My Turn: DPP’s Article on FREE Images Examined

I am a voracious reader. I love it. I read all sorts of stuff, and love to learn something new. I also suffer fools badly, so if someone thinks they are gonna say stuff and I will just take it, well… sometimes they get an earful. It is something that makes me who I am. Sometimes I worry that I may piss this group off or that group won’t like me because of something I say. And that may be costly to my business. But it also is costly to me to be quiet when I see/hear/read something that is blatantly false and misleading.

Happens a lot these days. And I choose my battles carefully. The article that I am going to dissect is one that ran recently on Digital Photo Pro entitled: “Misinformation: Copyright Tech”.

Misinformation? Well, the irony is not lost on that at all. Not for me. The article is so full of misinformation, terrible ideas and downright silliness, that I feel a “fisking” is in order. Leslie Burns at Burns Auto Parts has a neat little post about this, and there is a lot more on her site here. And be sure to read her take on CC in a several posts – starting with this one.

As this is a rant, let’s get right to it, shall we?

“There’s no stopping the Internet. Just as independent musicians and the record industry have had to learn to work with unfettered downloading of songs, photographers have to consider the fact that there are a lot of fans out there who want stuff for free, despite what the photographer has invested financially, fiscally and even emotionally.”

Well, where do we begin. No stopping the internet. Got it. What that has to do with stopping people’s actions and the interaction between consumers and creators is lost on me, but the author seems delighted with that statement, so we will let it lie there… ‘cept of course for this.

And in what world have artists learned to “work with unfettered downloading of songs”? What? DRM is over? Is Apple aware of that? Maybe I wont have to get yet another update to my iTunes. Has Garth brooks relented and let people download all his stuff free now? Really? Record companies packing up their desks, covering the furniture and heading home for some more “time with the family?” I think not.

Come visit wth me and learn a bit of creative lighting

“…photographers have to consider the fact that there are a lot of fans out there who want stuff for free…” – uh, OK. I want a Ferrari. Now. I want my mortgage paid. Now. I want some of those little sandwich things they serve at Chili’s with the Buffalo sauce… and I want it all FREE. Now. I want I want I want.

But I, just as I Montoya had to, must get used to disappointment. I will have to pony up for what I want. Cash. Dinero. C-Notes and coin.

“…despite what the photographer has invested financially, fiscally and even emotionally.” Yeah, there is no problem there. We are mostly independently wealthy and have no emotions at all. And I can’t think of any other places where the investment means anything… seriously. Can you?

And, I wonder, why would I as an owner of Intellectual Property acquiesce to the tantrums of those who simply don’t want to pay? Is it that they cannot pay? Really? Nawwww… I have seen too many owners of companies crying with crocodile tears about having no money, then driving away in their new Mercedes. Sure, wealth is relative, but so is giving a shit. I care about people who actually don’t have anything, but not so much about someone who is having trouble picking out cheap drapes for their second summer home.

Just because people want something doesn’t mean they get it. And, let’s be fair… WHO is it who is actually wanting to use the images without any compensation? 7 year olds working on their first paper on the Everglades? Some teen wanting to use the image on her Facebook? Or media conglomerates trying to scre…, er, re-define the compensation of the artist who created the work?

Yep… it’s the people who want to ‘use’ the work to make what… wait for it… wait for it… MONEY. So they can go to the store and buy them cute little buffalo sauce sandwiches that I would like to buy, but all I got was a friggin’ pat on the back! I don’t really know anyone who gives a ratsass about some kid using an image for their report. I don’t.

But if some bigass magazine wants to use my image, it must be worth something…right? Or are there no more art directors, photo editors, art buyers and creative directors who give a shit anymore. “Yeah, we were looking for some shitty shot of a factory and we ran across yours. We don’t give a damn about the magazine and the people who view it or what it says about us, we just want something free… and your crappy shot looks about like all we want. You game? We’ll give you… nothing. And we feel your work is worth it!”

“Oh boy… the magazine is gonna use my worthless image and I feel sooooo cool!”

“Even just a cursory browse through any number of blogs and image Tumblrs, and you’ll find countless images disconnected from their original sources and re-purposed for the web.”

Look through any jail and you will find people who re-purposed stereo gear and computers they ‘found’ laying around in the hotel rooms they broke into. (And yeah, I have heard it before…”If you don’t want people to steal your stuff, don’t have stuff, man.” Thanks. Now Shut Up.) Re-Purpose? Bwahahahaha… is stealing a car and parting it out now ‘re-purposing’ the automobile?

“Elias Wessel, profiled in this issue, is a good example. Every time he shoots a new project, it ends up spread almost immediately throughout the blogosphere.”

Cool. Great. Wonderful. If it works for him, fantastic. So we should do everything HIS way so it will benefit…? I am a little foggy on that stuff. I know photographers who do all kinds of stuff that I don’t do. I know brilliantly successful photographers who do things differently. There is NO one way. And I can only imagine if I took his images off of his site, did a magazine with them and made a bunch of money… he would be thrilled for me, huh? Can I make prints and hang them in my gallery? Re-purposed, of course.

Maybe I should re-purpose them into my site… it really is amazing work, and I don’t care about his financial and emotional investment, you know.

“The fine line between good publicity and outright thievery is a matter open to debate, and it’s often a heated debate at that.”

(continued after the jump)

No, sport, it isn’t. Copyright violation is fairly clear. Good publicity is something I go along with, thievery is when someone does something without my permission or involvement. I think that we can agree on that simple point… you can use what I say you can use, but you cannot use what I do not say you can use. Otherwise it is, exactly, “outright thievery.”

“Many photographers have a laissez-faire attitude about the public enjoying their work or snagging images for desktops and the like.”

Many photographers think domestic light beer is good and that Kanye West actually has talent. So what? Photographers come in all sorts of configuration. Hobbyists, weekend warriors, semi-pro, professional, and hacks. Sorry about that hack thing… but, unfortunately… What other photographers do is swell to chat about, but not necessarily a basis for changing copyright structure.

“Other photographers are adamant about protecting their images from being reproduced in any form. There’s a slew of programs and sites that cater to this demographic, from simple protections like Adobe’s Flash-based websites that prevent drag-and-drop image downloading to more intricate solutions like PicScout and Digimarc, which use a combination of watermarking and metadata indexing as a way to track images.”

Yes. Yes there are.

Myth: Stolen Images Are A Bad Thing

Stolen Images are a Good Thing then? Stolen music rocks? Stolen movies are swell. Hey, movie industry… you know those cloying little shorts you do before the overpriced shitty feature comes on…the ones about stealing? Yeah… those. Obviously you all are not on board here. Come on… spend 100 million bucks on a film and then give it away. We don’t care about what it costs to make it. We want it now and we want it free. Waaaaawaaaaaawaaaaaaa…. gimmmeee it.

What… you got an emotional attachment to the thing? Get over it, turds… you had your day. And next time, could you make some better special effects? Otherwise, I may not actually steal your movie. That’ll teach ya.

It really is not hard to take on this level of stupid is it? Stealing isn’t bad? Sure. OK. How about plagiarism… err, re-purposing of articles and books. And how about all those crazy bitches at the libraries not wanting Google to simply scan every book to be given away free? Loonies. Writers make too much money and get too many hot chicks for us to give a damn about them.

“Still, a screen grab is often as simple as performing a keyboard shortcut, and information can be stripped from an image almost as easily as it is to add it.”

Ohhh.. so it is easy to do, and therefor it is good to do? And the fact that “information can be stripped from an image almost as easily as it is to add it…” seems to be the same thing as counterfeiting currency. Hey, we can scan this, print it out and make our own money… information can be added/stripped out as necessary! Damn… that’s cool.

What could go wrong there?

Of course the fact that someone opened an image and “stripped out” the copyright information means that they know that the copyright information was there and that it may be problematic for them so they stripped it out. Like filing the ID# off of a handgun, or filing down the VIN# on a stolen car.

Dude… you are winning me over here. I can make my own cash (5′s and 1′s) and steal cars as long as it is easy to ‘alter the information’ I can re-purpose it to my ends. This is sooooo great!

“More importantly, the advantages of allowing images to be seen can’t be understated, even if the creator of the images lacks control over how.”

No. No it can’t.

Not sure there has been any more ignorant statement made by someone regarding the issue of artists rights ever. Ever.

To think that this writer has such a limited view of copyright, control of image, brand, and of course the litigation that can be caused by unauthorized and illegal use of an image simply runs right by him like a freight train, then make statements that sound like some sort of ‘fact’ amazes and dazzles me.

“The Internet can make an artist, literally, an overnight sensation. If a media-hungry public embraces a particular project or image, it may be seen throughout the entire world within mere moments.”

Yes. I know of several, dozens of viral things that have made people famous. Hasn’t put a nickel in their pocket, but made them ‘famous’. Woohoo… as they say. And that fame doesn’t necessarily transfer into a living, does it?

And I don’t have any problem getting famous with putting videos on YouTube. Just one question…

Can you not see any difference between ME putting it up there and having it STOLEN and put up there? Can you really say they are both the same?

If I decide to put up a video and get all famous and stuff leading me to more money which I probably would not be able to deal with and would end up in a clinic with some sort of addictive thing looking to trade on my fame for more drugs and… oh, sorry. Hey, that is MY business.

Why would I get all giddy over you putting my video up and YOU getting to be rich and hang with Lindsay Lohan at the rehabs? Explain that, please?

“All of these sets of eyes on your work invariably bring back revenue in one form or another, whether through commissioned future projects, prints or what have you.”

Money quote coming: “…invariably bring back revenue in one form or another…”

Bwahahahaha… yeah. “Hey, if you give me a good deal on this first job, I will make it worth it to you on the next one.” “We need a new photographer with amazing style and the eyes to pull this off. Right away we thought of you. Unfortunately, we have no budget for this, but knew you would just jump…” “It’s not you, it’s me.”

Sorry, heard all that crap before. “Invariably”… what, you think we were born yesterday? Invariably my ass. There is no ‘invariably’ with this stuff. However, “invariably” you have lost the abilitiy to do anything else with that image… great deal for you there.

“The difficulty is that the photographer doesn’t always get the credit.”"

Duh… ya think?

A watermark can help, though subtle ones that are overt enough to be read while not blemishing an image are few and far between. Another solution is through proper keywording and tagging of images at the source, usually on the photographer’s website or in the original image files. That way, a photographer can leave a path for resourceful Internet seekers to discover the original location of images.”

Simply amazing lack of understanding how the web works. Keywording may work for those who are smart enough to use pure HTML, but not necessarily for database housed images or flash… and, hey… how’s that work on those screenshots we were told were so cool a few paragraphs above? And who can forget the infamous “information can be stripped from an image almost as easily as it is to add it” statement.

Confused? So am I.

“What to do about people or businesses that gain from unapproved imagery?”

Sue them. Fire them if they work for you. Beat the everlovin’… no, I am not violent. Well, I do have a Louisville Slugger that needs a workout… and I can re-purpose someones kneecaps. But more likely I would simply issue a DRM takedown, sue them or their ISP if it was blatant, or turn the wrath of twitter and flickr users on them. Hey, I KNOW that works. Heh.

“Creative Commons is a good middle ground that photographers and artists can explore to allow use of their works without sacrificing the rights that copyrights provide.”

NOPE, big fellah. Hold on there. It isn’t any middle ground. It is abdication and a losing of rights. Once something is set into the CC it cannot be taken back. The artist can only live with the choice he has made… forever. And what does it mean to “explore to allow use” mean? Seriously?

The rights to have the image EVER be licensed or controlled is LOST whenever the image is posted at any level of CC.

“For a good example of what CC-licensing can provide, Flickr is the web’s largest source of Creative Commons content. The community atmosphere of Flickr encourages hundreds of thousands of people to view and rate images, leading to an incredible promotional tool for photographers who know how to use the site to their advantage (Miss Aniela, for instance)—all at the low cost of $24.95 for a yearly pro account, and they even have limited accounts for free.”

“…Flickr encourages hundreds of thousands of people to view and rate images,…” Well, before I take on the ludicrous statement that accompanies this, I must point out that Flickr has NO “Rating” system at all. That’s over at “rate-my-ass.com” and other more artistic endeavors. There are comments, groups, forums and more… but NO rating.

Is the writer clueless about Flickr, or simply mixing it up with “hot-or-not.com”? We report, you decide.

“…leading to an incredible promotional tool for photographers who know how to use the site to their advantage…” – Yes, that may be true, but you do NOT have to have your images on CC to do that. Most, if not all, of the pros and highest followed shooters on Flickr do NOT HAVE CC, but rather have turned it off. I really find your attempt to link CC with a natural use of Flickr somewhat appalling. I really do, sir.

“Rather than the old-school way of saying, “No, you can’t use this image without paying me,” there are six standardized Creative Commons licenses that provide you flexibility in protecting your works for meeting the ever-changing world of supply and demand.”

We all know what a straw man argument is, right. First we create a false “strawman” statement, and then we knock it down. This is classic strawman… the notion that the ONLY way it worked in the ‘old days’ was to demand money sets up the NEED for the CC license.

But people have always been able to say “sure, you can use my image.” Simple… let’s say it again…”sure, you can use my image…without any money. Take it. Use it. Consider it a gift.”

There is nothing new about that…but the author sets up the strawman of that being too difficult, or non-existent then offers something to cure the ‘ills’ that really don’t exist at all. If you want someone to use your image, let them. I don’t care at all if it is what you want to do.

But remember, this valuable, career enhancing information on using CC is coming from someone who just told you that stealing your image is OK! And now he is trying to sell you on a CC license which simply eliminates your ability to ever, EVER, take control of that image again.


“What’s more, Creative Commons is a global solution for allowing or disallowing uses of your work. The set of copyright licenses are available free of charge at www.creativecommons.org. For more on Creative Commons and your rights as a photographer, go to the Business section of DPP on the web at www.digitalphotopro.com.”

Yeah… global… well, I’ll pass on that. I have never been impressed with this CC thing from the get-go as they say. I wonder why corporations are so supportive for this to happen to photographers, while they continue to take steps to protect their property, real or intellectual? Why the desire for photographers and illustrators to give away their work in the desire to be free of that terrible, time consuming, energy wasting copyright protection thing. I don’t see magazines and other publishers rushing out to give their publications away. (And, yeah… we don’t care about the paper, ink, distribution costs or that crap, remember…)

Hey, that stuff is icky… the CC people will make it easy for you to just make pictures and not have to deal with all the encumbrances of having to have an accountant… you wont have any money to account.

But they will… the magazines and media groups that will happily gobble up your work and give you NOTHING back. They will have subscribers and bookstands and advertising and…

But you won’t. You will just feel soooooo cool that a big-time News magazine used your image, after tacitly telling you it wasn’t worth anything at all.

Golly, on second thought… sign me up!

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About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

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