Friday, February 6, 2009

Shepard Fairey's Talk on the Obama Image

Shepard Fairey, interviewed on Monday, February 2nd, by Charlie Rose, is embedded below.

While Fairey's talk and perspective is interesting and worth a watch, specific to photography, rights, and business, at about 7:05, Fairey recites a conversation he had with the Obama campaign, regarding how much the image Fairey created is resonating with the campaign staff. Fairey cites the unnamed campaign staffer calling him "would you be willing to do a portrait from a photo that we have the rights to for a poster that we can use both to raise money and to use as a promotional tool. And so I donated an illustration to them. And they, they quickly caught on to the idea of this this look being a very useful look for their brand, augmenting what they already established."
(Continued after the Jump)

This is reasonable, then, to suggest that Fairey might have been aware that he needed to have rights for a photo that is the basis for his artwork, and that a "fair use" argument might not be as strong as they were initially arguing.

Surprisingly, while Fairey's gallery called the source of the image, Mannie Garcia, as we reported on yesterday - 10 Questions for Mannie Garcia - on January 21st, 12 days prior, Fairey does not acknowledge Garcia's AP image as the basis for his HOPE image. It comes across as if Garcia's image never existed.

In a letter to Fairey (Wiki:Shepard Fairey), a citation from Obama's letter reads:
I would like to thank you for using your talent in support of my campaign. The political messages involved in your work have encouraged Americans to believe they can change the status-quo.

Your images have a profound effect on people, whether seen in a gallery or on a stop sign. I am privileged to be a part of your artwork and proud to have your support. - Barack Obama, February 22, 2008
Where is Garcia's letter?

Fairey certainly made money off the image, despite suggestions to the contrary. An interview cited on Wikipedia, reveals:
Fairey distributed a staggering 300,000 stickers and 500,000 posters during the election campaign, funding his grassroots electioneering through poster and fine art sales."I just put all that money back into making more stuff, so I didn't keep any of the Obama money," said Fairey in a December 2008 interview.
So, how much does it cost to produce that many stickers and posters? Copyright judgments are often based upon the transfer of gross profits that the infringer made to the copyright holder. It does not matter that the infringer spent all those profits, or that they "put all the money back into making more stuff...", since that is a decision they made, it does not dismiss the notion that those profits are due the copyright holder. That's like not making a bank robber pay back the spoils of a heist because he spent it all. It does not matter that he spent it on an orphanage's roof (a la Robin Hood), it still must be repaid.

Fairey, in another interview on the subject of images, is reported to have said:
...the image that I continued to put out there myself, they [the Obama campaign] couldn't have any affiliation with it because it was being perpetuated illegally in a lot of ways, and so I just continued to do that on my own without any coordination with them, and that was the "Hope" image.
What is meant by that? Perpetuated illegally, as in, posted on places with "Post No Bills" notices? Plastered on bus shelters without permission? Or, was he speaking of the source of the image as being obtained without a license?

I think that one reasonable solution, moving forward, would be that in the same breath that Fairey speaks of the art, when he says "the HOPE image I created", he should instead be saying "The HOPE image I created, based upon a Mannie Garcia photograph...". Most people know that Alberto Korda was the photographer who made the iconic image of Che Guevara, even as that image was turned into artwork by artist Jim Fitzpatrick. So too, should people be aware of Garcia's contribution to Fairey's artwork. It's only fair.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

10 Questions for Mannie Garcia

Mannie Garcia has been identified as the photographer who produced the now iconic American image of Barack Obama. The image, taken at the National Press Club in 2006 of then junior Senator Barack Obama, was a part of work he was doing with the Associated Press. The image, at right, and with the inset poster of the image as it was used for both the HOPE and PROGRESS posters. This image, that Shepard Fairey used as the basis for his artwork which has generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue for Fairey, and others. So, we wanted to know from Garcia directly, what was going on for him.

Since I have known Mannie for probably 20 years (that's him at left, in the desert on assignment - used with his permission!), I thought I'd get in touch with him following the previous article, to see how things were going. Mannie has been freelancing with Washington DC as his common ground for almost 30 years, and he's travelled the globe on assignments for a wide range of clients, causes, and so on.

As such, we've gotten him to give us time to answer 10 questions. Here they are.

(Continued after the Jump)

1) Is the now famous photograph used as the basis for the Shepard Fairey artwork, in fact, taken by you?
Yes. it is. I was informed by James Danziger who represents the art gallery that represents James Fairey on January 21, 2009, while I was on White House Duty, that the photograph used by Mr. Fairey was in fact, based upon a photograph I made in April of 2006.
2) Where you either an employee, or a freelance photographer, as defined by their contract, for the AP when you took this image?
I was a temporary hire, filling in for a staffer at the AP. It is my understanding that I was neither a freelancer nor a staffer, but rather a temporary hire. I have never been an AP staff employee, and no, I have never signed an AP contract.
3) So, you own the copyright to the image?
The ownership of the copyright is in dispute, as per the AP. It is my understanding that since I was not a staffer, and was not a freelancer, and did not sign any contract, that I am the owner of the copyright, but I am in discussions with the AP over this issue.
4) Are you interested in precluding further use of your photograph in this manner?
That's a hard one. I'm concerned about the usage of the photograph in a number of commercial ways that I've seen it on the street here in Washington DC. I don't know how it's being used in other parts of the country, or the world. I'd like to talk to the people responsible for putting it out.
5) In the future, artwork carrying your signature along with that of Fairey could be very valuable. What are your thoughts on this? Any plans?
I realize, based upon conversations I've had with people at the AP and Danziger studio, that the photograph that I made of then Junior Senator from Illinois Barack Obama, that it has significant value with my signature. Now, monies - monies that might be made by me signing my photograph. I am concerned, that the image out there - I would like very much to figure out a way that my signature on a photograph that I made of then Senator now President Obama, that maybe the monies = most of it - could be donated to the American Red Cross, children's cancer research, and women's breast cancer research. This is not about me making money off this, it's about recognition. I made the most iconic image of our time, and I'd like it to make a difference, not make me money. I'm a blue collar photographer - I am out there on the grind every day. I spend more energy looking for work than doing work. I just want Shepard Fairey to say "alright, you're the guy. Thank you."
6) I've known you for many years, and this is consistent with who I know you to be, karmically speaking. Talk a bit more about your efforts to make a difference through your photography?
I'm a buddhist, and I believe in compassion, and the suffering of sentient beings, my teacher Holiness Penor Rinpoche. I asked him once when I was in India talking to him - "I make some pretty ugly pictures - they're brutal, they're ugly. People suffering. I don't want to make these images anymore." he said "you need to make these images. You need to make people in the world see this, so they will help in some way. I want you to continue doing what you're doing. Recording the suffering, the misery - we, in the world, will all benefit, hopefully in a positive way." That way - I don't want this to sound totally weird, but, basically, my teacher has said "keep doing what you're doing." People are reacting based upon those images. It's a strange dichotomy there.
7) It sounds like the AP has been receptive to you and this issue.
The AP has been receptive to me and this issue. I've received assurances from two people at AP higher up, that said they would "take care of me", and I have no reason to doubt them. I've had conversations with both of these individuals and I have no reason to doubt tha this is accurate and true.
8) This seems like it is a pleasant situation, where the AP has previously come across as hard-nosed. Is this the newer more friendly AP?
I don't know if this is the newer and friendlier AP. I believe this is a unique situation. It's a one-fer. It's not a two-fer. It's a unique situation, and it calls for some very unique solution to the problem that we're facing. Certainly it's going to raise some eyebrows here and there. This is unique. This is not typical. This is different, and it has to be treated in a unique way. you can't treat this generically, maybe as the AP has treated things in the past. This is very unique.
9) So you are pleased with how things are going?
Honestly, no I am not pleased with how things are going. I think things could be going in a more positive way. Meaning, I want to be kept more in the loop with things. I know AP management is keeping me in the loop, so sometimes I have to ask questions more than once to get an answer. I honestly believe that AP is doing it's best to resolve this situation in a fair way. I mean fair with Mannie Garcia, fair with Shepard Fairey, and all of that. Basically, I hope that all turns out well with all parties concerned.
10) So are you interested in being a part of the historic team documenting the President or Vice President in this new administration?
Yes, I am. And yes, I applied. I applied well before I knew about any of this - the revelations about the Fairey poster. I would be honored to be a part of the White House photographic team. Especially if I were a part of the team documenting Vice President Joe Biden. He is going to be so cool to cover. I think this administration is going to do so much, so yes, I would be honored if that happened.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Associated Press v. Shepard Fairey

Saying that the photograph by Mannie Garcia, working with the AP, is "alledgedly" an infringement when it was used as the basis for Shepard Fairey's now famous posters of Barack Obama, is like saying (prior to the civil verdict) OJ Simpson alledgedly killed Nicole. Yes, we must say "alledgedly" only because a court of law has not issued a judgement, and, so be it. Yes, I will concede that we reported and wrote about the issue and referenced another photographer as the photographer, however, as Fairey has been clear that the basis for his piece was a photograph, unless it was a photograph he took, or one which he had a license to create a derivitive work from, he isn't alledgedly anything. He is infringing.


(Continued after the Jump)

Fairey claims "Fair use", however, a fair use claim is an 'affirmative defense' that can overcome an infringement claim, not an assertion that the use didn't violate copyright. So, let's be clear - Fairey DID infringe. Whether the AP or Garcia is entitled to any revenue, or an injunction is the question on the table.

On the injunction question - certainly, the AP makes every effort to maintain a neutrality on a for/against stance on Obama. So, the use of an AP image to promote Obama diminishes that effort. In point-of-fact, it is highly unlikely that the AP would have allowed their image to be used in a commercial manner such as this, because it could give the appearance of an endorsement, so there is a clear case for an injunction.

"Ahh, come on, it's just for a poster, there's no appearance of an endorsement", some might say. Ok, let's step back from all the blind-faith support of our new President, and look at the other side - the side of McCain/Palin. When background music from the band Heart was used at campaign stops to entertain (and warm up?) the crowds, Heart objected (People - Heart to Sarah Palin: Quit Playing 'Barracuda', 9/5/08), and I agree that McCain/Palin shouldn't have done that. McCain in February of 08 caught heat for other songs, and so too did Bush during his campaigns. All were "just for the assembled crowds to hear", but there was an implied endorsement. So again, the AP should be allowed to obtain an injunction on this.

What about additional revenue?

You bet. Fairey based his image on this photo, and without it, he would be forced to close his eyes, and THINK of an amalgamation of all of the times he's seen Obama, and draw from that. Or, perhaps, a recollection from meeting Obama. This poster is a derivative work. Yes, Fairey's work has significant originality, and thus, is copyrightable in its' own right, however, it is, in fact, based upon a photograph that, in and of itself, is copyrightable. Again, Fairey admits it is based on a photograph. In fact, according to Mannie's website -
The Danziger Gallery which represents the artistic works of Mr. Fairey contacted me on the 21st of January 2009 to inform me that my photograph was in fact the basis for the artwork that has become better known now as the “HOPE” and “PROGRESS” posters.
Ok, so whose photograph is no longer in question.

So, why isn't Garcia filing claim? Well, perhaps he is not the copyright holder. Since he was not an employee of the AP, he likely signed the AP contract. If he did, then he would have transferred copyright to the AP. If he did not, then he's in a unique position, because there are supposed to be only two types of photographers - staff, or freelance. Which one is it? Is it possible there's a third category? A temporary hire who is neither an employee, or a freelancer? If so, how would rights be handled? Absent a contract, the rights would likely go to Garcia. To comment on the possibility of freelance photographers and copyright, In the latest version, which we wrote about here, is similar to the previous one that existed in 2006. However, here's the comparable language from Section 4, Term 4.1 as it pertains to rights/Copyright:
"Freelance Photographer agrees that the Assignment Photos have been commissioned by AP, and each of the Assignment Photos is a "work for hire" under the Copyright Act; and to the extent that the Assignment Photos are not deemed to be a "work for hire" under the Copyright Act by a court of competent jurisdiction, Freelance Photographer hereby assigns all right, title and interest in and to the Assignment Photos to AP, including all copyrights and any other rights in law or equity (including but not limited to other derivative works of any kind, made by any method or technology known or invented hereafter, derived from the Assignment Photos) . Freelance Photographer agrees to assist AP, at no further cost to AP, in perfecting any such assignment, including executing any documents within a reasonable time period after AP provides them to Freelance Photographer."
So, if he did sign the AP contract, then the AP is the copyright holder, and thus the AP has the right to bring suit, seek monies, or preclude the use. If he did not, then Garcia owns the copyright, and Garcia has the right to make the claim.

Why bring this claim? Aren't we supposed to be united as one under our new President, with a message of openness and Perestroika? Because, if the AP owns the copyright, then they must be consistent and vigilant, lest this be example #1 in some other infringers' defense down the line. What if the tag line wasn't positive? Instead of "HOPE" or "PROGRESS", what if it was "VILLIAN" or "THIEF"? Heck, the red and blue-green color scheme could represent danger, or something. Then, how would you feel about the AP stopping this? Would your opinion about the use of the photo change if it was a message critical of Obama instead of positive?

The copyright holder, whether Garcia or the AP, certainly has a claim. The AP certainly has the where-with-all to back it up. The artists' gallery contacted Garcia likely thinking that he would just be so honored it was his photo that he'd give them a retroactive license, and everything would be ok. Instead, either the AP or Garcia is the owner, and they are defending their rights, as they should. Fairey made money on this art, why shouldn't the AP and/or Garcia?

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Getty Flushes Scoopt

In what is likely the beginning of the privatized dissolution of Getty Images' underperforming assets, Getty today announced they were dumping Scoopt, in a letter to contributors. PDN's Daryl Lang nailed it in his piece - Getty Images's Scoopt Shuts Down. Here's Why It Failed - when he writes "To work, Scoopt had to be popular enough for the average person to know about it."

So, what was Scoopt really worth?

(Continued after the Jump)

When Getty aquired Scoopt, while they normally would have been required to disclose a purchase, because the purchase price was so insignificant (relatively speaking), it wasn't necessary. Our understanding is that the figure paid for Scoopt was significantly under $100,000. Essentially, with little to no revenue, Scoopt had built a brand on a URL with a few servers, and sold it to Getty for a tidy little profit. The founder, Kyle MacRae (LinkedIn: Profile), of the company was kept on as an employee (intereviewed here), and his new title "Director of Citizen Media" was not substantial either, and then, well, he was laid off in March of 2008.

To expand on Lang's point, citizen journalists knew about places like Fox's uReport, as well as CNN's iReport citizen journalism site and, to a lesser degree, others. Yet, they didn't know about Scoopt, but "picture-phoning" is popular, just check this link to learn more about it. Yet, if Scoopt had been saavy, they would have partnered with Fox/CNN/et al to be a distributor of submitted citizen journalist sites, even granting the originating network television exclusivity, but then licensing online and print versions, creating a revenue stream. Unfortunately, this, among a number of other ideas were put forth in a business plan that ended up being shelved, with Getty investing very little in the Scoopt brand.

Here is the letter that Scoopt sent out to contributors:
Dear Scoopt members,

I am sorry to inform you, as a member of Scoopt, that we have decided to close the business. We will not be taking in any more imagery after February 6, 2009 and will close the upload application. We will also cease licensing any imagery through Scoopt on that date.

Our experience with Scoopt has taught us some very valuable lessons. We remain convinced that there is a demand for this kind of material as part of an editorial product, but for the moment are choosing to focus our energies within Getty Images on our core products in news, sport and entertainment.

It has been a pleasure working with Scoopt, your pictures have provided a fascinating snapshot of the circumstances in which you find yourselves and have added valuable viewpoints to the news service we provide our customers on a daily basis.

A holding page will remain until March 6, 2009 but from February 6 we will not be accepting any new imagery and so the upload path will be closed, and the galleries shut down, at which point all rights over the photos revert to you, the copyright holders.

All Scoopt content that also appears on Getty Images will initially be reviewed and any Scoopt member that has photos deemed to have longer term value on Getty Images will be offered a separate contract. To be clear, on February 6, 2009 all Scoopt content will be taken down from the Getty Images website and only be reposted, once the relevant contractual relationship with individual photographers is in place.

If your material is selected for continued inclusion on Getty Images, you will be contacted directly. We will be posting some FAQ’s on the website to try to answer any questions you may have, so please do refer to this section.

Please note that we will be retaining your contact details in order to service any outstanding payments that are due and in case there should be need for a further communication update. If you would like your details removed from the database, please respond with the words Remove Details in the subject line, and citing your Scoopt member ID.

Please use the email for all correspondence regarding the closure of Scoopt

Thank you for all your enthusiasm and support which have made Scoopt such an exciting place to work.

From the team at Scoopt
The problem is, Getty is a great integrator, but not an innovator. Getty has never invented anything. They did a roll-up of companies, and now they are jettisoning those that are impacting their bottom line. Makes sense, of course, and Scoopt likely contributed little to Getty's bottom line, and moreover, was likely a distraction from other more profitable ventures.

The big question is - what division is next? While the wire service end of things brings in between 1/4 to 1/3 of Getty's revenue, how much of it is consumed by the costs of production? In the short term, Getty has had some great successes with wire service coverage of the new administration, so news coverage in Washington as well as other hot spots could see a Q1 and Q2 uptick in revenues, but is that sustainable, and will the bean counters look at that revenue with a long view, or is it about short term spikes in net revenues to sell off the individual parts?

Time will tell.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Diversify For Safety's Sake

I have a friend and colleague here in Washington who has just one client. He used to have many, but today (and for the last few years) he has had only one. He is, sadly so, at the whim and mercy of that one client. If his client gets hit by a bus, he risks being in a world of hurt. If the client forces upon him a new contract, he will be in a position where he can't say no. This is not safe.

A few months back, I wrote Search Engines and your website (9/26/07) in which I addressed some of the risks of disappearing from Google. Reliance on Google alone for a large chunk of your business could be a problem if you disappeared from the search results, or, Google was no more. Consider this - getting too cozy with any one revenue stream is a recipe for disaster. Rubbermaid was forced into bankruptcy because of excess leverage that one of its' clients - WalMart - had over it (as explained here), but, of course, Google is impervious to ceasing to operate.

Or is it?

(Continued after the Jump)

Saturday, morning, a time usually reserved for slumbering work-a-day adults, or Saturday morning cartoons for youth, instead was causing a worldwide panic behind the scenes for Google.

Really? World-wide panic?


Behind the scenes, Google works to flag websites if the site is known to install malicious software. According to Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience, who writes on the official Google blog here "We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list. We periodically update that list and released one such update to the site this morning. Unfortunately (and here's the human error), the URL of '/' was mistakenly checked in as a value to the file and '/' expands to all URLs."

You can read more about it, and see what the site looked like, by visiting this article on the issue, and reading more about the implications to the world economy.

Google's net revenue (as reported here) for 2008 was $21.8 billion. With 98% of Google's revenue coming from advertising (as reported here), that's roughly $21.36 billion from advertising. According to Google's blog (here), the rolling affect was 40 minutes, worldwide. Let's see - $21.36B divided 365 days divided by 24 hours divided by 60 minutes = $40,646.89 per minute, multiplied by 40 minutes equals $1,625,875 in a potential lost gross revenue total for Google because no paid-clicks were getting though. Consider that a paid click of $0.05 per click results in a $50 sale, and a $1.6 million dollar loss by Google could result in billions of dollars in lost gross-domestic-product. But, is it worth it to be buying Google ad words? Here's a great article on how that may not be a wise investment for some. But I digress - the point is, not only did Google lose, so too did the clients it served, on a sleepy low-volume morning like Saturday. Imagine if that happened mid-week mid-day?

Yikes. Human error caused a potential $1.6m loss in gross revenue?

Reliance on one source of revenue is risky at best, and irresponsible or more, at worst. We are diversified, generating word-of-mouth work, working with a growing base of existing clients, and yes, a percentage of our business comes from clients who find us on the web. But there are photographers who, when a tweak in Google's search results caused their site to disappear from Google's search results, were in mortal fear of their business closing. This is not good, because you should never be beholden to one form of client sourcing.

Be sure to remain diversified in your own client base. Not doing so is your own human error that will likely cost you more than 40 minutes of downtime.

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REMINDER: One of The (many) Benefits of ASMP

UPDATE: In the interest of reminding you, I thought I'd repost this piece to remind you of the importance of making your voice heard. Here again are things worth considering.

When I have found fault with the goings-on of one of any one of the photo trade organizations, I have called them out on it, and that includes ASMP. I took a great deal of heat from the leadership of ASMP for my criticism of them for their handling of the orphan works issue, and if they take a similar stand during the next session of Congress, I will do so again. Yet, keep in mind, while I was critical about that, and also critical of ASMP's handling of the disclosure of their $1.3 million dollars and their mis-steps related to the Library of Congress grant for UPDIG, I continue to think well of the many other things that ASMP has done, and is doing.

A sidebar note to some of the readers of this blog - I realize that some of you want short, sweet, and concise missives on the varying discussing topics I write about. While this is not one of those cases where I can make the case and be short, if you don't want to continue reading, here it is in short (as of the graphic above wasn't clear enough) - I encourage you to OPPOSE the proposed change to the bylaws that you will be asked to vote on in the next few weeks.
Organizations exist for many reasons, and one of the things that ASMP has done extensively, for longer than I have been a photographer, has been the promotion of monthly programming - educational, inspiring, and insightful. Having served on the local board of the ASMP chapter here in DC for several tumultuous years, I can tell you that it's not easy, or cheap, to program the chapter each year, which is something that starts each July. "Can we afford it?" "Do we have to pay for his hotel?" "Will an admission fee that high turn off potential attendees?" These were all questions we grappled with. We were always excited when we could get a Canon Explorer of Light, because Canon footed the entire bill (Nikon does not have a similar program), and it was always a home-run of a program, but that paradigm of programming wasn't something that would fill 8 or 9 meetings.

When the invitation came to me to be one of the national traveling speakers for ASMP's Strictly Business 2 series that ran at the beginning of this year, I was humbled and honored. When I was asked how much I might charge to participate, I said I'd volunteer to do it, because the original one was so inspirational, and I didn't want any speaking fees to get in the way of getting the message out, and I was not alone in my sentiments - other presenters expressed a similar sentiment. Yet, ASMP countered "there's a lot of planning and time commitments for this, and we can't pay you what you really should be paid, but we can pay you something, as we are getting sponsorships for this." I said I'd take whatever they decided was fair, and it was fair, and boy were they right when they said there would be a lot of planning and time commitments seperate from the time actually giving the presentations. Multiple trips to Philadelphia, and a trip to Los Angeles were among the travel necessary before we gave the first SB2 presentation. A thorough review of my time spent away from DC doing ASMP work just for SB2 quantifiably cost me over $11,400 in lost assignments, net after factoring in the revenue from the speakers fees for each city. I didn't object - I had earned exponentially more than that since SB1 over 12 years prior, and I felt it karmically the right thing to do, and also something I've done for the NPPA, APA, and PPA too. And remember, I am not an ASMP board member, just a general member.

I am not complaining, I am quantifying this for you, in response to very serious criticism being put forth against the ASMP leadership, and the resulting referendum that has been proposed -- which will be be voted on by ASMP members. If passed, this referendum would revise the ASMP bylaws to forbid the organization from paying its' board members any amount - even a dime - for the time spent away from their business while traveling the country on behalf of ASMP, participating in ASMP programs (educational or otherwise). I whole-heartedly oppose the referendum and encourage you to vote against it.

For those of you who would like to know why, hit the jump.
(Continued after the Jump)

Times have changed. An email from a highly respected former past presdent of ASMP - Matt Herron that went out to members attempted to bolster the position held by Scott Highton - who is championing the effort to preclude ASMP leaders from being paid for giving presentations. Herron, whom has done many many excellent things for this industry that you will never know about but have benefited from, starts his piece "a little history", when writing in support of the payment preclusion, and therein lies the weakness of the position - Herron's position is rooted in history. Herron talks about his volunteerism as well as that of countless others recieving no compensation for their time. Times have changed and there are now sponsorship dollars to make these programs happen to such a degree that these programs could never have been put on before. The tradition of volunteerism that Herron speaks about when he suggests "Obviously in your mind at least, that tradition is now dead." Nothing could be further from the truth. Herron writes "I find it disturbing that so many Board members and ASMP officers are paid so much for activities that many of us freely gave for nothing in prior years." And again, Herron suggests that the past volunteer solution fits todays reality. It does not. Herron concludes - " I know that while some boards exercise sound judgment and ethical conduct, others do not." The boards minutes approve figures ""negotiated by ASMP's Executive Director", who is Eugene Mopsik. Thus, Mopsik is the person who ultimately offers, negotiates, and then approves these figures, not the board members.

Speakers fees for these programs are paid for, in full in almost all cases, by the organizations sponsoring the talks, whether it's Adbase, liveBooks, Microsoft, or any others. Further, the expense of getting the speakers to/from the various chapter cities are paid for by the admission fees each chapter charges. A review of ASMP-national-paid figures associated with one 40-city national tour for one speaker totaled $1,200 - for all 40 programs. The criticism comes in because these companies are paying ASMP, and then, in turn, that money is paid through to the speaker(s). While I could see that some might construe this as the appearance of a conflict of interest, I disagree, or, at-least I believe fully that it is not a conflict. It's far easier - and likely better from a tax/accounting standpoint - if these corporations make their payments in a lump sum to ASMP, and then ASMP administers that, and, in the event that a speaker has to be replaced, ASMP handles that, not the corporation. Further, ASMP leadership is not a place where people join to earn untold riches. In instances of some board members I know, they are losing revenue more than they are earning, yet they feel compelled, as have countless others before them, to give back, and the disbursement of monies to them for time spent is a fair and just thing to do.

The criticisms of board members, and past board members, fails to take into account that most of these programs were either proposed and approved prior to presenters becoming board members, or board members who are no longer board members, yet continue to give back by giving programs. This coming year, ASMP has a great slate of programs planned, and I believe they all are worth attending. If you're an ASMP member, and want to see how the board is handling this, the board also provides a page of payments to directors on the website to provide even more information above what is required, including dollars spent.

ASMP needs to continue to be able to produce a national programming series, and the preclusion of paying honorariums for the days it takes to travel to, speak in, and then travel back from the next day, one program, will make for slim pickings for talent to fill the needed shoes. When it comes to determining the ability and worth of speakers, ASMP leadership is highly discerning in that endeavor.

For example, despite my having given dozens of talks to many ASMP chapters around the county, NPPA presentations over many years, APA talks, and so on, with glowing attendee reviews in hand, neatly organized by event and made available to ASMP, I had to prove I could present, and I had my try-out at an APA talk in Chicago I gave two or so years ago. So, with SB2 having been a rousing success, I have all the faith in the world that those charged with programming and choosing speakers, are doing so with great thought and deliberation, and have earned the memberships' trust as good stewards of our best interests.

In one of the criticisms leveled at ASMP by Highton surrounds the payments to those travelling the country on behalf of ASMP for the highly beneficial "It's Your Business" series of programs. He cites a stipend of $1,000 and travel expenses bringing that number closer to $2,000. Since Herron (and likely Highton too) travelled for ASMP, and as Herron notes "We were paid travel expenses, and that was it", let's stick to the point about being paid $1,000. Highton, in an attempt to diminish the programming, refers to the presentations thusly - " These programs are 2-3 hours long each", as if these presenters are being paid that much for 2-3 hours.

As both Highton and Herron know and likely practice - they charge for travel time to and from assignments for driving and flying to offset their loss of assignment income during that time. In my case, if I have an assignment to cover an event in New York City for 3 hours, I will bill a 3-hour minimum of $600 ($200/hr), plus all my travel time at a 50% rate. So, 4 hours driving up, 4 hours driving back, is eight hours at $100/hr, plus mileage/tolls and so on. in a few weeks, I travel to the Boston area to give a non-ASMP presentation and to do so, I have to leave for the airport at around 10am to arrive by 3pm to give my evening presentation, and miss the last flight out, so I fly out in the morning, not getting home until late morning, or early afternoon. thus, two days of my revenue-generating abilities are lost. So too, these national presenters lose two days for each presentation they do. So, to suggest they are "earning" $1,000 for 2-3 hours is to exclude all of the travel time spent getting to and from these locations. It works out to about $500 a day, and these are top-tier photographers who would likely bill out at $1,500 to $2,500 for an assignment that would take a day, not to mention two days.

Another criticism was of Susan Carr, a past ASMP national president (who was kind enough to blurb my book for it's back cover following her tenure), and whom I worked closely with on the Strictly Business 2 national tour. Highton suggests Carr "coincidentally was hired recently as ASMP's part time education director." Actually, that's just plain false. Carr revealed that fact back in February or March during the closing forum at one of the SB2 stops to an assembled audience of several hundred. So, it's closer to a year ago, if not longer, that Susan decided to dial back her shooting schedule to commit her time to ASMP National on a part-time job basis. So too did Highton criticize Carr for being paid for the job of editing the latest edition of ASMP's Business Practices book. For the hundreds of hours of work she spent corralling authors, updating pieces from the previous editions, and shepherding the book through the entire process, and as someone who had three paid editors working with me on my book, that is a monumental task, and thus, payment to her - to anyone - is a no-brainer for me, and further, few people know that content as well as she does, so she was the perfect candidate to do it.

Now, we're not talking about local presentations here, but Highton lumps them all together as if they are the same - and they are not. Highton writes "Most other members who make presentations at chapter meetings do so willingly, at no cost. " Yes, that's true, and I do that too. When my book came out, not only did I do a free presentation to my DC chapter (to even have suggested my local chapter pay me is, on it's face, a ludicrous thought), I convinced my publisher to donate 50 copies of the book to the meeting. Then, I drove 2 hours to Richmond Virginia to make a presentation for the Central Virginia chapter, and I too would go to Baltimore to give a presentation there too, as a local chapter to me. Local volunteerism is a critical cornerstone of ASMP's viability, but that's not the same as getting on a plane to fly for 4+ hours in the air and doing it for free.

Highton closes one of his letters to the members "ASMP's very foundations of "photographers helping photographers" and working together as volunteers for our common good is at stake." Which is alarmist at best, but false at it's core. ASMP's foundation is about local activism and participation, and that will never change. As people evolve to the level of National Leadership, where it is required to travel several times a year on ASMP business, that commitment takes on an entirely higher level of commitment and time. Highton does the math on the interest generated from $1.3m sitting in the bank earning 5%, with a possible yield of $65k, as a way of diminishing the $85k that ASMP paid to the PLUS Coalition. Wouldn't it be nice if that money somehow could become an endowment with ASMP spending just the interest and thus allowing them to put on programs and presentations never done before? Increase the token compensation of the President? Offset lost assignment days by board members with token amounts?

So, it should be clear here that the well-intentioned efforts of Highton/Herron/et al are wreaking havoc on the organization, distracting ASMP leadership from pursuring the core mission of the organization, and from delivering maximum benefit to the members, at a time when ASMP members (and in fact, all photographers) need all that ASMP has to offer.

While the mechanism of a referendum is a valuable one, the issue of TOKEN payments to leaders and members for time dedicated to ASMP programs is (or should be) a non-issue. Lets not throw the baby out with the bath water.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Micelotta out At Getty?

Previously, we reported Three Free Men - Getty Images on Lockdown (9/21/07), about the departure of Jeff Kravitz (and others) from Getty Images. Despite that, and rumors that Kravitz rethought that decision, he continues to produce images that appear on the FilmMagic and Getty Images sites. Photo District News reported the same here.

Will Frank Micelotta, as reported by Paul Melcher here, rethink his departure, or was it not his decision? Micelotta, a high profile entertainment photographer founded and then sold the ImageDirect agency to Getty in 2003.

Many of Getty's employees have a six-month reprieve from layoffs (translation: you have six months to find a new job, and good luck on that one), thanks to a freeze. What will remain in free fall is what Getty is earning from the continued decline in their per-image revenue figures.

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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