Image Security for Free

I’m kicking myself a little because I saw an interesting article a while ago about camera security, what measures can be taken to help prevent theft, some of the security options available to buy and all that kind of thing, but of course I neglected to bookmark the article and now it’s lost in the sea of pages trying to sell security kit or CCTV.

That said, I didn’t find the article all that useful for myself. Ultimately if a thief wants your kit they’ll have it off you. If you’re walking through an unfamiliar backstreet of Palermo and get mugged, having your camera attached to your neck with a non-cuttable strap isn’t going to prevent you from being forced to release the gear. It might deter the grab-and-run thief, but only if they know your strap can’t be cut.  Personally I’d fear having someone grab my camera and start to run off with me permanently attached to it. I’d rather let it go than end up being throttled by my own strap.

Other options for security might involve tags, either overt ones which attach to camera cases, or covert trackable stickers which attach to cameras. These might help in certain situations, though tags on bags are a bit pointless unless your kit stays with the bags once it’s stolen. I’m not sure how likely that is.

Besides the obvious holes in the logic of some of these solutions, I don’t spend much time walking around places where mugging is a high probability. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but the larger risk for me is theft from the boot of my car while I’m having lunch at a motorway service station, so my own security measures are targeted at preventing that.

Firstly, I keep all my kit locked out of sight in the boot with no clues in the rest of the car about what I might be carrying. This fulfils my responsibility under my camera insurance policy, though of course a theft would still leave me without essential kit until I could purchase replacements. But ultimately kit is replaceable. Perhaps the biggest problem for me if someone lifted my cameras from my car would be if I suffered the theft just after I’d just shot a job. The thief would unknowingly be lifting all the day’s work as well as the tools.

So my routine if I need a comfort break on the way back from a job is to ensure I’ve removed all memory cards before I set off and put them in a pocket. Ideally I do this before leaving the site of the job so that I’m not opening the boot of my car in a service area car park, risking some nefarious character a view of the contents. This way if I am burgled, I might suffer the trauma and inconvenience of lost equipment while my client doesn’t have to suffer the inconvenience of lost images too.

A stack of 3 Compact Flash cards, another one is in a card reader.

Keeping cards safe until I can transfer images is critical

I would say the most valuable asset any photographer has is the images he or she takes. Equipment can be replaced, if it isn’t rare (none of my gear is rare), but the photos normally can’t be. I take good precautions over my cameras and lenses while I’m out and about, but a simple security measure which costs nothing helps protect the images a client is paying for.

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 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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