Thursday, July 22, 2010

What's a CD Cover Worth?

There are two stories to take away from this article - Vampire Weekend's Cover Art 'Contra'-versy: Model Sues Band for $2 Million.

First - you have a model who did not sign a model release and who's likeness was used in the marketing and advertising of a rock band. Her story - a Polaroid "snapshot" of the model, taken by her mother may well have been something given to a charity bazaar (during a house-cleaning?). This is but one risk of the Orphan Works legislation, yet, right now, the model has recourse, to the tune of $2,000,000. If Orphan Works were passed, surely her mother (the photographer) wouldn't have recourse, but, would the subject?

And now, a second consideration.

(Continued after the Jump)

All to often, bands claim to have no money to pay for photography - let alone the visual images they use to market their albums/CD's. It's not uncommon for bands to want to pay $100 (or only photo credit!) up to $500. In this case, an "INDIE" group, through a small label, "reportedly paid $5,000 to use the picture". Being paid for cover uses is critical, and values an skyrocket. For example, Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto's photograph, "Boden Sea", was used on the cover for U2's "No Line on the Horizon" album cover, "Sugimoto's only stipulation was that no text could be placed on top of the image." according to Wikipedia. The arists made a deal, according to The Japan Times (here) "Bono agreed on an "artist-to-artist" barter whereby Sugimoto could use the "No Line on the Horizon" song in any project he wanted in the future." What's the unlimited use of a U2 song worth?

This point is not to be missed - rock bands typically want to pay a fraction of the true value that an album cover image should license for. That image will become synonymous with the artist and album. It will be used in advertising, marketing, and so on, for years to come. The ability of the photographer to relicense that image for exclusive use will not exist in the music industry, and may well be an issue for other industries as well. Further, and don't fall for this one - the record label may say they have to have all rights in perpetuity!

In the end, if you're a hobbyist photographer (as this model's mom was) and you have a polaroid, and the band is an indie band, and the record label is a small one, then the album cover art is STILL worth AT LEAST $5,000.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

BP Guilty of What?

When photographers working for corporate clients get a request to digitally alter an image, it gets done, plain and simple. Now, that photograph should never be presented as an unretouched image to editorial/news outlets, but if the purpose of the photograph is to have the image placed on a corporate website for marketing purposes, then while people have a right to beware, the company is not, for a minute, holding out a "handout" photo as unretouched, unless it says so, or the photographer presenting the image says so.

So BP gets in a bit of hot water with their retouching, here - BP's Photoshopped Crisis Command Center Is Terrible On Every Level, but what's the problem?

For me, when I do work for a corporate client, and I make that image available to a news outlet, I have not ever, nor would I ever, allow an image to be manipulated in any way beyond a standard set of guidelines that are familiar to those in the news media, and dropping in a screen would be a big big no-no. I have, on more than one occasion, told a corporate client I could not do something they asked because the intended recipient was a news outlet. However, if the intended recipient is a corporate website, then things as simple as removing blemishes on a portrait and as extensive as merging images, is completely within bounds.

It seems that BP placed a photo on their website, and it was either an old one with new screen grabs added in, or the metadata that was added was wrong. Either way though, it's marketing materials, plain and simple. If someone wants a news photograph, then you have to call in a news photographer - either a freelancer with a trusted track record, or one on staff for a news outlet. While I think that the only thing BP is guilty of is bad photoshop work, what do you think?

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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