Saturday, May 19, 2007

Copyright Alliance

We see ourselves as the good guys, the Rebel Alliance if you will. In the beginning, as with Lucas' fictional rag-tag group who "realized the Empire had absolutely no regard to the rights, or even the lives, of its citizens...", and to Peter Jackson's interpretation of a petite and unwilling leader who fought against "dark forces gathering to the west...", both legions, in the end, won.

Enter The Copyright Alliance, a better organized and financed group of organizations with the single aim of resisting the attempts to overthrow the constitutionally endowed rights for creators to possess, for a limited period of time, a monopoly of their creations. Those dark forces are the populus who runs fast and loose with people's rights.

At their announcement of the formalization, Thursday May 17th, James Gibson, University of Richmond Law Professor, cited the example of the many of us who exceed the speed limit. When we do, we break the law, and as with that, when we are caught, we pay the price, he posited. Many infringers, like speeders, see only the infringement as risky if caught, and then, without registration, there is no true punishment, as the recoverable is almost always severely limited, and so, speeders and infringers prevail. So much so, that people seen driving only the speed limit are looked at as antiquated - the grannies of the road - caught in a time warp of reality, where speeding, and, analagously, infringing, is just de rigueur.

Most people who have driven through Georgia, for example, know that you drive 55mph, not 56. Those Georgia troopers enforce the speed limit to the letter. In New York City, everyone knows, "don't block the box", and drive long enough in your own community, you know where the speed traps are. So too, should potential infringers respect the laws - and rights - of those who are the creators.

The Copyright Alliance is working to ensure creators rights are protected. But the Dark Forces to the West are growing, establishing a front, and seeking organizations to chip away at the methodoligies used to protect the artist's right to restrict uses of their works. They have sought to push forward broad-reaching Orphan Works legislation. Many agree that some well thought out version of Orphan Works will be the solution to the critical preservation needs of archivists looking to save images and movies that are being lost to the degradation that occurs over time. That photos that are found in a shoebox at a garage sale might have limited commercial value or intention to commercially be exploited. Yet, blanket protections afforded across the board are what's on the table, and that's just not fair.

Consider that copyright is afforded the citizenry in the first 1,600 words of the Constitution. Consider then, that issues like gun rights, slavery, and equal rights for women were things that were missing and needed to be fixed. The framers considered copyright so important that it was integral to the initial document, yet other important issues were forgotten. Try, instead, dismissing copyright as irrelevant, suggesting that slavery or equal rights for women, are irrelevant. Those dismissals, as with copyright, also are offensive to me.

Among those penning articles about the group are Variety, CNET, Reuters, and Broadcasting & Cable.

You must fight for your rights as a creative. Stand up and be counted. Engage in the dialog and debate. Recognize too, that, where you're reading this not as a US citizen, but rather, around the world, that the world is watching. How we treat copyright can become cracks in the copyright of your own countries.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Don't Delete!

Honestly, ask yourself - how long do you think it would take for you to review assignment images, and delete outtakes? Assume, for a moment, you are shooting RAW, on a Canon 1Ds Mark II, and you are generating 19MB files. That's 53 images. How long would it take for you to do the delete? A few minutes? With 300GB drives costing around $150 or so, that's about $0.50 per GB, or $1 per GB, properly redundant. It's cheaper to not delete the files, and simply give them a ZERO star rating in your archives. The time involved in either paying someone, or the loss of your own time doing so, just is not worth it. Someday, you may be, for whatever reason, wanting those files. If your camera is generating smaller RAW files, then it will take even longer.

Chase Jarvis has an interesting take on this, and he cites Avedon, who's seminal work from the Southwest would have likely never been done had it not been for an outtake that he took in Italy in 1947 that someone else noticed.

Simply put, don't delete your files. Save them. You never know when a piece of a file might be necessary. An overexposed image might give you detail in the shadows of a scene you need for an image that could use a higher dynamic range. Perhaps, an image could be re-tooled into something interesting. That image of the delete key I shot with my point and shoot, and it captured every bit of dust on the keyboard - a total deleter! However, applying some creative filters made it an interesting file, something that shouldn't be deleted!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Proof Positive

Over at The Consumerist, they have an interesting article titled "Make Debt Collectors Prove They Own What They Say You Owe", which includes, in part:

We've mentioned how if you're being pursued by a debt collector, you need to make them prove that you owe the need to make them prove that it is they they actually own the debt, what is called having "standing."...When we defend clients in court on these types of cases...the debt buyer refuses to produce at trial the alleged "purchase agreement" where they supposedly bought the debt...
So, what does this mean?

Consider that you are that debt collector, and the debtor is the person for whom you provided services to, or to whom you've delivered prints, or a CD. I know far far too many photographers who do not require the client sign an estimate or other document prior to the beginning of work being performed.

What if the person hiring you gets fired? Quits? Dies? Or, what if they remember you agreed to terms or fees that you didn't, because it's not in writing, signed? What if you spent a lot of money on an assignment (airfare, hotels, assistants, and so on) and they either thought all expenses were included in the fee, or don't approve expenses like yours? A signed agreement would give you "standing" with this person, or if they are no longer with the company, for whatever reason, with their boss, legal department, or accounting department.

You must have a signed document from your client outlining terms and conditions, fees and expenses, and rights granted, and you must have your signature on the document as well. Not doing so, is like playing with fire, and you will get burned.

Oh, and one more thing - save and archive these documents, meticulously and methodically!
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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New Crime - Attempting to Steal Photography?

According to CNET:

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is pressing the U.S. Congress to enact a sweeping intellectual property bill that would increase criminal penalties for copyright infringement, including "attempts" to commit piracy.

"To meet the global challenges of IP crime, our criminal laws must be kept updated," Gonzales said during a speech before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington on Monday.

The Bush administration is throwing its support behind a proposal called the Intellectual Property Protection Act of 2007, which is likely to receive the enthusiastic support of the movie and music industries and would represent the most dramatic rewrite of copyright law since a 2005 measure dealing with pre-release piracy.

While the devil is always in the details, this is certainly an interesting turn of events. Further, it's worth noting that Rep. Lamar Smith, who is quoted as tentatively in support of this, previously was reported (also by CNET) "Congress readies broad new digital copyright bill" which didn't gain traction, and the roundly criticized Orphan Works bill, which also sank in the last Congress, but may yet have a pulse during this session.
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Monday, May 14, 2007

Teaching People

If every time you speak to a prospective client, you capitulate on demands, you deserve the bad deal you get. Last week, we had a client experience were we sent them an estimate with our standard limited rights package. First, they called, wanting to limit re-use, with the stated objective that the subjects didn't want to end up on my website, or as stock. Ok, I can work with that. Then they wanted a broader rights package, then they wanted 10 years' use, then unlimited. Then, when we outlined the additional fees that would apply, they balked, wanting to pay the original fees for the broadest of uses. Then they opted for just a five year package, but wanted, again, not to pay any additional fees. Then when we stuck to our guns, they started in with "is that the best you can do?", to which I responded, "yes", and stopped talking. Then they tried the "we are expanding in DC, and will need photography in the future, and want to be able to use you, and want to know, is this the best you can do for us?" I thought to myself - did I just hear an echo? "Yes, this is the best I can do. You've expanded the rights package, and, as such, the fees increase, that's only fair." "Ok, fine", was her response, and the deal was done.

It would have been easy to capitulate. My office manager herself said she would have just given in at some point. I told her "then you would have lost on that additional fee, which isn't anything to sneeze at."

We teach people how we expect/want to be treated. We teach people how much we value ourselves, and the work we do, and how we value that work. When we acquiesce to bad deals, we have only to blame ourselves.

ASMP has a great PDF - On Buying Photography, that helps you teach your clients about your work. I have a web page - On licensing and Usage, and Usage and Rights Analogized, that are helpful for clients. Dwight Cendrowski has a FAQ for clients.

If we remain, for example, in an abusive professional relationship, we are teaching people that it's ok to continue to treat us that way. Abusive relationships, in our personal life, are the same. Dr Phil says the about teaching others how we want to be treated, so I'll leave that aspect of the debate to him, but I do agree.

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