Friday, June 26, 2009

New York Times Advocating Copyright Infringement?

Freelance "independent writing and editing professional" Sonia Zjawinski (LinkedIn: Profile) has published a piece - Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool - under the New York Times masthead that, by painting with broad stokes and no caveats, writes:

And if you’re wondering about copyright issues (after all, these aren’t my photos), the photos are being used by me for my own, private, noncommercial use. I’m not selling these things and not charging admission to my apartment, so I think I’m in the clear.
Ok, so she says "...I think...", well, Zjawinski, think again. The problem is, countless people will have read that article, and concluded that it was ok to infringe on the copyrights of countless people on Flickr. The responsible thing to have done would have been to have directed readers to look for the Creative Commons tags (that Flickr showcases here) that would give readers guidance about what they could, and could not, do with the photos.
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The author, not content to have been hoisted up by her own petard, and pummeled in the comments section, seeks out a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who suggested "People are posting photographs and know very well that they are going to be viewed by people on a computer, and if someone wants to print a photo out that they see on Flickr to enjoy some other time and in some other place, that seems fairly analogous to what people did with the VCR."

Uhh, no. The author tries to cover her tracks, because, since she's a freelancer, she may have concerns about keeping the New York Times as a client, and she writes of her initial article in the second one "... a lot of people saw it as promoting thievery. That was not what I wanted to advocate by any means." It then seems she found a lawyer at the EFF who would back her position on this issue, or atleast give her cover. It wasn't until her second article (I would call it a mea culpa article) - Are Flickr Photos Fair Game for Home Printing?, (6/26/09) that the author directed readers to the Creative Commons pages, but how many people who read the first, then read the second?

It used to be that the news media would vet and fact-check the articles that went out under their masthead. Further, employees of these organizations knew that if they got it wrong or played fast and loose with the facts, they would very quickly lose their jobs. However, on this NYTimes gadget blog, facts and truth seem to have been separated from the reality of the laws that govern copyright.

With thanks to Rob Haggart over at A Photo Editor, and secondarily, Lane, for the heads up on this.

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The News of the Day

Timing is everything. The news of the day yesterday, atleast for those of us stateside, was the passing of Farrah Fawcett. That is, until the King of Pop himself passed away. Immediately, Fawcett was eclipsed by the passing of Michael Jackson. As someone who has had a close family member pass away, I had a strong desire for the community to turn out in droves to honor my loved ones' passing. So too, no doubt, did Ryan want that for Farrah. Yet, the news of the day became that of Jackson.

What could this possibly have to do with the business of photography?

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As I started with, timing is everything. In the above case, it was bad timing all around, however, the timing of Jackson's death will affect the celebration of Fawcett's life. In a corporate example, my long-time client, XM Satellite Radio, was scheduled to officially launch their service, if memory serves, on September 12, 2001. That, of course, got moved to later in the month, and it was a subdued launch. The other day, I was working with a client who was promoting a press conference/news event for a very worthy cause, however, the news media were immediately dispatched to cover the metrorail crash here in DC, so no media came.

Be sure that your contracts for services rendered have cancellation fees. If you were a photographer in LA photographing a VIP reception at UCLA Medical Center in LA for the hospitals' biggest donors and the Hospital board, and they cancelled the event because of the media horde and all the mourners outside, a cancellation fee should apply. It should apply especially if the client didn't tell you until close to the event start, and you had turned down multiple assignment requests from media outlets to cover the mourning (and become a part of the horde) because you knew you had another contractual commitment. Further, contemplate your own timing as you make plans for your business. Don't send e-mails to clients, for example, Saturday afternoon. They'll get lost in their inbox, and a lesser portion of them will get read than if you sent them Monday mid-morning, after prospective clients have cleared their inboxes.

Just as you would never send a non-time-sensitive e-mail to a photo editor at a daily newspaper when they are on deadline (usually between about 4pm and 6pm or so), or knowing that the weekly publications put their final issues to bed Tuesday evening so calling/emailing Tuesday afternoon will get you ignored, so too, paying attention to the news cycle as you time your activities is something very important to the longevity of your business. This isn't personal, it's just business.

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.

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