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December 2008
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February 2009

Just Desserts?

OK, say you're a well known art dealer, and you specialize in the photography market.

Say a few months back you fell in love with a beautiful iconic poster. Something that speaks to your heart, perhaps because it syncs with your political point of view.

You can't get enough of this thing. You love it so much that you ignore the fact that the poster was based on an uncredited, stolen photograph.

You know it's wrong to steal photographs.

In fact, a few months before you made the argument that a magazine should put a disclaimer on some modern photographs it published, because you felt they shared some similarities to photographs that were created over forty years ago.

That reasoning, although farfetched, shows that you have an understanding of the value of intellectual property and how important it is to protect that property. Perhaps this is because you represent the older work and have a financial stake in it.

Now, you love photography and that's to be commended. So you go in search of the photographer that made the image on which the poster was based, while at the same time claiming that the poster is clearly not a violation of the photographer's copyright because it is undeniably a case of "fair use".

After some false starts, and with some help within the photography community, you find the photographer that made the image.

It turns out this photographer was working as a stringer for a wire service

The photographer doesn't own the copyright to this image. He had (foolishly in my opinion) sold his copyright when he signed the work for hire agreement that would allow him to work for this wire service for a rate of about $250 a day.

Ouch, at this point I'm not so upset with the artist who stole the image in the first place anymore.

Photographers don't sell your copyright, and if you do, make sure you at least get some health insurance and a pension out of the deal.

OK, but you've found your guy. Wouldn't it be great if you sold prints of the image for about $1000 a pop. You bet it would. It's such a great idea that you've already pre-sold about twenty of them.

Awesome! I'm so down with that. That's how things are supposed to work. Everybody gets a little taste of the action.

I know you're a good salesman. I know you've got a good eye too. All is forgiven.

Oops, hold the phone. That wire service, the one that actually owns the photograph, they aren't so down with this. Oh, sure they'll let you sell the print, but they want their money.

Well, you kindly explain, the prints don't have any value if they're not signed by the photographer that made the image. Surely you can understand that.

Oh, we understand that. You can pay the photographer for signing the prints out of your share... bitch.

Yeah, but... don't you realize that the photographer is the one that actually made the image in the first place, and that's what has value to collectors, and it was the photographer that decided to make this image in this way and, and, and....

No, we own the image. It's ours. And yes, we will soon be out of business, because all of our clients are going out of business, and maybe all of this is because we weren't that smart with our business practices in the first place, and we can't survive by making less than twenty or thirty percent profit each year, but until we do go out of business, we're going to piss on this deal of yours... because we can, and we sure as hell aren't going to change our ways now.

I guess that was fair use. I mean, it's certainly fair that the only person to benefit from this image was the artist who stole it in the first place.

Yeah, that seems fair.

Viewer Discretion Advised

Warning: The following post is an unapologetic rant that has little, OK nothing to do with photography.

This article in the NEW YORK TIMES has been bothering me all day. Basically its about the big switch to broadcasting television in digital instead of analog and the fact that many people don't understand or can't afford to buy a new antenna or converter box or whatever.

Really, I didn't think it was a big deal either way, but evidently old people use television, instead of each other for company. You can see this in the image that accompanies the story. It shows an older woman sitting next to a television that is about her same age. The problem is, that at some point fairly soon, she's not going to be getting her Regis through this thing anymore.

Earlier this week, we heard the story of the 94 year old WW Two vet who froze to death in his own home because the city turned off his heat. I think we can all agree this is pretty screwed up. Furthermore, the guy had money! He was just old and probably didn't remember how to do things like pay his bills properly.

Then today I read that we, the people and all, through the collective wisdom of our elected officials funded a ONE BILLION dollar program to give vouchers to people that couldn't afford the converter box to keep their so-called "free" TV working in the digital age, and that the fund is exhausted and needs another BILLION to complete the mission!

Umm, in the meantime we've got people freezing to death, because nobody bothered, say a neighbor, or the government employee who decided to turn off the heat in the first place, to stop by and say..."Hey, how are things going?" to the guy.

How hard is that?

Evidently, we live in a nation of people who are too busy, too stressed or to preoccupied to help each other now and then, and to make matters worse we spend our tax dollars so that we can continue to be so.

We don't actually have the TV out here on the ranch. I mean we've got "a" TV, connected to a DVD player and all, so its not like we think its Satan's toolbox or something. When we feel like watching something we just have to make the effort to buy or rent a movie. Then we watch and that's that.

We don't use the thing as a baby sitter or company.

What's the worst that can happen if less than ten percent of the population goes without TV? They walk next door and meet their neighbor? I guess, if you a politician the worse that could happen is people have time to start asking each another why things are so screwed up.

You never know, maybe your neighbor is a really cool guy that can tell you stories as well as Steven Spielberg... from a first person perspective!

Maybe they'll even invite you in to watch American Idol.