Look him up, interesting guy. I don’t know if he ever worried about whether his camera matched his handbag.

Let’s play look-a-likey!

For some time now photographers have been waiting in hope for the application that would help them track use of their images. Something that, without prohibitive amounts of effort and financial investment would allow them to find illicit uses so they could chase infringers for payment and to have the work removed from websites where it’s not licensed to be used.

Of course photographers are keen to ensure they get paid for infringements, and this is the side of the copyright argument that is so often flagged up by those who would like to be allowed to infringe more freely (sometimes known as freetards). Having photographers portrayed as money-grabbing monopolists is a handy way of demonizing those who merely want to protect the work they create.

What gets mentioned less is the harm it does to a photographer when work they have shot and charged to a commissioning client gets hijacked by someone who is just not in the mood for paying for the stuff they use. If an image is licensed to a paying client, and they see someone else using it for free, it can harm the photographer/client relationship and also cause problems with exclusivity, model releases and further legal issues where a stolen image is being used in a libelous context.

All these are issues faced by the photographer today, and it can take a lot of valuable time just to ensure images are not being appropriated by inappropriate people and used in inappropriate ways (that’s easy for me to say).

So while the tineye service has been around a while, and it can be very good at “reverse image searches” it’s also clear it can’t possibly keep up with indexing every image that gets uploaded to a website every minute of the day. Better perhaps if a service like Google, which seems to have web crawling and indexing off to a fine art, could come up with something more powerful.

Cue Google image search, where you chuck an image from your hard drive into the search box on Google which then returns matches of that image, plus any similar images it finds.

However, if photographers thought Google had the answer, they may be disappointed to discover that Google’s image search function was starting out with a different question.

I’ve been playing with Google’s image search function, and to me it’s more suited to finding images which represent the feel or look of an image you already have, but which might not quite match what you’re after, rather than a tool for photographers to use to find infringing copies of their images.

Having run a few of my images through the system, I found some bizarre and vaguely humourous results, which I’ve set out below. Try it with some of your own images, and see what happens. I’m sure there’s a great game waiting to be invented.

Tim Gander, Photographer, Frome

Starting with Yours Truly: None of these women looks like me, but one appears to be holding a camera.

 

 

Tony Benn

Seriously?!: Tony Benn is, among other things, matched with Einstein, a tapir and an X-ray of a pelvis. Squint and some of them do look similar.

Thistle hurt!

Isn’t Facebook wonderful? One minute you’re merrily promoting your fashion/corporate hospitality/events/recruitment/Nigerian food business, building up follows and likes, the next it looks like Jack Nicholson a-la “Here’s Johnny!” has been at your page with an axe.

Exactly this scenario befell Eagle & Thistle, who apparently run a fashion/corporate hospitality/events/recruitment/Nigerian food business (clearly wishing not to be pigeonholed into one sector).

All was going well until they sent a letter out to some (a?) photographer asking if they would be interested in working for free. What an opportunity! Of course the opportunity was too good to miss. The opportunity, that is, to expose Eagle & Thistle as gouging scroungers who thought photographers would love to work for a commercial business for nothing.

Here’s the letter they apparently sent:

“I am contacting you regarding two small shoots that we have coming up at Eagle and Thistle for images we require for our up and coming website. (Please see our facebook page for more info on the company http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eagle-Thistle-Group/201311073242812).

We need four images to represent each area of the company; Fashion, Food, The Eye and Recruitment.

We are hoping to do one of the shoots on Monday the 4th July in a studio for three images; one for fashion, one for food and one for the eye.

The second is for the recruitment section which will be held in an office/meeting room. If you are happy with moving location on the same day we can do that or if not Tuesday or Wednesday would be great. 

We would also like retouching done within two-three days if that would be suitable for you. 

Unfortunately this job would be unpaid but it would provide great experience and images for your portfolio to work with a huge up and coming company. 

More details of the shoot such as moodboards and briefs will be available should be you interested in working with us. 

Thanks so much for your time and if you are available please get back to me” 

Before you could say “let’s do some really bad PR today” photographers had exchanged the tempting offer across a number of social networking sites, and the Likes and comments on E&T’s Facebook page went into overdrive.

Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t as a result of photographers stumbling over each other to get the unpaid commission. The red mist had descended and E&T’s PR went a bit spoggley. Not only were they getting vitriolic comments from angry photographers (yours truly included), but they didn’t realise what was going wrong for several hours. According to a E&T statement, they were made aware of the situation on their FB page via a phone call. Since Facebook is currently their only real marketing tool at the moment, you’d think they would have been monitoring it a little more closely.

Once they spotted the mess they were in they were quick to apologise, closely followed by disengaging from all their Likers and deleting comments that didn’t quite fit the E&T image. Then removing the apology, because with all the comments gone it no longer made sense. Nice way to do PR.

As for the shoot which should have happened today, presumably the results will soon appear on this holding page, replacing the photos which E&T are already using, for which you might hope they’ve paid or got permission.

In the meantime, enjoy the embedded video, which I think really sets the quality benchmark for this “huge up and coming company” who apparently are helping fashion label Bunmi Koko (no sniggering) with forthcoming events. Good luck, BK, but keep an eye on your Facebook page…

As a bonus treat for you all, I’m including some of the choicest comments from the Facebook page as well as the apology, because I know E&T would be mortified to think they’d permanently deleted them all. Just click to view:

IMPORTANT UDATE:

Following the publication of the above blog article, I was contacted by Anthony, general manager for Eagle & Thistle to discuss the background of the original request for free images, and the resulting backlash through Facebook and other forums.

Having spoken to Anthony it seems clear that the original request was made more as a result of inexperience than out of malice, and I’ve explained to Anthony why so many photographers (myself included) were so angered by yet another request for free imagery.

According to Anthony, some comments made directly to him were extremely aggressive and included racist comments and death threats. I would like to assure Anthony that such comments would not be condoned by myself nor by the vast majority of professional photographers, in fact I hope not by anyone, photographer or not. Race isn’t what this blog article is about and racism has no place in our industry.

I have advised Anthony that if such threats have been made that these should be notified to the police. If anyone attempts to make threats via the comments section of this blog they will be blocked.

Furthermore, Anthony would like to make the following statement on behalf of Eagle & Thistle:

“Eagle & Thistle is a startup business finding its feet and learning as we go.

Last week we sent an email to a photographer asking if he would be able to undertake a photo shoot for our website, but with no resources at our disposal we couldn’t offer payment. And though the content of the email wasn’t meant for wider consumption, it never-the-less became public and resulted in a backlash against us.

We realise now that this request was naive and ill-considered, that photographers also have to make a living, and that quality photography is what helps businesses to establish and grow their reputations.

In light of this we wish to make it clear that from now on we will endeavor to work ethically with all our suppliers, in the same way we hope our clients would work with us.

We apologise for having thought that photographers should offer services for free, and hope that in future we can build good working relationships with all our suppliers, including creative professionals.”

It’s a free world, but don’t give it away.

The internet is a marvelous thing, but it does seem to make some people take leave of their senses.

A report by an Amsterdam-based organisation called Ultrascan Advanced Global Investigations published statistics in January 2010 which claim to show that victims of the “419 Advanced Fee Fraud” paid out something over 9 billion US Dollars (globally, I assume) in 2009 alone. 419 AFF is the name given to those frauds using emails to trick people into handing over their bank details. As an example, I grabbed this one at random from my email trash (edited because she does bang on a bit):

“Dear,

My name is Miss Adilah Elya Adira, I am an only child of my parents, 26 years old, I am a citizen of Malaysia; a computer analyst with Bank Negara Malaysia. (Central Bank of Malaysia) I just started working with this Bank. I came across your payment file and took my time to study it and discovered that15, 5000,000.00 was forwarded to this bank with immediate payment Signal and authentic approval many months ago from an affiliate/mother Bank in Africa as part payment of your inheritance fund….

The only thing I will need to release this fund is a special Hard Disk, we call it HD120 GIG. I will buy two of it, recopy your information, and destroy the previous one, and punch the computer to reflect into your Bank account within 24 banking hours. I will clean up the tracer and destroy your file. As soon as this deal is completed, I will run away from here to meet with you in your country if you are interested. But you must assure me the absolute confidentiality of this deal before I can do anything further.”

Oops! I broke confidentiality. Oh well, sorry Adilah, best try someone else.

Now of course if people fall for this kind of fraud, that’s pretty serious, but are people really so gullible that they give their valuable information away? I fear so.

Now although it’s clearly less serious, and it’s not fraudulent, I believe there is a subtler exchange going on regularly which prizes valuable assets away from the unsuspecting internet user.

Just last week I was reading a discussion on Linked In, posted on a photographers’ forum, which started when the publisher of an on-line photography magazine requested images from photographers who might be interested in submitting their work to be showcased around the world (that’ll be The Internet then).

The pretense is that photographers submitting their work will gain a global audience, wider recognition and perhaps some business through having their pictures published online by the magazine. For free.

Now I know no one is having their arm twisted to give away their work, just as no one is having their arm twisted by the charming Adilah to give away their bank details. And I’m willing to accept that the magazine is a great deal more genuine than the flimflam story of funds being transferred via hard drive to my bank account, but I think if people are going to give their photography away for nothing, they need to think long and hard before doing so.

The internet is a MAHOOSIVE! entity, and like the universe it is constantly expanding. By giving your images away to an on-line publication (which in this case, from my investigations, takes both advertising and subscription revenue), you are devaluing your work, and highly unlikely ever to get the recognition you would like or the leads to future business you might hope for.

I’m not going to name and shame the magazine; we’ll call this a self-imposed injunction, but as an example of how far letting your work go cheap or free gets you, let’s use the case of Robert Lam, who sold his Time magazine cover shot for (reputedly) $30.

This was back in 2009 so I assumed that by now, having got “exposure” in Time magazine, he’d have a swanky website and maybe a Beverly Hills studio. Googling his name though only seems to bring up sites reporting his naivety. Getting the Time cover doesn’t seem to have progressed his career one inch. Even his Model Mayem profile, where he first announced his great Time cover achievement, appears to have closed.

Perhaps Robert became unbelievably wealthy, but then lost it all when he responded to an email from a Malaysian banker called Adilah.

I stand to be corrected, so Robert, if you see this, let us know how getting the cover of Time and $30 changed your life.

black man smoking

Never published (from a personal project): It isn't just about the money, it's about self respect.

Sense and Licensibility?

First of all, let me apologise for the tardy arrival of this article. A busy week and writer’s block almost had me not writing anything at all, but I couldn’t let you get off that easily!

What finally shifted my block was a discussion on a Linked In photographers’ group forum about how professional photographers can work to reduce the negative effect of un-trained, low-skilled photographers on the industry, and the thread quickly moved onto whether or not photographers should be licensed to practice. It also descended into something of a flame-fest between some professionals and amateurs (neither side coming off looking pretty), but maybe that’s another blog article.

My personal feeling is that no, there shouldn’t be a licensing system and this article will set out why I believe that. However I do believe there should be minimum standards that clients should seek out before engaging the services of a photographer.

I probably don’t need to re-tread the well-trodden arguments about how the rise in standards of photography amongst amateurs has made the industry tougher than perhaps it ever has been in the last 40 years, though amateurs were being complained about in a book I have which dates from 1944 so it’s not a new argument.

Much of the anguish of professionals centres around what I call “epiphany” photographers. You know the ones who have quite decent jobs, but buy a digital camera at Jessops and decided what they’d really like to be is a photographer. So they either keep their day jobs and moonlight at rates to undercut professionals (and devalue their images in the process), or they leave their day jobs, commercial reality hits them hard and they undercut everyone else just to get work, with no eye on their long-term business prospects.

In these scenarios, some kind of licensing system might seem like a brilliant plan, but I just don’t see it working. What kind of regulator could tell the good photographer from the bad? When I started out I know I took some pretty bad photos, but I worked hard and trained and developed. Should a regulator have ended my career then? The picture editor I was working for at the time could have, but he obviously thought I was worth persevering with.

And at what point in the starting out process would a photographer apply for a licence? What would the conditions of a licence be? And how could a licensing system cover the diversity of disciplines from weddings to editorial through industrial, commercial, corporate…

Far simpler, I think, is if picture buyers, be they wedding couples, families, publishers or commercial businesses or agencies, make sure they check out who they are looking to book very thoroughly before they put down a deposit or commit to a shoot.

man in suit being photographed in office

Never mind that the photographer is invisible, has he got public liability insurance?

This is my list of essentials, though it can vary from sector to sector and may not be exhaustive:

  • Check out the photographer’s website. Compare it with others at varying price points to get an idea of the level of quality you’re likely to get.
  • Do some digging to make sure the website isn’t just work lifted from other photographers. Not always easy to spot, but one tell-tale sign is when the photographic style and quality varies wildly from one picture to the next.

Talk to the photographer and ask:

  • How long have they been in full-time business?
  • Do they have qualifications or training under another photographer? Either is valid in my book. Self-taught is generally not acceptable.
  • Do they have public liability insurance?
  • Do they have professional indemnity insurance?
  • What are their terms and conditions?
  • What is the licence agreement covering the use of the images?

There could be much to add to this, but perhaps the most important thing is to talk to photographers. See who you’re comfortable with and at the talking stage you should start to get an idea of the level of professional service to expect from any given supplier.

Licensing might sound like a good idea, but it can’t account for creativity, approach, style, or personality. I’m sure there are plenty of views from photographers and buyers of photography, and I’d love to hear what you think.

Reviewing the Review (so far)

Last Friday was the deadline for submissions to the “Independent Review of IP and Growth” (stay awake now) which is looking into intellectual property and copyright in the UK and how it should adapt to this digital age.

The review is headed by Professor Ian Hargreaves, who according to his blog has spent most of his working life involved in the creative industries. Well, newspapers to be precise which I would say USES creative input, but doesn’t strictly count (in my humble opinion) as a creative industry.

Much (ok, all) of the IPO review panel, was made up of corporate suits whose main interest in copyright lies in arm-twisting it from the hands of individual creators, but I don’t want this article to descend into political rantings so I’ll pause there and instead ask the question, “so what happens now?”

Not being an expert in constitutional affairs I can only be a little vague about this, and indeed Professor Hargreaves doesn’t really know either so I won’t be too hard on myself about that.

In a nutshell, the evidence is in, the review team will start to review submissions and evidence, and then report to Government in a few months’ time who will probably um and ah for a while before drafting legislation that will (probably) be deeply flawed and skewed in favour of some future Google-style startup.

So what evidence will the panel and the Prof be considering? Well I have to say, I’m a little surprised that by Friday morning there were only 180 submissions of evidence, including mine. I sincerely hope there was a late and massive surge as the day drew to a close, because that 180 will have come from all quarters – individual film makers, musicians, writers, artists, the trade bodies representing those industries as well as consumers, inventors, entrepreneurs and the publishers, broadcasters and aggregators who deliver creative content. Suffice to say a lot of submissions from many quarters and interest groups, both in favour of and against the strengthening and or weakening of copyright.

epuk logo

EPUK submitted on behalf of its 1,000 members.

However, as with previous reviews and proposals, I fear the voice of photographers will have been drowned out by those who view copyright as an impediment to theft. Perhaps drowned out is the wrong phrase to use if, as I suspect, the number of submissions from UK photographers is pitifully low.

There are thousands of photographers in this country. Think of all the wedding and portrait photographers there must be out there. The editorial, commercial, corporate, advertising, industrial, architectural photographers. You could pave a four lane motorway from here to Moscow in both directions with the skin off the backs of all the photographers in the UK (I didn’t say it would be a good motorway), but where are they when they need to defend their own business assets?

It’ll be the photographer’s enemy and constant companion apathy again. That, and the fact that many of us are heartily fed up with fighting the constant threats to our working lives, while simultaneously trying to get on with our working lives. My suspicion is that if this review and subsequent legislation don’t give the Big Boys what they want (unfettered access to anything you or I create), we’ll end up right back where we started, with another review and another call for evidence.

stop 43 logo

Stop43 submitted on behalf of photographers more generally.

Mr Hargreaves, don’t get too disheartened; Mr Gowers went before you and I suspect someone else will have to conduct another review in another five or six years. Assuming of course there’s anything left of copyright to review by then.

Don’t be submissive, submit now!

The sharp-eyed amongst you may have noticed the tardy arrival of this article. It’s all my fault. I’ve been busy working on new projects, assignments and whotnot, plus last week was half term which made for all kinds of interesting time conflicts.

But as if there wasn’t enough to be a-getting on with, the deadline for the Hargreaves intellectual property review has been looming fast, and this Friday (March 4th 2011) is the last date for submissions. I’ve been working on my submission, and I can’t stress this enough; other photographers have GOT to get their submissions in too, or forever hold your manhoods (and copyright) cheap. Do not complain later that you never got a say in how your work is exploited commercially by anyone who happens to steal it.

And businesses that commission original, exclusive photography for their websites, brochures, annual reports and the like should also consider dropping Mr Hargreaves a line, because if the worst case scenario comes to pass, it will no longer be possible to hold exclusive rights to images (whether taken by a professional or in-house) once they’re posted online, and photographers like myself may have even less say in how the work we do for you is used by others. Frankly, the current safeguards against image theft on the internet are pretty meaningless, and this is one area where the law needs to be strengthened.

Another area is that of attribution. Every photo a professional photographer takes should (if they know what they’re doing) have data embedded which gives the copyright status of the image and contact details of the photographer. It’s called metadata, and it’s imperative that any future law makes it clear that that metadata must be preserved as an image is uploaded to, moved around and/or downloaded from the internet or moved (or copied) from one medium to another to prevent the creation of so-called orphan works.

My submission is shaping up to be an explanation of the problems photographers currently face; a lack of understanding of the value of copyright, publishers and news organisations using pictures from the internet as if it were a vast, free stock photo library for them to use as they wish, and the lack of any real sanctions for photographers who find their work being misappropriated. I explain that many of the exclusive deals I have with my clients will be rendered useless unless unscrupulous businesses and publishers are forced to accept that they have to pay for their own content just like everyone else.

It’s a short article this week, because I’ve still some work to do on my submission while also trying to get work done, so I’ll leave you with the tools you’ll need to get your own submissions written and in before the deadline. Why are you still here? GO!GO!GO! and write your submission now…

Hargreaves Call for Evidence.

How to submit responses.

Cover sheet (must accompany your response!)

Meet Mr Hargreaves.

Stop43 has a tonne of information for you.

No photo this week. I didn’t want it nicked…

 

 

Sorry, you can’t shoot here, here, or here…

A moment of reminiscence: About a year before I finally broke into photojournalism, I applied for a photography course at Bournemouth College of Art and Design and during the interview I was asked: “What would you do if photography was banned tomorrow?” I was caught off-guard, and hadn’t really made any plans for the following day. I’d assumed I was going back to work in the camera shop, but if photography was to be banned there didn’t seem much future in that. Caught off-guard I mumbled something about being keen on the music industry, and so lost the chance to get a place on the course.

Had the lecturers with their sneaky interview questions really known how desperate I was to become a photographer, they would have offered me a place on the spot – but with hindsight, I wasn’t ready to do the course and my fluffed answer proved it.

The question that scuppered my early career might seem like a daft one, but in more areas of life, and in more areas of the country, it’s becoming difficult to just go and take pictures.

Despite the popularity of sites like Facebook, people are often more guarded about having their photo taken than perhaps they were just a couple of decades ago, and sometimes understandably so, but it’s starting to look as if a back-door privacy law may be in development in our courts (mostly geared, it has to be said, to protecting the privacy of the rich and influential). This is an area I know I’ll have to revisit in more depth at a later date.

Meanwhile, many areas of town and city centres are now privately owned, with over-zealous security guards ready to pounce on anyone who looks like they might be taking photos. Canary Wharf in London is quite notorious for photographers being stopped by security bods and police on the lookout for potential terrorist scouts, though quite why a terrorist would go around with a bulky DSLR and lens is anyone’s guess. People with camera phones seem not to get stopped in quite such numbers.

Taking photos in public parks and gardens isn’t without risk of intervention either. When I needed to take a portrait of an elderly gentleman sitting outside on a park bench (which, excluding myself, elderly gentleman and park keeper, was empty) I was approached by the friendly-looking parkie who wanted to know why I was taking pictures, saying “I can’t be too careful, you might be one of them peadophiles.” I didn’t punch him as that might have been misconstrued  as a terrorist attack.

Thankfully it seems the poor record of photographers turning out to be members of terrorist cells (and the banning of the use of S44 powers) has meant the police have reduced the number of stops being made under anti-terror laws, and the insane fear of anyone with a camera being a “peterfile” appears to have subsided a little. For now.

english woodland mushrooms

There's not "mushroom" for photographers these days.

But while parks, shopping centres and internationally vital financial districts might need the cautious approach, what now of the proposed sale of over 900,000 acres Forestry Commission land? It could mean that taking pictures in the countryside will become more restricted. Of course it’s harder to police such areas, and if a landowner doesn’t want you to take photos on their land they can only ask you to leave and use reasonable force to remove you. You’re unlikely to get arrested, unless you do something really stupid, but it’s another possible hassle.

You might be wondering why I’m even mentioning this, but if landowners start to restrict public access to their woodland, and maybe start to get heavy-handed about it, they may not be able to do much in a legal sense, but it could be yet another area where photography becomes restricted.

Could we see a time where property and privacy law come together to mean we can only take photos from public footpaths of scenes with no people in? Maybe I should have taken that college question more seriously after all.

 

Update: If you would like to sign a petition against the UK Governments’ proposed sell-off of publicly-owned forest land, head over to the 38 Degrees website and add your voice.

Barmy Boycott

If you’re on Twitter, you’ll know what I mean when I say that some new follows can be a little odd and surprising. Take my recently acquired new follower @BoycottGetty as an example.

At first glance I was hopeful that this was a new movement formed from designers disillusioned with the banality of stock imagery; a return to the values of using real images of real people for truly interesting design. URR! URR! WRONG!

It turns out @BoycottGetty is an anonymous twitterer with an equally opaque identity at an online petition hosting site (see Boycott Getty Images!) with a mission to get Getty Images to change their approach to dealing with people who, wittingly or otherwise, use Getty-managed photos without paying for them. Quite why they’d want to follow me, I can’t work out.

Boycott Getty Images (BGI) don’t like the current tactics used by Getty to chase copyright infringers because they feel they’re too belligerent. This may be so, and I’m no fan of Getty or its micro-payment subsidiary iStockphoto (anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know I don’t much like stock photography in general), but the alternative solutions suggested by BGI make no sense, unless one assumes that the person or people behind BGI have been caught using unlicensed Getty images and are a tad hacked off at being asked to pay up.

Let’s look at a summary of what BGI are demanding, then you’ll see what a nonsense his/her/their campaign is. From BGI’s petition website:

“This petition demands that Getty Images immediately cease its highly unethical extortion practice before another innocent US citizen is intentionally harmed, and announce the implementation of new copyright protection technologies & business practices that are consumer friendly, protect their photographers copyrights and benefit the general public at large.”

The petition sets out these points more fully on the site, but this is a pretty good precis of the thrust of their arguments, so let’s unpick what they’re saying here.

For one thing, I suspect the author of this petition decided to remain anonymous due to the  “legally dancing on thin ice” nature of the opening sentence. Using phrases like “unethical extortion” and “intentionally harmed” strikes me as dangerous, considering how readily Getty likes to threaten legal action, but perhaps they’ll let this go as the angry ramblings of an irrelevant campaigner with an axe to grind.

The author mentions the “implementation of new copyright protection technologies,” but as of the writing of this blog article no such technologies exist, and even in the paragraph dedicated to this point the author doesn’t seem to know what these technologies might be. Furthermore any technologies that do exist are useless once a paying client has bought, unlocked and published a photo on their website. From thenceforth the photo is subject to the same copy and paste problems as any other image on the internet. Getty would still have to search out and demand redress for images used without payment.

BGI demands that Getty adopt business practices which are consumer friendly. Does that mean like making millions of photos available at penny prices for anyone who wants to legally buy them? Or are they seriously suggesting Getty should stop demanding payments from people who steal their assets?

And here’s a contradiction; BGI wants Getty to “protect their photographers copyrights.” They say they don’t know if the compensation moneys collected by Getty from infringers is shared with the photographers, but firstly I suspect it is and secondly it’s not any of BGI’s business. That’s between Getty and its contributors. What they actually call for is wider use of Take Down notices, which would mean photographers get nothing for the infringing use of their photos, except the hassle of having to deal with infringements. No protection there then.

This final point is quite strange: “benefit the general public at large.” Ignoring the tautology in that sentence, is Getty Images some kind of humanitarian organisation now? What other corporate giants should we demand general public (at large) benefits from? Microsoft? Walmart? The Zimbabwean government under Robert Mugabe? Dream on, Sunshine.

Although the Boycott Getty Images name seems misleading in that it doesn’t directly boycott the buying of Getty images (just their issuing of legal letters), the site is linked to www.zyra.info which is campaigning for people to avoid using Getty-licensed images altogether. I’d applaud this concept except that the alternative ideas put forward on that site are nuttier than squirrel shit.

So to @BoycottGetty, I say sorry, but I won’t be following you back. Your ideas make as much sense as a pocketful of baked beans, and this weakens your case considerably. You’re welcome to follow me though. You might learn something useful.

 

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The only foolproof way to protect images online. Ain't it pretty?

The Fat Lady has sung…

YES to victory over DEB

Professional and amateur photographers can celebrate this morning!

And what a sweet song of victory it was. Thanks to Editorial Photographers UK (EPUK), stop43 and thousands of individual photographers, clause 43 of the Digital Economy Bill was dropped (proof here if you scroll down to Enforcement Obligations) last night, and the bill was passed without it.

I wish I could add my thanks for the support of organisations like the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies (BAPLA) and the Royal Photographic Society (RPS), but instead they chose to opt for having their tummies tickled by Government perhaps (though presumably not in the case of the RPS) with a view to becoming licensors of orphan works themselves once the bill was passed. Instead they’ve left themselves damaged for having tried to sell copyright for a fistful of beans.

But let’s not be too proud in victory. All these organisations took views which they thought were correct. They operate in an unfamiliar environment now, and we will need to work with them over future legislation which will surely be tabled by the next Government. Copyright laws do need reform, photographers want it, and individuals and “representative” organisations will need to work alongside each other to achieve a fair balance between creator and consumer. All we ask is that our work, and the work of countless creative amateurs, isn’t stolen from us and sold to all takers, and that we have a statutory right to be identified as the authors of our work. There are other issues which need to be sorted out, but all in good time.

Perhaps the next important battle is the proposed changes to the Data Protection Act, which will see much photojournalism and street photography outlawed or rendered impossible. One thing at a time, though eh?