Thursday, March 10, 2011

On the Warpath: So What's It Worth to Ya?

One of the perils of being a photographer in the world of digital imagery and the internet is copyright infringement. Some people believe (or try to convince themselves) that if they can find an image on the internet, it must be in the public domain.
This thinking even bleeds into places where people are “in the industry” and should know better --- I received an email from one of my fellow APA members recently warning of a “rights grab” that was thinly veiled as a contest benefiting a charity. It was a rather nasty rights grab as well, with the sponsor stating “All entries become the exclusive property of … "Sponsor" and will not be acknowledged or returned.” I don’t think this company would respond well if someone proposed that they supply their services for free… So why are they trying to trick new talent into giving their efforts away?
I routinely surf the web, searching for my own images that have been used without my permission. I mean, come on… I know who my clients are and what we’ve discussed in terms of who can post what. I have had some clients who have purchased prints, then scanned those prints (very poorly) and have posted the bad scans. Not only is that stealing from me, that’s presenting my work in a poor light and can cost me other clients if they think the poor scans represent the quality (or lack thereof) of my work.

I even had one person argue with me about use of my images. I had shot an event for a non-profit, and even though I gave them permission to use the work for a specific purpose I still maintained my copyright. I chose to give them a discount, but I did get paid. This person called and asked to use an image from the event for a newsletter for a for-profit entity that had nothing to do with the original client. She got quite frustrated when I would not give her the image for free, saying “But you’ve already been paid for it.” Well, yes… but I had not been paid by the for-profit company.

I have been known to contact clients (or just general people who have no rights to my imagery) and inform them that they are in violation of my copyright. I think I inherited this from my very proper, somewhat petite paternal grandmother…. One day she came back into her office to find someone had wandered in off the street and was going through her desk to grab her purse. She chased him back out into the street. And she got her purse back. So if you plan on “grabbing” the work of me or any of my creative buddies, be forewarned: I will chase you back out into the street and get my work back.

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