Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Unfair Advantage

If you're a photographer who shoots on white seamless, what's wrong with using someone elses' work to sell yourself on a website? Heck, why not grab some of Avedon's works to show what your work would look like, since he's no longer making photos. The clients won't know they're not your photos. What's the harm? Well, in a nutshell, you are stealing someone elses' work in order to make you look better, more capable, or otherwise promote you.

What about the use of music on your website?

(Continued after the Jump)

If I am a wedding photographer, and I am using tracks from Triple Scoop Music, or Broken Joey Records, is it fair to compete against a local photographer who is using U2's "Beautiful Day" on their website as an audio track to their wedding portfolio slideshow? Setting aside that most consultants recommend against music on websites (the bride and/or groom are likely looking for a photographer in their cubicle in their office, after all), the other photographer is taking an unfair illegal advantage when doing things like this.

I previously wrote about photographers stealing other photographers' work (The Curious Case of Fink Photography, 12/10/08), and I've also written about photographers infringing on other creatives works (© Infringements - Don't be a Hypocrite, 3/23/08), so here's a solution. If you run across someone infringing on the copyright of musical recording, you can either report it because it's the right thing to do, or you can report it because it will eliminate an unfair advantage your competition has. Whatever your motivation, just submit the URL to this link: report piracy. Wouldn't you want someone to report to you that your work was stolen and being used by someone else for their benefit? Not only would I, I have benefited from the kindness of another photographer bringing to my attention the infringing uses of my work.

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.

15 comments:

virginia corporate photographer said...

Watch out Mr. Photographer using illegal music on your site. Time's up! (however the most frequent abusers; wedding photographers probably don't visit here to read that the writing in on the wall.) Interestingly enough Firefox and Safari reported errors whilst using the RIAA reporting tool.
Moi! Reporting someone - Neeeevvvvveeeerr!

Brandon D. said...

I know that some photographers license certain songs from musicians for their photography web sites which is perfectly fine and legal. When you legally license music from a musician, I don't think it's unfair to that photographer's competitors.

And AFAIK, wedding photographers Bambi Cantrell and Joe Buissink have nearly always had music on their web sites, and I think it's obvious that they're extremely successful as far as business goes. I think that legally putting music on your web site is just a matter of taste, not an objective right or wrong. And in many cases, there is a "MUTE" button for people who don't like the music. Plus, it's never the photographer's music that I'm basing my observations on; it's the quality and intention of their photography.

Jukka said...

So u2 on somebody's website = automatically illegal? WOW. You CAN pay for the rights to play whatever you want on your site.

The Wallbanger said...

I have to agree with Jukka. Before jumping to conclusions it might be appropriate to first contact the photographer and ask if the music is used properly. I know photographers who were casually licensed music in exchange for musicians' headshots.

Also note that the RIAA is composed of four major record labels. There are many more independent musicians who want nothing to do with the RIAA's legal SWAT force.

Patrick Cavan Brown said...

Still paranoid, are we? Though I hate music on websites too, and am tempted to report them just because I'm annoyed!

Stumpy the Rat said...

I get it!! That would be like using someone's book cover art on their webpage without the permission of the artist -

Offending website is here: http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com

I'll report it to the RIAA this morning.

John Harrington said...

Brandon -

>>>When you legally license music from a musician, I don't think it's unfair to that photographer's competitors.

Of course not - perhaps I didn't make the point clear - it is unfair to use infringing music like Beautiful Day (which, for 99.9999% of the world, would be an infringement), when I can't because doing so would be breaking the law.

Juka:
>>>So u2 on somebody's website = automatically illegal? WOW. You CAN pay for the rights to play whatever you want on your site.

Automatic? No, of course not. However, I made that statement, as I said above, knowing with better odds than being struck by lightning, that it is an illegal use.

How did I come to this conclusion? Because I have done a great deal of research into how to license commercial/popular music, and, as it stands now, it is nearly impossible for the individual photographer to do so.

Stumpy:

You'll have to provide an actual URL, and the book you suggest I am infringing upon. Almost always when I have a book cover on the blog, it's to encourage people to buy it, and/or for commentary on the book itself, both allowable.

-- John

J Sandifer said...

Nice post John. I think the real issue is that 60% of the wedding photographers recycle every 10 years and they do not respect their own art enough to not steal others. I see this everyday and have to say it irks me too. The first turn off is that there is music on the site at all, then that Jack Johnson or some other musicians hard work is being played.

Mickey said...

Any photographer that plays ANY type of music on their website deserves to be reported and shut down.

I mean, come on. This isn't 1997 anymore.

Stumpy the Rat said...

John Said:
"Almost always when I have a book cover on the blog, it's to encourage people to buy it.."

Maybe the wedding photographers using the U2 background music are just encouraging people to purchase the U2 album...

Funny how people justify their actions.

Anyone using music (licensed or not) on their photo website should be drawn, quartered and their head put on a pike.

Steve said...

Stumpy . . . nothing personal but you're an idiot. Only an idiot could ever believe that what you're implying even comes close to making sense.

Promoting books or other merchandise through your web site as part of an affiliate program or sales partnership is a legitimate and well established business process. The links to Amazon to purchase the books are clearly labeled as such.

How many photographers using U2's song actually have a picture of the album and a link to purchase the album through a similar business affiliation? For that matter, how many of those web sites EVEN credit the artist?

Knowing nothing about music licensing, I would have to guess that it would be pretty rare for U2 or most other major recording artists to simply provide anyone and everyone a license to use their music in order to promote their own products and services. I would assume they are fairly selective and expensive as well.

In conclusion, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about, and emboldened by the anonymity of the internet don't seem to mind sharing that fact with the rest of us. Hey Stumpy, good luck with that, hope it works out for you.

Back to the topic at hand. I'm sure that more than a few have read John's post and felt just a bit uncomfortable. I mean the thought of reporting on those within our own community of photographers just doesn't feel right. But think about this instead: photographers stealing music, stealing images, giving images away, trading services for a worthless photo credit, etc. don't really seem to give a Rat's ass about the rest of us or the photo industry in the least.

Brandon D. said...

>>> Of course not - perhaps I didn't make the point clear - it is unfair to use infringing music like Beautiful Day (which, for 99.9999% of the world, would be an infringement), when I can't because doing so would be breaking the law.

John:

Yes, I just didn't want readers to jump to the conclusion that there's no way to legally/ethically incorporate a musician's music into a photography web site. Since you seemed to be arguing that it is not wise for photographers to use music on their web sites, I guess you didn't feel the need to mention it. But I just wanted to make it clear.

PS - I've learned a lot from your book, Best Business Practices for Photographers. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

It should be noted that copyright laws vary by country. In Australia, for instance, one can pay a yearly subscription fee to use popular music in such a manner.

Sascha Rheker said...

You have one big locigal mistake here:

A photographer who is using better music than others while presenting his work is not automatically the same as a photographer who is stealing others photographs to represent his work!

Of course it is very unlikely that Richard Avedon would allow the use of his work on another photographers website.

In many countries you can easily license music for your website. Even music from U2 or other known artists. So not everybody using U2 instead of "Joe Doe feat. Garage Band" is a criminal!

Is a better webdesign a clear indication that the other photographer must have stolen the code from someone else?


Of course there are photographers who steal html-code and music as well as photos. But I don't think that this is enough to start a witch-hunt for everybody using a tune you know from the radio or MTV.

It is not illegal to present bad photographs with better music and/or webdesign.

wedding photographer italy said...

I guess you should check if someone has rights payed before jumping to conclusions, every song can be used legally.
An U2 song on a site means nothing by itself...

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