Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What the....? C-Registry = Con Registry? (Updated)

This falls into the "what were they thinking?" category.

Would you agree to these terms, or are you contractually allowed to if you are already represented by a stock agency?

YOU authorize The COPYRIGHT REGISTRY to represent INFORMATION, YOU and your CONTENT in collective bargaining for use of CONTENT by third parties and to execute licenses on your behalf for collective uses of CONTENT on terms to be determined by The COPYRIGHT REGISTRY at its sole discretion.
Shrouded amidst the nice-sounding concept of helping you with copyright related issues, the C-Registry, which we reported on back in November at PhotoPlus Expo, is the above language, which is, at best, horrible.

There is a significant amount of mis-information on the C-Registry site (here are their legal terms and conditions), which seems to suggest that, in order for you to be protected by copyright, you must "claim your copyright". Let's get one thing perfectly clear - you do NOT need to "claim your copyright" in order to have copyright protection. You DO need to register your copyright with the Library of Congress' Copyright Office in order to have the broadest remedies available to you in the event of an infringement.
(Continued after the Jump)

According to c-registry, photographers who fail to “claim” their copyright at c-registry do so at their own peril. While you should register your copyright, this is alarmist marketing, but it gets worse.

Here are their instructions to infringers who find that a photographer has not “claimed copyright” by registering with c-registry:
1. If an author has not claimed copyright for that work, it is considered “orphaned” at that moment in time.
  • In this circumstance, you can and should create a verifiable, trackable report indicating that the work in question was “orphaned” at the time. To create a report, click “Create Certified Report” in the menu on the right side.
In other words they are telling infringers that they are free to infringe any work that is not registered with c-registry, and they will give them a certificate to prove it.

They also instruct that photographers can designate a URL on the photographer’s website, and that all photographs uploaded to that particular URL will be registered automatically by c-Registry. This is an extremely dangerous scenario for photographers. If an infringer takes images from a photographer’s website, the photographer is only entitled to a single statutory award, for ALL images infringed, regardless of the number of images that the infringer takes and uses without permission. By encouraging photographers to dump their images onto web pages so that c-registry will automatically register those images, c-registry will cause those photographers to lose one of the primary protections afforded photographers under copyright law.

Further, the c-registry site suggests that there are 3 trillion images online, and then c-registry claims (here) that by registering with c-registry, photographers “will know when and where your content is published on the internet.”

Let's take a wild guess - If they have spidered 2 million images (and that is giving them a HUGE benefit of the doubt), and they assert that there are 3 trillion images out there, that leaves 299,999,998,0000 images that they have not yet checked for infringements and has no reasonable hope of checking. That’s not accounting for dynamic content and the requirement that they re-spider sites. And yet they claim to be capable of informing photographers “when and where your content appears on the internet.”

Further, throughout the site, they refer to the “orphan works act” as if it exists as law, rather than referring to the failed “bill”.

In a January 23, 2009 e-mail, ASMP endorsed the product, noting
"As promised last week, there are new membership benefits that ASMP has negotiated on your behalf", and then amidst the other 3 benefits they list, they advise ASMP members - "...the service could benefit you in two ways. First, it can help new clients find you from your images. Besides just being good business, this could become a useful defense against your online images being treated as orphans, if (or when) an Orphan Works law is passed. Second, it’s can help you find any unlicensed users so that you can encourage them to obtain a license."
I strongly encourage ASMP to reconsider their endorsement of this service. Just last week, C-Registry used the ASMP name in a press release (here) touting it as a benefit, when, the APA noted in an APA Alert just yesterday, they are "concerned that this is an attempt to seed StockPhotoFinder.com with images for its stock business.", since StockPhotoFinder.com is the owner of the c-registry. Further, in the APA Alert, they cite this misleading statement:
"If an author has not claimed copyright for that work and is unknown by any other means, it could be considered "orphaned" at that moment in time. In this circumstance, you can and should create a verifiable, trackable report indicating that the work in question was "unclaimed in The Copyright Registry" at the time. To create a report, click "Create Certified Report" in the menu on the right side."
This is only the beginning of the scare tactics that commercial registries will employ to scare you regarding your copyright to your works. Yes, copyright is important, and yes, Orphan Works legislation is coming and is a threat to your creative works, but this, as they say, "if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then, it's a duck." This looks to be a scare-tactic ploy to get your images into StockPhotoFinder.com, among other things.

Further, here, C-Registry claims to have “relationships with the most prestigious trade associations that are proponents of copyright”, and here, C-registry lists APA among trade associations during registration, in the drop down menu at the top, and since APA has not only not endorsed them, they have come out with a red flag APA Alert, and this is positioned to possibly imply that those trade associations may endorse c-registry, This raises the question - how many on that list have endorsed them? How many don't know their name is being used here?

Be careful, and beware.

*** UPDATE ***

Well, it seems some fancy editing has taken place over at c-registry.us. A few examples of the edits:

If the CONTENT is an Orphaned Work used editorially, use or publication should bear a credit line that indicates the source of the CONTENT.

Changed in the last day or so to:
If the CONTENT is A Work Of Unknown Origin used editorially, use or publication should bear a credit line that indicates the creator name if reasonably known or source of the CONTENT if reasonably known

The entire paragraph:
YOU authorize The COPYRIGHT REGISTRY to represent INFORMATION, YOU and your CONTENT in collective bargaining for use of CONTENT by third parties and to execute licenses on your behalf for collective uses of CONTENT on terms to be determined by The COPYRIGHT REGISTRY at its sole discretion.

That paragraph above has been removed. Interested to know how we know this? Ahh - the beauty of the GOOGLE cache! Try searching for this:

"YOU authorize" c-registry

Several entries down, you'll see the URL that ends "=47", and instead of clicking the link, click the "cached" link, and there it is. You might try clicking this link to take you to the cached entry, if Google didn't expire the cache link. Then compare it to this link, of the currently displayed page.

This is looking more and more nefarious. I wonder what else they have switched out.

Further, did anyone bother to check the Network Solutions "whois" database, to learn that StockPhotoFinder.com happens to ALSO own c-registry.com? (information here).

A hidden plan or agenda? the plot thickens.....

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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.


Anonymous said...

Simply reading their terms and conditions in the link you provided us said everything that needed to be said about their intentions. imho

On another issue I need some help understanding.

Could someone tell me what year it became acceptable to fleece the common man in America and blame it on the individuls lack of intellectual sophistication.

I thought that was considered blaming the victim?

Credit Card companies do it on a wholesale level, banks, Madoff's you name it. I'm just feeling like time has passed me by and I'm missing out on opportunities to earn some serious cash in otherwise "acceptably nefarious" practices.

It seems I'm holding on to apparently outdated ethical standards long since abandoned in lew of misrepresenting myself and my product in an earnist sincere effort to line my wallet with cash.

Since I would only be doing it to:

"develope and maintain a certain standard of living"

(Hereto in referred to as "Putting food on the table")perpetually,

why should I not view/consider in exchange for gross abuses on my part with all the accompanining risks and costs, the satisfaction of reaping substantial rewards for these types of practices perpitrated with that expressed interest on someone who is obviously stupid (Hereto in referred to as my customer base).

A little help please.

Anonymous said...

You don't need to be Einstein to know that any time that a commercial internet startup company offers you something for "free," you should immediately ask yourself "so where's the money?" You should head straight for the terms and conditions associated with registration for the "free" offer.

In c-registry's t&c, the terms reveal that they require all photographers to agree to allow c-registry to negotiate stock photo licenses for all registered photographs AT THE SOLE DISCRETION OF C-REGISTRY.

Are they INSANE? I think not. This rights grab is carefully buried deep in their click-through agreement terms, where photographers are unlikely to find it. There is no mention, anywhere on the site, of any service offered by c-registry that would require them to negotiate and license photographs on behalf of registrants.

Remember Digital Railroad? They initially launched with an offer to upload and share photographs for free, and they swore up and down that they had no plans to enter the stock photo business -- right up until the day that they launched their "marketplace" for stock photography and started collecting fees.

They miscalculated -- if you launch with a deceptive offer, you are never going to earn trust from the community of users. These companies don't invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in development of portals or registries (or whatever) without the expectation of generating millions of dollars in profit on their investment. Often the profit comes from a subsequent up sell involving an opt-in offer. Often, the free" offer suddenly turns into a restricted "lite" version, when a more feature-rich "full" version is launched that requires payment or subscription. Classic bait & switch.

I am surprised that ASMP is actively promoting this rights grab as a benefit of ASMP membership. Didn’t they read the c-registry terms & conditions before advising their members to agree to allow c-registry to negotiate and grant licenses for their members’ photographs? Does ASMP endorse the c-registry policy of declaring to infringers that all photographers’ images are orphaned works unless the photographs are registered with c-registry? Does ASMP promote the practice of tracking images by marking them with hidden pixels, even those pixels are lost when the file is cropped or altered in any way? Does ASMP advise that photographers need to “claim” their copyright by registering with c-registry, as stated on c-registry’s site?

As for c-registry, why don’t you just step forward and be honest with photographers from the start? Explain why you require the right to license all registered images at your sole discretion. Put this explanation on your home page. Advise photographers and trade associations of your plans for generating revenue from c-registry. What offers do you have in store for photographers who register their work? Will there later be an opt-in offer to include registered photographs in a stock portal or search engine?

Where is the money?

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Ok, I just went to their web site and read the terms and conditions and I can't find anywhere the quote you have posted. It doesn't ready anything like what you have said. What gives?

Julie said...

I knew it! I took one look at who launched it and knew it would be dodgy. Thanks for doing the leg work.

Unknown said...

I've seen several of these types of things recently. The first one I got was with regards to my then recent marriage. It said something like "fill out this form and send us $30 and we'll register your marriage in the state of CA". Never-mind that by sending in my marriage license I had just done that.

The next one was pertaining to a recently filed Trademark. Same sort of thing. They'll do a service for me that I can do myself cheaper.

The most recent one I received was a letter telling me that my domain name would expire if I don't take immediate action. It would in-fact initiate a transfer to the company that was sending me the "urgent" letter. Never-mind that I'm a web designer and am acutely aware of when my domains expire. All of them.

All three used language that expressed an urgency that I was not comfortable with so I just ignored them.

Thanks for exposing yet another succubus.

Anonymous said...

it appears that c-registry has quietly removed the provision in their EULA that required photographers to grant c-registry the right to license photographers' images at c-registry's sole discretion. It was in there a few days ago, as reported on this and other blogs. of course, c-registry's secret business plan has been exposed now, and their remaining terms allow them to add that rights grab back in, at any time, at their discretion. if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

Anonymous said...

The whole thing reads like it was written by a first year law student, watching cheerleader practice with a friend and they are both saying...We're gonna be rich dude!

Anonymous said...

Lots of CYA editing going on over at c-registry.us, they say with the help of ASMP.

Guess c-Registry and ASMP both missed this one on the c-registry HOME PAGE:

"In the Orphan Works Act if a publisher cannot find you after a “reasonable” search, your work is considered “orphaned” and the publisher can use your work without paying your licensing fees until you find them. Do you really want to lose out on that revenue stream? Take action today and begin claiming your copyright in The Copyright Registry™."

Hey c-registry and ASMP -- there was an orphan works bill last year, and there may be an orphan works act at some point, but not yet. Can we at least get that straight?

No matter how badly you'd like to scare photographers into registering images with your service, it is extremely irresonsbile of you to announce that the "orphan works act" allows infringers to use photographers' images without authorization. wrong, Wrong, WRONG!

What is incredible is that now that you have had every opportunity to right your wrongs, you are making dumb-ass edits like changing "orphan work" into “A Work Of Unknown Origin," while still encouraging infringers to buy a certificatte from you and go ahead and infringe.

"If an author has not claimed copyright for that work and is unknown by any other means, it could be considered “A Work Of Unknown Origin” at that moment in time."

What the &%$#?

And even now, you persist in attempting to convince photographers that they need to "claim" their copyright ownership at your registry.

Be ashamed. Be very ashamed.

Anonymous said...

I'd say someone is setting up a clearing house for all the thousands of images that reside at the Flicr's, My Spaces, Facebooks and the like.

These folks aren't preparing this for the professional photographer otherwise you would see things spelled out clearly and concisely as with Photoshelter.com and other "Photographer Protected" sites.

This type of site seems to be more interested in seeing the perpetuation of image registration confusion.

They also don't want to educate their customer base about registering their images properly or the link to the US Gov copyright office would be present and easy to find.

With all the gazillions of images being uploaded daily and the rights to those images being grabbed by the websites that support these primarily social communities, this is an incredible opportunity for a site like this to take these images, setup up a clearing house of sorts, put some space between themselves and their customers and get these images to market for whatever the can get for them.

In some ways, professional photographers think it's all about them. To the contrary, professional photographers are the extreme minority in todays market place imho. Clinging to the old ways with all their might, the professional photographer and professional images serve a small and ever shrinking market with a look and composition to match.

Lastly, with everything we've seen in the last ten years, why would you not expect an ASMP type of organization to climb into bed and shake the sheets a little.

Knowledge is power my friends and until someone breaks the law, knowledge is power.

Anonymous said...

Wait a second...you quoted something in their license agreement that was there but then they changed it to something less ominous, removing the provision that you found objectionable...and you're still objecting? What gives?

Anonymous said...

"Wait a second...you quoted something in their license agreement that was there but then they changed it to something less ominous, removing the provision that you found objectionable...and you're still objecting? What gives?"

A spider web is a spider web no matter what the words say on the welcome mat. Are we looking for approval? Only James Bond has 007.

Phil said...

This is really about earning trust from the professional and amateur photography communities by acting ethically, responsibly and honestly. C-registry has failed on all 3 counts. They can't erase that history, but at least they are now responding to the outrage expressed in the community, and they are attempting to fix some of the issues.

It looks like they are recommending that photographers submit the URLs at which they store or post their photographs. No doubt that next, C-Registry will offer those photographers a means of selling their photographs from those registered URLs. Or a similar licensing scheme.

Either way, c-registry appears to be a stock agency masquerading as a copyright registry.

They claim that their model is to earn revenue from offering copyright regisration services and certificates, and miscellaneous services. That's just chicken feed relative to what appears to be their real game plan, which was built into their original terms and has now been removed for the time being.

Why C-Registry has chosen to hide these plans from photographers is clear. it is a very bad time to launch an independent stock photo company, but a great time to launch an image registry. They will use this registry to attract users and images before revealing their real business plan.

Anonymous said...

only thing happening here is attacking. has anyone read all their answers. tons. sounds like good ideas to me. check out c-registry copyright forum

Anonymous said...

"only thing happening here is attacking. has anyone read all their answers. tons. sounds like good ideas to me. check out c-registry copyright forum"

Oh, NOW it sounds good to you so we should all go over there to the "read and pro C-registry comment only" blog where they are editing out anything someone says that they don't like.

That doesn't sound like a good thing to me. I'm a fan of freedom of speach and copyright ownership.

My appologies if feeling are getting hurt but if photographers don't stand up for themselves who is it again we go to for remedies?

When you attack someone's livelyhood don't expect to be popular. Don't expect us not to get the word out fast either.

You may think we're easily bailywicked. We're not.

A Pro Photographer said...

I was just alerted to the fact that PDN Pulse removed my post regading c-registry, together with several other critical posts made to the PDN Pulse Blog, and now is referring readers to the c-registry blog, where critical posts are rejected and where tough questions are ignored.

Looks like Randy Taylor, owner of StockPhotoFinder.com, which owns c-registry, is now manipulating the trade press. Now I know that I can't trust PDN as an information source. I won't be reading PDN's blog again.

I hope that its okay for me to preserve the public record by re-posting my deleted PDN post here


Stockphotofinder.com, the owner of c-registry, is launching c-registry as a new type of stock agency. First, they are posing as an image registry so that they can capitalize on the fear and uncertainty generated by orphan works, to lure in as many trade associations and photographers as possible.

They are posing as an image registry because the orphan works bill, which failed and has not been reintroduced, included a provision that would have allowed the copyright office to authorize image registries, and that would have allowed infringers to use any photograph that could not be found in a registry, without obtaining permission from the photographer.

Even though the orphan works bill failed, the publicity surrounding that bill created a climate of fear - the perfect climate for the launch of an image registry -during a period when launching a stock agency is just about as smart as throwing money into a bonfire.

Preferring to avoid the bonfire, stockphotofinder.com, which is going nowhere, decided to launch a new stock agency brand, hiding it behind the facade of a “copyright registry.” They launched by labeling the orphan works bill as “the orphan works act,” which is the same as announcing to infringers that the orphan works bill had passed into law. (A “bill” is proposed law, an “act” is law).

In fact, c-registry launched by announcing to infringers that if they searched c-registry for a particular image and did not find that image, the image was an “orphan work,” and that under the “orphan works act,” the infringer could then use the image. To top that off, c-registry then offered to provide infringers with a certificate proving that the image was an orphan work.

As of this week, c-registry was still advising infringers that if they went ahead and used a photograph without permission from the photographer, they should be willing to act in good faith and pay the photographer a fair fee if the photographer ever discovered the infringement. C-registry was also telling infringers that if they used a photograph editorially without permission, they should indicate the location at which the source photograph can be found.

That’s like feeding the digital file to millions of infringers on a silver spoon.

They’ve just changed the phrase “orphan work” to “work of unknown origin” under the guidance of asmp. Slick. But stupid and still harmful to photographers. They continue to offer certificates to infringers for any image that a photographer has not registered.

This encouragement of infringement is unbelievable, and is apparently endorsed by ASMP, which has again endorsed c-registry this week as a “valuable” service to photographers.

C-registry also launched with a deceptive name “Copyright Registry.” Then they stepped WAY over the line by warning photographers repeatedly that photographers must “claim their copyright” by registering their copyright with c-registry. C’mon stockphotofinder , you’re smart enough to know that photographers own their copyright instantly upon creating an image, and don’t need to claim or register their copyright anywhere to receive broad protections under copyright law. Bonus protection can be purchased ONLY from the US copyright office, for the price of an official copyright registration. Very, very misleading marketing by c-registry, and it was no accident. Now with asmp’s guidance, c-registry has changed their ad slogan to “reclaim your copyright.” It’s a joke, and very unfunny.

C-registry’s ability to track your work is based on an idea that sounds great at first, but when applied in the real world is a failure. Their “technology” involves sticking a few specially colored pixels into the corner of a digital image, and then using those pixels to track usage of the image across the internet. Problem is – it doesn’t work, and they admit it. The pixels are wiped out whenever the file is altered or resaved.

But that’s not all. While image licensing was not mentioned anywhere on the c-registry site, the real story was buried deep in the fine print of their terms and conditions. The terms stated that c-registry had the right to license and negotiate license fees for any photograph, at the sole discretion of c-registry. Sound familiar? That’s because these very same terms are in every stock agency’s terms and conditions.

Apparently ASMP didn’t bother to check out c-registry before sealing a deal to offer c-registry as a membership benefit, and recommending that all photographers register their images with c-registry. ASMP fell for c-registry’s scam, which was designed to trick trade associations into recommending c-registry to their members.

ASMP is the leading trade association for photographers and does a great job in general, but they blew this one, big time, and not only that, they tried to cover their tracks, didn’t admit their mistake, and then instead of backing out of their endorsement, they re-endorsed c-registry again this week. Like pouring salt into a wound. C’mon guys, its okay to change course when new info comes to light.

Once c-registry attracts enough registered users, you can bet that they will announce that they have a new feature. Can you guess what that feature will be?
Stock licensing.

That’s right. C-registry will announce to photographers that c-registry will handle licensing of images found by searches of the c-registry site, in exchange for a piece of the action. Sounds like: stock agency. The fact that c-registry doesn’t store images (they just store links to images), just means that photographers must bear the burden of the costs associated with storage of their images. Great, a stock agency has finally found yet another way to shift even more costs to the photographer.

C-registry has repeatedly refused to directly answer questions regarding their licensing plans, and tried to throw photographers, bloggers and associations off the scent by announcing that the registered images would not be included in stockphotofinder’s search engine, and that photographers images would not be licensed “by default.” ASMP took the bait,hook line and sinker, as did certain bloggers. Other orgs and bloggers persisted and c-registry now finds itself in a corner, forced to reveal its true colors.

There is nothing wrong with launching a stock agency or with offering to put buyers and sellers together. But it is very wrong to purposefully mislead and harm photographers and their trade associations by making false claims, hiding your true business behind a fa├žade, and encouraging infringers to use photographer’s images if photographers decide against falling for your BS and don’t register with your stock agency.

C-registry - you can try to tap dance your way out of this one, but this community has been screwed many times before, we are under extreme duress as the result of the economy, declining image value, intense competition with each other and with stock agencies, and no matter what text you change on your site, we will not forget.

Anonymous said...

Dear A Pro Photographer:

This business is changing at an unparalled pace. The economy and the newspaper industry are in dire straights.

Blogs are not driven by the rules of news imho and answering tough questions can mean showing your cards on the direction you're going and the plans you have.

If a question goes unanswered, you know the answer to that question then don't you. It is answer enough without being spoken.

Silence is a very telling thing.

Also, If you can't answer basic questions about your company's services then your hiding something from potential customers.

How many heads of companies over the last 10 years have you seen paraded in front of the Federal courthouse in Manahattan being chased by the media. A lot.

Some people will do anything for money, power and fame. It isn't until long after people have convinced themselves that what they are doing is ok before the feds come in to bring reality to a situation.

The last thing anyone wants is the Fed getting involved in their lives.

As long as non of the companies in your post don't represent photographers as a whole in the developement of this legislation, I would relax if I were you.

Even if they are, sometimes you just have to sit back and watch even when you know the results are not going to be good.

It's kind of like having a teenager. They want something so bad they can't stop themselves until it's too late.

What you can control is the level of integrity with which you choose to run your business and your life.

A photographers best friend are the words "no thank you". imho

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