Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Licensing Illiteracy = Obsolescence

If your best client came to you and said "learn Spanish, or you're no longer going to get hired by us." Would you?

If your best client came to you and said "The slang and odd language you use isn't condusive to a constructive dialog when we're working together. If you can't speak proper English we won't be able to work together anymore." Would you drop the street talk and keep the client?

If you answered no to either of those questions, you need to think again. This is business, and if you want to do business, and keep doing business, you need to set aside any attitudes like "Who he think he is tellin' me I can't talk street, yo?" and realize that businesses do whatever they can to keep their clients. It's not personal, or an affront to you, it's just business.

When a client thus, comes to the determination that the language you've been using to describe your licensing is the equivilent of ambiguous street language, and decides that they're tired of intepreting what "collateral" really means, and in turn, they specify the use of the Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) system be incorporated into the licensing agreements you convey to them, you'd better step to it.

That is exactly what's happened with the top three image licensees in the US. These three major publishers have called for the adoption of the PLUS standards by picture archives, photographers, illustrators and all other image suppliers. Representatives of McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson each announced that they will adopt the PLUS Picture Licensing Glossary definitions in their contracts, and that they encourage image suppliers to begin embedding PLUS license metadata in all images within one year.

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"We are very pleased that these major publishers - the largest image licensees in the industry - are aligned in their support of the PLUS standards," said Maria Kessler (LinkedIn: Profile), President of the Picture Archive Association of America.

Bonnie Beacher (LinkedIn: Profile), Senior Director of Contracts, Copyrights and Permissions at McGraw-Hill Education, said "The PLUS standards
benefit publishers and their suppliers by simplifying and clarifying the process of licensing and managing images. We are in the process of implementing PLUS standards, and we would find it very useful for our image suppliers to adopt PLUS standards as well."

Jeff Sedlik (LinkedIn: Profile), President & CEO of the PLUS Coalition, said "The PLUS standards will allow publishers to leverage embedded license metadata to increase automation and more efficiently manage images in their digital asset management systems."

What this means is that the Getty, Corbis, Alamy, et al licensors of the world will now be implementing PLUS language into every type of licensing that they do. The license will have to be PLUS compliant, because they won't know if the person browsing their site is a McGraw-Hill person, or a magazine photo editor, as they are filling up their cart full of images, and selecting the licenses they need. So, when the client is considering your work, you'll have to use the same words as the Gettys of the world so that a client can properly manage all images in their digital asset management system.

Clients have already specified to you they need an invoice before they can pay you, and it needs to say "Invoice" on it, be dated, and have your contact information, and so too, the need your tax id # (SSN, EIN, etc). There's little difference here in the standardization of the language for licensing.

When it comes to licensing language clarity, and agreement cross-industry, PLUS is a monumental collaboration, and one we have hearlded from this soapbox for some time. As an individual photographer, it's free for you to use, and you would do well during your down time - like excising the street from your talk, to get to know PLUS better. Your clients are demanding it.


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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Neither Truth, Nor Ethics, Need an Ally

Ethics eBookI love books. If I were to have only one regret this life, it would be that there wasn't enough time to read all the books that I want to. My reading list is a long one, and so often, new books have to fight hard to cut the line. I also collect books, and nestled amongst my signed editions of Ansel Adams' The Negative, The Print, Natural Light Photography, and Artificial Light Photography (note: I am still seeking Book 1), several Sam Abel books, signed limited editions of all the great surf photography books, and books like Csikszentmihalyi's Flow, is a book by the legendary Howard Chapnick - Truth Needs No Ally: Inside Photojournalism. I was honored to have him sign mine, and yes, be represented by his agency, Black Star. Yet, there's no bias here - his independent status as a legend probably preceded my birth.

So, it is with reverance that another Chapnick - John Chapnick - comes forth with a new book - Photojournalism, technology and ethics - What's Right and Wrong Today? Oh, and get this - it's a free eBook! Hit this link for the PDF.

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In the book, Chapnick states the obvious. Obvious, that is, to those of us who have been doing this awhile. Things like "altering photographs is unethical." Then there's "Staging photographs is unethical." Now, I know these things, yet I see these things happen all the time, and we read time and again about altering photographs and then their appearing in newspapers. Yet Chapnick delves into these issues, citing the policies of wire services and newspapers around the country, and then proffering the thought process:
The rhetorical justifications for these axioms center on public service. Rather than simply selling newspapers or attracting TV ratings, journalists have a higher calling—to provide their audiences with the knowledge required to be informed contributors to a democracy. And this can only happen when the public believes in the newspaper’s authority.

Ahh. Now some lightbulbs are going off in readers' heads. So, where does the money trail meander? Chapnick goes on:
Beyond this consideration, credibility is essential to mainstream news organizations from a business standpoint. If audiences don’t believe they can trust what they’re reading—and seeing—it’s the equivalent of a broken product. And consumers don’t buy broken products for very long.

Chapnick then goes on to address the excuses we're hearing from our motion picture brethren, that staging is justified "for purposes of editing", or "for purposes of time", or "for purposes of storytelling", even when the audience is not told of these "re-creations". One field notorious for staging photography is in the field of nature/wild animal photography, with all manner of baiting, pens, and so forth creating a reality that never existed, but which yielded a cover photograph on the front page of the most prestigious magazines of our time.

In the end Chapnick also offers solutions for the digital era, and it's a solid read, primer (or reminder), for anyone who professes to produce editorial images. So, hats off to John Chapnick for a well written and thoughtful perspective on the issue of technology and ethics in photojournalism today. While ethics need no ally, its' furtherance surely needs this roadmap to ensure that tomorrows' photojournalists earn and keep the reputation of truth-telling - no more, and no less.

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The Fashion Police - White House Edition

When, several years ago, I was assisting a friend in getting his first Capitol Hill press pass, as we arrived to proceed into the building, I handed him one my disposable razors I keep in my car, and in said "you need to run this over your face." "Why?" he asked? "It's a simple matter of respect", I noted. To this day, he gives me a hard time with that phrase, and we're such good friends that he didn't take offense at my counsel. (and he did get his credential.)

Yesterday, when I turned up at the White House for my planned coverage of Barack Obama's visit, I was dressed in a suit. That's just me, I guess. Others were not similarly attired, but there were a half-dozen other still photographers wearing ties. I recall with great respect then Agence France Presse photographer David Ake, 15+ years ago, always came into the White House well dressed, and he recieved the respect due a properly attired photographer. Today, Ake is the head of the Associated Press' photo operation here in DC, and he remains well dressed.

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Re-enter my good friend and colleague, David Burnett. David is a classy guy - top of his class in so many ways, and his class can surmount jeans, except when it's a random challenge by a press operation that has lost much of it's knowledge-base because of the few days left in it's existence. David recounts on his blog - Common Sense, Not Very Common, (11/11/08), writes:
So last Thursday, at what will no doubt be President Bush’s last cabinet meeting, Paul Richards of AFP and I were singled out of the crowd of a dozen still photographers, and refused entry to the photo opportunity in the Cabinet Room. Like Paul, I have been on the road for months doing the campaign. We were both surprised, unhappily, when we were informed that with just months to go in an 8 year tenure, the White House has decided to ban jeans from the Oval Office, and (apparently) the Cabinet Room if worn by photographers.
While I concur that David shouldn't have worn jeans, he would have learned that 7+ years ago had the current administration instituted that rule - and enforced it - way back then. To enforce a rule they've previously not enforced, or been lax in enforcing, is just petty, and belies the mindset of the outgoing administrations attitude towards the press.

While you ponder this, check out previous blog posts on this subject:

Proper Attire Whilst Making Pictures, 6/1/08

Leave The Flip Flops For The Politicians, 5/23/07

So, as the saying goes, dress for who you want to be, not who you are. Wait, I want to be David Burnett...but can I do it without wearing jeans?

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DRR's Formal Notice of Shutdown - One Big Concern

Below you will find formal notice about DRR's suitor - Newscom - recinding it's interest. Of particular interest is the following:

"The creditor will have all information erased from the storage devices and then sell the equipment at auction."

The concern is that someone will simply do a simple erase, and anyone with recovery tools can recover ALL of our images. ALL OF THEM. Stories abound about people's private information getting found on a company's old servers (Government probe launched after details of one million bank customers found on computer sold on eBay, 8/28/08, among others). Here, we have images which will be recovered and then someone will decide they have this huge library of images to do with as they please.

Someone needs to get information on just how they plan to do the erasing.

Formal notice after the jump:
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November 10, 2008
To Digital Railroad Members and Customers;

As reported on October 31st, Digital Railroad (DRR) had received a letter of intent (LOI) to purchase specific assets of DRR, namely its hardware and application software used to store and retrieve images. This LOI was rescinded on November 5th.

On November 6th, a second company became interested in purchasing some of the assets of DRR, but late on Friday, November 7th this company also ended its negotiations.

Without a commitment for the purchase of its assets, DRR’s senior secured creditor will move to take physical possession of the hardware on which the intellectual property of DRR and the copyrighted images of its customers and partners reside. The creditor will have all information erased from the storage devices and then sell the equipment at auction.

Digital Railroad had hoped that it could preserve the images on the storage devices so that the owners of these images could recover them. Unfortunately, this was not achievable. We apologize for the difficulties that this has created but without additional resources we have no other recourse.

With regard to images in Marketplace that have been downloaded and/or used, and for which the publisher has not already made payment, we will work, with the assistance of photographer associations to have the publishers pay the photographers directly.

Please check the Diablo Management website for regularly updates regarding Digital Railroad. The DRR link is at the bottom of the DMG Home page.

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