Saturday, January 17, 2009

Scott Andrews, Remote Cameras, and the Inauguration

Scott Andrews, who, or about two decades, worked for Nikon in their professional services division helping photographers do their jobs, is a respected and amazing photographer in his own right. Today, Scott serves in the same capacity for Canon in their Canon Professional Services division, and is reprising his roll managing the remote cameras setup for the inauguration of President Barak Obama.

Take a few minutes to learn some more about remotes, and Scott.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Derivative-Work Liability - Copyright Infringement?

Our colleagues over at Photo District News ran an insightful piece "Found: The Photo That Shepard Fairey Use For His Obama Poster, 1/15/09) about how a photograph by Reuters staff photographer Jim Young was alledgedly used to create the derivative work, as noted below:

The image above is a well studied look, by Mike Cramer, dissecting the image with before and after (and inbetween) details, and the Philadephia News blog here dissects how this came to be.

The question is though, did Fairey seek permission? Did he need to?

(Continued after the Jump)

So, for the first question - When asked by Photo Business News if Fairey had licensed the right to produce a derivative work from the Reuters image, Reuters North American Director of Photography Gary Hershorn said "The image that certainly has become iconic did so without us knowing he used a Reuters photograph as the basis for the artwork. We learned that yesterday like everyone else."

That sounds like a problem for Fairey.

Reuters' blog writes about this - Iconic Obama poster based on Reuters photo, but doesn't address the legality of the use.

So, does copyright protection extend to this?

to wit:
A “derivative work” is a work based upon one or more preexisting works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted. A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a “derivative work”.
Wikipedia here has some good insights into this issue. Fairey says he based it on a Flickr photo, but, to date, he hasn't identified which one. Is that a cover for a willfully deceptive statement because he knew he based it on a Reuters image? Or, was this an "innocent infringement" because someone took the Reuters-owned image, stripped the metadata/credit line, and posted it to Flickr as their own? Herein lies one of the many challenges that Orphan Works will bring about, and, frankly, one that opponents of an expansive Orphan Works bill should be using for such an iconic image. Or, with a democratic Congress, maybe not.

Which brings me to my next question - what will Reuters do? It is Reuters' prerogative to litigate, reach a settlement, or do nothing. I am of the opinion that they will do nothing, and that if they did something, Fairey is judgement proof, so why do it? Because it's the right thing? To set a precedent? To defend their rights? It is Reuters' sole and exclusive right to choose to pursue this, or to decide not to - period. Perhaps the solution is that all future uses of the work must carry a credit "© 2007 Reuters & David Fairey"? I think that that alone would be a fair and reasonable resolution to this matter, but, it does fit the "will work for photo credit" issue that has its' own set of problems. In the end, there's no easy answer.

Related Articles:

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

30 seconds, and counting...

The above photo, captured just over four years ago on a very very cold day in 2004, has served me well. It was a better image than the one I made in the rain in 2000, and I had a better angle than I did in either 1992 or 1996. Next week will be my fifth inaugural, and arguably the most historic. This post is not, however, about politics, it's about preparation.

Today, we spent the day in pre-production. Between phone calls from prospective clients, and the estimates rolling out for February (many people not booking for the 20th are holding off booking much else until after the 20th, it seems), we were organizing gear. My life ceases to be my own at about 8pm on Friday, and it will be mercifully returned to me at about 1am next Wednesday morning.

Today's pre-production was the determination of the gear we will be using for the inauguration. We laid it all out, set it up, and tweaked it, and then tweaked it some more. Six cameras, all connected to one, triggering and pre-focused at the precise point needed at a variety of focal lengths.

Why so many cameras?

(Continued after the Jump)

Because we have approximately 30 seconds to make this historic photo. No chance for a redo on this. So we tested.

Which CF card to use? Which speed? Which speed makes a difference?

How many raw files can we generate in 30 seconds on the chosen card? What if we utilized the two slots in the D3? RAW to one, JPEG to another, how would that impact our performance?

We ran this video over a dozen times: (note - that's not my photo)

We maybe ran it two dozen times, and practiced. (In case you're curious - Bush 41's 32 seconds where his hand is/would be raised is here, and Clinton's approximately 29 seconds from 1996 can be heard here.) We learned that with our fastest UDMA CF card, in 30 seconds, we could produce 38 images on the D3. Yet, if you listen to the swearing in on that audio, the President doesn't speak for that entire time. He's reciting. So, many of those 38 images would be with his mouth closed (as the one I have above shows). I am of the opinion that the image is best when the President is actually speaking - mouth open/moving. So we tested some more. What if we only engaged the camera when the President was speaking? How would that impact the image count?

The answer is - we could capture 26 images made just during the recitation of the oath of office. I concluded that 26 images with words being spoken is better than 38 images overall. Filling the buffer and then waiting for the card to write the images produces these quantities. They are more than enough to select from - I am confident of that.

Tomorrow, we debate which camera gets what lens? The D2x - with its' crop factor can have a 300mm cum 420mm, and the D3 can have the 70-200 with the doubler? The D700 can have the wide? Lots of things to think about. Then we parse out the CF cards to the right cameras.

Yes, we will arrive at the Capitol at 5am. Yes, we will wait there for six hours before the ceremony begins. Yes, it will be freezing cold. Yes, I hope it doesn't rain. Yes, I have good gloves. No, there will be no food stands to feed us. Yes, we will be cramped. So, do I really want to be making all these decisions when I am in those conditions, or in the comfort of my office, when I realize I am short two of the Bogen 145BKT camera mounts, and two inserts for my super clamps, and have to order them from New York, instead of not having them?

We will do all of the above for 30 seconds of photographic opportunity. We have done this planning before (I can shoot an entire roll of 36 exposure film, change it out, and shoot another roll of film all the way through in 30 seconds, I learned in 1996, for example), and we will do it again on our sixth inaugural assignment. Yes, of course we will cover everyone else and everything else, but it will be those 30 seconds that matter most.

Thus, when the clock is ticking, it pays to be prepared.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Copyright - Lawrence Lessig v. Stephen Colbert

Lawrence Lessig has some interesting perspectives and ideas about copyright. He's recently written a book - Remix, where he is arguing that it's ok to remix copyright content and not pay the original owners, or allow them to preclude the remix if the copyright owner doesn't like how their work is represented.

In the piece below, Colbert takes Lessig to task - as only Colbert can, on this subject:

Two interesting notes:
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1) In the piece, Colbert modifies the title, and ads a graphic to the front page (i.e. a drawing of Snoopy). The exchange goes thusly (in part):
Colbert: OK, so, I could take your book, right here, and just change the "Remix" into "Memix"

Lessig: That's Cool.

Colbert: Ok, and, and then, change it to Stephen Colbert at the bottom, add some value, like, uh, I do a pretty good Snoopy, ok. I'll do that, ok, there's my Snoopy. Ok, so now, my book my work of art. You're cool with that?

Lessig: Ok, put this on ebay, you think this is going to get more than it is on Amazon, right now or less?

Colbert: Oh much more.

Lessig: That's exactly my point. Exactly my point. You have added value to that. Bravo. My praise to you.
Here is where Lessig misses the point - in order to ADD that value, you have to first purchase a copy of the book in order to rename it and add a Snoopy drawing. I suspect Lessig's perspective would be difference if someone re-typed the entire book (or got a copy of the electronic file), added a caricature or two, and renamed it and gave it away for free, or published it themselves for a profit.

2) They, in part, continue:
Colbert: I will be very angry, and possibly litigious, if anyone out there takes this right here, this interview, right here, and remixes it with some great dance beat, and it starts showing up in clubs across america.

Lessig: Actually, we're joint copyright owners, so I'm ok with that. You can totally remix this, I'm fine with it.

Colbert: I do not give you permission.

Lessig: I give you permission.

Colbert: To bad, you've got a lawsuit on your hands, buddy.

Lessig: No, you got a lawsuit.

Colbert: copyright is eternal.

Lessig: copyright is joint for us, its ours together, we're in this together stephen.

Colbert: I want a divorce, I'm remixing this relationship.
Now, I'm pretty familiar with model releases, and personal appearance releases, and they're pretty clear: in exchange for the appearance, Viacom/Comedy Central owns the piece, and Lessig grants all rights to them to do with it what they want. Unless Lessig has re-written the standard Viacom release to allow for his joint ownership of the Copyright to the broadcast, he is mis-informed, and is advising viewers to break the law with incorrect assertions about ownership of the broadcast. The likelihood that Lessig, when talking to the Production Assistant was able to make binding changes to the appearance release, and get it signed off on by Viacom legal, is highly unlikely.

I do agree with Lessig on one thing for certain - Copyright is changing, and we need to evolve, just not in many of the ways Lessig is espousing.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Inaugural 'Pre-Game' Behind-The-Scenes Video

Every four years since 1992 I have had the privilege (and responsibility) of photographing the inauguration of the President of the United States. This year, I've taken some time to document what goes into the assignment, from swearing-in to reviewing stand.

Related links:
Behind the Scenes at the State of the Union, 2008
Behind the Scenes - John McCain's Virginia Win, 2008

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