Friday, November 6, 2009

FotoWeek DC 2009 - Copyright: Protecting Your Images and Creative Work and Why it's So Important Presentation - MONDAY

Once upon a time, I was the Vice President of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP) in our local chapter, and have always been a fan of the organization, so when they asked me to share the stage in a moderated conversation with a noted attorney, and take questions from the audience in an effort to dispel many of the myths surrounding copyright, I was happy to oblige. You will walk away from the presentation having a far better understanding of how to register, and I'll be walking you through the actual steps of a registration (in a non-boring way!) Here are the details:

Lecture - Copyright: Protecting Your Images and Creative Work and Why it's So Important by the American Society of Picture Professionals DC/South Chapter
The American Society of Picture Professionals DC/South Chapter presents a compelling evening of Photographers and Legal Professionals that will take you on a journey of Copyright Law, How to Prevent Image Theft, Register your creative work and a Panel discussion of recent copyright news stories that have brought this issue to light. This affects not only professional photographers and artists but anyone who posts their photos online.
Presenters: John Harrington, President of the White House News Photographers Association in 2009; Brad R. Newberg, Senior Counsel, Holland & Knight

Registration is from 6:30pm-6:45pm
Lecture starts at 7:00pm

You must register online here - don't wait!
Last year's event SOLD OUT!
To contact ASPP click here

LOCATION: US Navy Memorial, Burke Theater, 701 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004

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FotoWeek DC 2009 - "Art of the Deal" Presentation - TOMORROW

As a part of FotoWeekDC, tomorrow, Saturday, November 7, I will be presenting a two-hour program on business practices, including how to value your work and place it (and you) in the best light, as well as handling client negotiations. Below are the details - oh, and it's FREE!

1:00pm - 3pm
John Harrington - The Art Of the Deal
From the long-term value of client relationships, to real-world client interactions, The Art of the Deal will give photographers insights into how to be better at the business of photography. In this abbreviated version of John Harrington's longer-form presentation, he will discuss the finer points of client relationships, and dissect some of his own client interactions. What are the factors that go into determining a photographers' rate, and how a license gives both the client and the photographer clarity and peace of mind when it comes to image uses.
Location: 3338 M Street, NW, Washington, DC 20007
Other program information is available here.
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FotoWeek DC - Awards Ceremony

Last night was the awards ceremony for the second annual FotoWeek DC contest here in Washington, which officially kicks off tonight, Friday night. The event was about an hour in length, however we've done some fancy footwork with the editing, so the whole thing can be seen in about 17 minutes. If you were among those in Japan, or elsewhere in the World (or, heck, in DC and just didn't make it), you can get a feel for the event, and see who else won! There were some amazing images in the contest, and the multimedia entries were amazing. We've really truncated those for this piece, but rest-assured you can see not just the winning entries, but learn about all the other happenings in FotoWeek DC here.

FotoWeek DC 2009 Awards Ceremony from John Harrington on Vimeo.

(Note - the ceremony was Thursday, 11/5, but the intro graphic says 11/4 - apologies for the typo).

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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Dim-witted Ideas from The Copyright Registry

Advising photographers that you should only ever register a single image at at time is just as dim-witted as advice to someone to never go across the street because you might get hit by a car. Yet, the brilliant minds parading around as experts-in-residence at the dubiously named Copyright Registry are telling you to do just that, when they suggest, in their poorly titled blog piece - Best Practices Copyright Registration Quantities - "Best Practices for governmental copyright registration dictate that you should only publish and register one image at a time." We previously wrote about the dubiously named Copyright Registry - What the....? C-Registry = Con Registry?

The "diminished value" advice in this article may - and I emphasize heavily *may* - be just as technically correct as the notion that you should never cross a street or you might get hit; or, you should avoid flying because you might crash; or, a la Howard Hughes - never interact with another human because you might get germs. However, photographers are not producing a few oil-on-canvas works of art each year, they are producing tens of thousands of images a year - often thousands of images from one day. You do the math - $45 per registration multiplied by 500 images and guess what? You're essentially convincing photographers that it is not economically sound to register.

It's easy to sit in a Park Avenue apartment dreaming up ideas that you shill like a turn-of-the-century snake-oil salesman, as the owners of the dubiously named Copyright Registry seem to be doing. Yet this ivory tower mentality has almost no real world application, and is not rooted in reality.

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It seems they are trying to scare you into using some poorly thought out product they offer that will somehow automate the process of "governmental copyright registration", as if there is any other type! They suggest
"A la carte, individual registration eliminates the efficiency of bulk registering all the images of a photo shoot or project or calendar year and adds a significant logistical burden to creators."
And then in the next sentence hold themselves out as the solution
"This is one reason why image registries like are growing rapidly."
Filing images in any way, either by somehow uploading all your images to their system or an online gallery (as if these are not a logistical burden in and of themselves!) does absolutely NOTHING to protect your images from infringement. The only proper protection is actual registration at the accurately named Copyright Office. It sounds misleading at best to say in a video tutorial "Site Protector is the easiest way to register your images with the Copyright Registry". Someone who doesn't know any better could be duped into thinking that doing this actually gives you "copyright registration". It DOES NOT. By writing "governmental copyright registration" they seem to be suggesting that "copyright registration" without the modifier "governmental" is somehow worth anything, and thus, they suggest with language like "register your images with the copyright registry" you should be using their service, almost to the point that you might actually think you have actually filed a real copyright registration that is actually worth something. YOU HAVE NOT.

Statistics speak volumes about the realities of copyright registration. Fewer than 5% of all professional photographers have ever registered their work with the US Copyright Office, and fewer than about 2% register with any regularity. This blatantly unrealistic and bad advice about registering one image at a time just further demonstrates how out of touch the dubiously named Copyright Registry is.

Let's start with a "Best Practice" that the dubiously named Copyright Registry and I can agree on - you should be registering your work. Second, we both can agree that, as they admit about the two ideas put forther in their blog article "neither of these approaches is practical". Let's be perfectly clear here then - you are suggesting a "best practice" is NOT PRACTICAL? That then makes it not a best practice, since you can't practice it practically. This idea isn't just out in left field, it's standing with its' mitt in the parking out outside the stadium wondering why no pop flies are coming over the stadium walls.

To paraphrase the game Monopoly, which, when sending you to jail says "do not pass go, do not collect $200", I say "Do not spew forth impractical and inaccurate advice to photographers on copyright. Do not draw photographers into an ill-conceived flim-flam of an idea that is almost certain to fail them when they would most need it. By then you'll be on to your next money-losing charade."

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Getty Images and Bloomberg - Futurescape

Let's say you're Getty images, and you have to pay a staffer $350 a day, plus gear and other overhead, to cover an event, which would amount to about $600 a day. From that event, let's say you have fifteen $25 sales of your wholey-owned content, or, even worse, 100 images fit the bill for a subscription model, where the per-image attribution is $1.50. That's maybe about $200 in revenue from your wholey-owned content. Couldn't you cut out that $600 expense and do it cheaper?

What if you were distributing the images of Agence France Press (AFP) and Bloomberg who have their own photographers and wholey-owned content, and they wanted to use the Getty distribution pipleline to reach more customers? Getty recently announced here that they would be the editorial distributor for Bloomberg News images.

Now, as a Getty staffer covering an event, you need to be looking at both the AFP and Bloomberg photographers as your competition. Note - I am not talking about the healthy competition between, say, the AP and Reuters and AFP, but actually, competition for whether or not you get to keep your job. This is because, if you're not careful, some green-eyeshade-wearing actuary will do the math and realize that carrying editorial staff photographers just might not be economically sound, and as Getty recently shuttered their creative photography division (as we reported here), so too might the agregated revenue from AFP and Bloomberg prove that they can do without editorial staff photographers.

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While theses employees are a significant revenue stream for Getty, they may not meet the profit targets that Hellman and Friedman have for Getty before they try to sell their entire library to Google or Yahoo. Don't think it could happen? Dan Heller, just a few weeks ago wrote here - Might Picscout Ultimately Cause Yahoo to Acquire Getty? - about this very possibility. While Dan and I come at things from differing perspectives, I often enjoy reading what he has to say. Trust me when I say this - the ONE thing Yahoo/Google don't want to do, is have photographers on their payroll.

What about all those contracts with the sports leagues? Each of those teams has their own photo departments, and Getty under a Yahoo/Google could just become a distribution point for those pre-existing teams. I know, it's complicated, but when cost savings, and profits from IP are the topics of conversation, smart business people figure out how to cut costs. More than one time I have been at an event where there was a WireImage, FilmMagic, Getty, and AFP photographer covering an event, and everyone looks around scratching their heads - that is essentially 3.5 photographers covering ONE event, that normally would be covered by one. Why not scratch the WireImage, FilmMagic and Getty photographers, and be the distribution point for the AFP and Bloomberg images from that event? That's essentially the same revenue as 1 photographer. Don't think that the bean counters haven't thought about this.

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

ACTA - Sounds Too Good To Be True

The ACTA, or Anti-Copyright Trade Agreement, on its' surface, and if all the leaks are to be believed, sounds too good to be true. The goal of the agreement is to fix the standards that are essentially broken in the copyright field. Frankly, from what little I have heard, it sounds great. The devil, of course, is in the details. Fortunately, the negotiations are taking place in secret, to minimize intrustions by those who want the entire internet to be free, and for anyone anywhere on the internet to use things like photographs they do not own, for free.

Wikipedia has done a good job of summarizing it here, but here's the reality about copyright...

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While you own the copyright to what you create the moment your image is fixed in a tangible medium (i.e. film, memory card, etc), your ability to get paid and punish infringers is minimal unless the image is registered. Estimates show that fewer than about 2% of photographers regularly register their work, and about 5% have ever registered. Sure, you can send a DMCA takedown notice, but the infringer can continue their infringing ways. How cool would it be if, like California's "three strikes" rule - which dictates that criminals after having committed three felonies, go to jail for good - you would experience an escalation of punishments - and fees - which would end in your being forbidden from using the internet? Gizmodo suggests here - " An example of a graduated response is France's "three strikes and you're out" law. There, you get two warnings if caught sharing music or movies, then you're banned for up to two years."

Thus it seems, your ISP would refuse to make available to you (presumably at your home) internet service. How would they police mobile internet cards, or your access at public libraries, etc? Obviously, there would be some challenges, but - and I stress this again - on its' surface, it seems too good to be true.

I don't expect, given the international coalitions that are negotiating this agreement, that any one organization or corporation will be able to stop it. The Berne Convention, for example, was initially unpopular, and the US didn't sign on until 1989, however there are still a few elements of Berne that the US does not accept, like the rule of the shorter term. Could this happen to elements of ACTA? Yes, but not to the degree that would gut the benefits that photographers would see from it.

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