Friday, December 21, 2007

It's Not Your Copy Right, it's Mine

My fellow blogger over at the Pro Photo Business blog brought to my attention this, in his entry - The Generational Divide in Copyright Morality, where he, in turn, refers to an article by David Pogue, of the same title, which can be found here.

This isn't a new mentality, heck, it's been pervasive for several years, most notably because the RIAA sued places like Napster, and the local soccer mom because they were infringing copyrights. The RIAA's position was "poor poor musicians, they're loosing money...", yet, if you know much about the record deals for the poor (read: up-and-coming) musicians, you know that the standard deal they get is that the record label owns the copyright to the first two albums, and further, that the artist pays a portion of whatever they earn back to the record label when they perform "their own" songs. (a common misconception, as they are not actually their own songs.)

Chase Jarvis, on more than one occasion has noted that the world of copyright is changing, and he's right. To wit:

(Continued after the Jump)
"I've said it publicly plenty of times: the face of copyright is changing, and as as visual artists, we should be well aware of how it could effect us. Blindly sticking a stake in the ground for copyright is like re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."
The Pogue article noted that out of 500 people in attendance at his talk, only two thought that downloading music and movies for free off the internet "might be wrong."

Until the laws change, however, while more and more people are going to be infringing on your work, (note: there are two types of creatives in this world - those that have had their creative works infringed, and those that will) there will be more and more opportunities for you to reap the punitive benefits from these thieves. Yes, that means registering your work, and yes, that means pursing them with an attorney. Don't get me wrong, I'm not happy about this, because I'd rather be making pictures. But the fact remains, that when people steal your creative endeavors, you should be vigilant about going after them.

On the other hand, perhaps if you do produce work, and are paid for it, and wish to distribute it after the fact to others for their own private use, then denoting the work - at the least - with a Creative Commons designator stating what you do - and do not - want done with your work, will be one way in which you can share your endeavors, but ensure that it's not used by corporate America without their paying, yet still being available to the every man.

They write:
Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.
They go on to say:
Too often the debate over creative control tends to the extremes. At one pole is a vision of total control — a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm. At the other end is a vision of anarchy — a world in which creators enjoy a wide range of freedom but are left vulnerable to exploitation. Balance, compromise, and moderation — once the driving forces of a copyright system that valued innovation and protection equally — have become endangered species.
As it stands, the law is, as above "... a world in which every last use of a work is regulated and in which “all rights reserved” (and then some) is the norm...", and I like that that is the default. Yet, I know of people who don't want to do this, and Creative Commons is their way to designate that.

So, pick your level of comfort, and be sure to designate that as such. Just because "the kids" think it's ok to steal your work, doesn't make it so. When the laws of copyright meet up with the patent laws that only protect pharmaceuticals for about 20 years (more here on that), then it will be a new world order for copyright, and people will, in order for creatives to continue to survive, cost so much more on the front end to commission the work, because of the shortened life-span of copyright. That may end up being an unintended consequence of a change in copyright. Who knows.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

10 comments:

Stupid Photographer said...

I should be able to borrow, appropriate or steal any copyright material I want, but don't you even dare touch mine or I'll sue your tail off. Anyway, that's what I, and every other stupid photographer out there does.

Dan Bannister said...

I'm currently involved in a case that bears out your comments regarding the general attitude to copyright infringement. You can see the details here: http://www.onewordphotography.com/blog/?p=24

Interestingly, this fellow thinks he can just take the image and use it however he sees fit, without payment. It bears noting that copyright law in Canada works a little differently however, even after I've pointed out the law to him and told him this was essentially theft, he continues to use the image on his site. I will be filing suit in the new year and will post the progress of this case on my blog.

One thing I've found in researching similar cases in Canada is, there are very few actual cases where a photographer has sued for copyright infringement in Canada. I'm sure most shooters just shrug and walk away which is sad because this is what contributes to the overall disregard for copyright, we're not taking advantage of the laws we have at our disposal to protect our intellectual property.

John Ricard said...

One of the things that makes copyright complicated is that an artist needs to build on what came before him/her in order to create his own original works. Today we respect the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. But all of those groups started off just copying other artists. The first couple of Stones albums don't have a single Jagger/Richards track on them. And the first Zep album borrows much from old school blues artists.


In time, these artists grew into creators in their own right but they didn't start that way. So I understand the need for a new artist to build on the works of the old artists. But that is not to imply that I like seeing my, or anyone else's work, stolen.

It's a complicated issue to me.

stmarc said...

The best quote I read about the whole sad Lane Hartman/Richter Scales affair was this:

"I note a direct correlation between any given photographer's position on this matter and the quality of their photos on Flickr."

Age also has a lot to do with it, I'm sure, but I think that if selling your photography (or rights thereto) is how you avoid homelessness, you will probably come down on the "Actually, information doesn't want to be free" side of the debate.

My photography is a net loss situation most years, but since I'm an IP lawyer, I have a different reason for supporting copyrights. :)

M

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