From Russia With Love

August 8th, 2018
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We were excited when Russia Today showed interest in a fotoLibra contributor’s images.
But they contacted him direct (how DID they find his address?) so he put them on to us, and this is how the exchange went:

Hello Sima
D— T— has asked me to contact you regarding your enquiry about using some of his Soviet Era Russian images.
fotoLibra handles the licensing, invoicing and image file supply for our contributors, so if you tell me the image rights you require and for how long, we’ll be able to confirm a price.
Regards
Yvonne Seeley

Dear Yvonne, thank you for getting in touch with us.
We’ve been interested in using a few images of Soviet Moscow in photo gallery on the RBTH.com platform with description.
Unfortunately the budget isn’t planned for publishing material RBTH, so I was wondering if there any option we could publish few photos of D— T— with his and fotoLibra.com courtesy fee free?
Thank you for your time!
Kindest regards,
Sima

Hi D—
I’ve just looked up Russia Today and it benefits from annual government funding in 2016 of $307million. That they claim to have no budget is clearly nonsense.
I’ll reply accordingly.
Best
Yvonne

Hello Sima
Thank you for your reply.
No, we will not supply Russia Today with free images.
I imagine you get paid for carrying out your job as do your journalists and website developers. Photographers need to be paid for their work too.
If you find a budget, do come back to us.
Regards
Yvonne

She is so polite! I would have started mentioning Novichok and other such gifts from the Russian people. But this is the way the world is going, not just Russia. You do all the work, they don’t expect to pay. Remind Yvonne to tell you about Sir Peter “I don’t pay anybody for anything” Hall one day.

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Frightful Owner

January 16th, 2018
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

David Carton, one of fotoLibra’s valued contributors, has uploaded some of his images to specialist ecommerce sites as well as to fotoLibra.

Recently he was informed by one of these sites that they were removing one of his images, as the “rightful owner” of the image had sent them a Take-Down notice.

Carton was puzzled as to who this “rightful owner” could be as the image (shown below) was a scan of a 1902 ad for the long defunct Great Northern Railway in Ireland, and not attributed to any artist.

 

 

Naturally he asked for the Rightful Owner’s name. It was the Universal Music Group, claiming copyright on the image.

Why? UMG had done a search for GNR and issued take down notices for every image they could find which had GNR in the keywords.

Yes, but why? I did a Google search for GNR and found this:

  • GNR is the Great North Run — Newcastle Half Marathon
  • GNR Motors is a vehicle repair shop in the Midlands
  • GNR are one of the UK’s leading IT distributors
  • GNR is an abbreviation for the elderly American pop group Guns N’ Roses

The Great Northern Railway (Ireland), the subject of Carton’s image, does not appear high on the Google search list because it closed down in 1958.

But Guns N’ Roses do, and their agents UMG have sedulously trawled the internet to ensure the world ceases and desists from making even the tiniest profit through any association with the group. Their tsunami of threats has flooded to encompass the poor old Great Northern Railway (Ireland), defunct before the Guns N’ Roses singer was even born.

So to avoid the threat of litigation the ecommerce site capitulated and removed the image. Carton objected, and the site demanded that before they would even consider reinstatement he should agree to these conditions :

“a statement by you that you consent to the jurisdiction of the Federal District Court, San Francisco County, California, United States and that you will accept service of process from the person who provided notification described above or an agent of such person;

“a statement by you that, under penalty of perjury, you have a good faith belief that the material was removed or disabled as a result of mistake or misidentification of the material to be removed or disabled.”

 

Oh, please. These guys simply caved in under corporate bullying. Carton let the matter drop, and the image is now freely available on the fotoLibra site. So now Mr Rose of the Guns N’ Roses beat combo can breathe a sigh of relief that his pockets aren’t being pilfered and go back to being a milkshake duck.

You Might As Well Jump.

Or was that someone else?

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Google AdWords

December 13th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Like virtually every online business, fotoLibra spends a small fortune with Google AdWords. We’re supposed to be able to target our market with laser-like precision.

Our market is picture editors, picture researchers and picture buyers, the only segment of the population who never use Google searches, or so it would seem.

We’ve been on Google AdWords courses to work out how best we can deploy this undoubtedly potent tool to best advantage, and we’ve learned about Negative Keywords, and the Search Terms which trigger clicks to our website, and lots of other hard stuff.

fotoLibra has a fairly simple business premise: we license image rights. So all we have to do is to tell people that’s what we do and that we have over a million wonderful images for them to choose from. They’ll flock to us.

Recently we checked our Search Terms. This lets you see precisely what people type before they get shown our ads, and when they click on them, we get billed.

As Google says:

With the Search terms report, you can see the actual searches people entered on Google Search and other Search Network sites that triggered your ad and led to a click.

We were confounded by the information we discovered. 56% of the Search Terms which led people to click on our AdWords contained one or more of the following key words:

sexy
porn
sex
nude

We’re not prudes, but fotoLibra is emphatically not a porn site. Yet there are desperate young men so mad with lust that they are tracking down staid old us to get their jollies.

And we’re paying for it. Each convulsive click they made cost us money that we have to send to Google. It’s all rather sordid.

What can we do about it? Two things. OK, three. Immediately we can add those four words to our Negative Keywords list. We have 282 Negative Keywords which we don’t want to see in a search query, including such obvious candidates as cheap, free, jobs, intern, liquidation, resumé, CV, remainder, discount, HR, recruiter and so on. If you do a Google search and use one of those 282 words, our ads shouldn’t appear. It never occurred to us that some people had no idea how to find porn without involving fotoLibra.

The second and sadder discovery was that 94% of these clickers came from just two countries: India and Pakistan; to be accurate 29% from Pakistan and 65% from India. We can’t remember the last time we actually licensed an image to India or Pakistan so there’s a simple solution — block those countries.

So there’s an end to it. No more fotoLibra ads will appear on Google searches made in Pakistan or India, or when using any of those four words.

But what a tragic world we live in, when Indian and Pakistani men have little better to do than click one-handed on an innocent fotoLibra ad.

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Homage to Catalonia

October 3rd, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Like most decent companies, fotoLibra is apolitical, so we’re not making a political point here. We’re just saying that history repeats itself, or as George Santayana wrote ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’

I have a book published in the 1960s titled ‘Queen Victoria’s Little Wars’ which clearly demonstrated the futility of going to war in Afghanistan. We never learned.

Now fotoLibra contributor David Carton has pointed out this image of Tragic Week on fotoLibra:

FOT1482477

This is a Punch cartoon congratulating King Alfonso XIII of Spain for brutally putting down a Catalan revolt in 1909.

This week representatives of King Felipe VI of Spain brutally put down a Catalan plebiscite in 2017.

Tragic Week was the name used for a series of violent confrontations between the Spanish army and Catalonian radicals during the last week of July, 1909. Civil guards and police shot at demonstrators in Las Ramblas, resulting in the proclamation of martial law. The Spanish government sent in the army. Barcelonan troops refused to shoot their fellow citizens and so troops were brought in from outside; they put down the revolt after killing dozens of people. General European condemnation was immediate, unlike in 2017.

We never learn.

But we have learned that however tragic the news, there’s probably something in the fotoLibra archive that referenced it years ago.

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SSL Certificates

September 14th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Firstly, many apologies for the lack of fotoLibra service over the past few days. The good news is that everything is now back up and running as it should be.

The problem was with our SSL Certificate. An SSL Certificate is a cryptographic protocol that provides security over a computer network. Websites use SSLs to secure communications between their servers and web browsers. Without a valid SSL Certificate you wouldn’t be able to access a website — unless you ignored a string of increasingly dire warnings.

We have automatically renewed our SSL Certificate every two years for the past fourteen years. This year we paid for the renewal on August 25th. Unfortunately our service provider 123-Reg changed their certifying authority from Globalsign to an American company, without notifying us. An email from this unknown new company, Starfield Technologies, demanding sensitive corporate data, went straight into trash.

When we eventually checked with our service provider we were told the email wasn’t spam, it was actually from a legitimate company, despite its very iffy write-up in Wikipedia. In order to verify our SSL Certificate Starfield demanded from us a letter of attestation signed by a lawyer, and an invoice from an outside supplier verifying our telephone number.

How many invoices do you get with YOUR telephone number printed on them? Right — just one, if any; from your phone supplier; BT in our case.

The American company rejected the bill from BT because they had made it out to VisCon Pro Ltd, not to fotoLibra’s holding company VisConPro Ltd. An errant space was sufficient for disqualification.

They rejected our letter of attestation because it was signed by a solicitor, not a lawyer. Americans, eh?

They were not at all interested in the fact that all our corporate data is freely available from Companies House, presumably because Companies House is not yet totally under American control.

Because these verification letters did not meet their demands, this foreign company had the ability to pull the plug on our certification. And so they did. Despite their failure to comprehend our valid credentials, they ensured we were unable to trade for five days.

Do we get recompense? Maybe, if we had phalanxes of highly trained American lawyers. But we don’t.

So once again, please accept our apologies for this downtime. I hope it won’t happen again.

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Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

The estimable Photo Archive News tells us that Hong Kong has realised what other goodly states and countries have been ignoring over the past few years — that photographs actually have a value.

The last twenty years has been the most disruptive period in the image business since the invention of photography. The total transition from film to digital has been virtually completed, the consolidation of almost all picture libraries and stock agencies (except for fotoLibra) has taken place under the Getty hegemony, and prices for images have plummeted, benefitting only publishers — certainly not photographers, illustrators or consumers. Sales of illustrated books — an entire industry — have collapsed.

Now the Hong Kong Government has opened up its archives and decided to charge for its pictures. Is this the carrot at the end of the tunnel? Could we be seeing a reassessment of the value of images? Will people now begin to realise that pictures aren’t free by default?

They write: ‘The Hong Kong Photo Library‘s oldest record can be traced back as early as the mid-1800s. Apart from providing an official photographic record of Hong Kong’s progress and development, the Library includes a treasure trove of photos showing the many and varied facets of life in Hong Kong including our natural beauty, culture, sports and architecture.’

Members of the public can browse their website and view photo records. Hi-res digital photos can be bought for personal or educational use. A handling fee of HK$61 (£6) per photo applies. Photos purchased for commercial use are subject to an additional copyright/commercial use fee of HK$1,000 (£100) per photo.

It’s not a lot. But it’s a start.

Good for Hong Kong. As it says on the lid of my computer: “Pictures can be cheap. The right image is PRICELESS.”

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BOO-HOO

July 4th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I don’t want you to think I’ve got a fixation about this, but I believe that photographers are undervalued and underpaid.

And who’s to blame for this? Why, photographers of course.

Once upon a time every branch of every bank had a bank manager. He (always he) would look after your money, let you take some of it out, and very occasionally, after terrifying scrutiny, he may have allowed you a loan.

And once upon a time photographers would sign up with picture libraries, who would license their pictures to publishers and advertisers etcetera and pay them half the net sales receipts.

Then some clever clogs in banking introduced the concept of Products. No longer content with banking your money, they now wanted to sell you Insurance and ISAs and Credit Cards and Loans and Investments and Mortgages and PPI and God knows what else. At the moment my bank offers six different current accounts. And the bank manager is no more.

The same thinking infected the Picture Library business. Instead of simply managing photographer’s image rights, they introduced Royalty Free images and Fixed Prices irrespective of usage and Microstock and Subscription Packages and Credits until the poor photographer no longer knew which way was f22.

The microstock concept was irresistible. Pile ’em high, sell ’em cheap. They sold in their millions — who wouldn’t buy a picture for a dollar, even if you had to spend ten dollars and buy nine pictures you didn’t need to get there? Photographers flocked to upload their images, with sales coming every month instead of once or twice a year. No worry that the sales were in cents and pence rather than dollars and pounds — someone out there liked my picture!

Now that happiness has been tempered. It’s great to make a sale, and it’s fantastic that your photograph has been seen by 40,000 people. Or 400,000. Or 4 million.

But when your photograph has been seen by 400 million people and you’re looking at a cheque for a measly £18 you might feel a little short-changed. But that’s what you signed up for. Brexit means Brexit. Royalty-free means Royalty-free. Microstock means micro-earnings — for the photographer.

The pleasure of seeing your work published palls after you realise everyone else involved is staggering to the bank under the weight of sackfuls of cash.

This has come about because a number of excellent photographers have been shocked to find the beautiful images which they uploaded to microstock sites, full well knowing the prices that would be charged, were actually sold to professional picture buyers. I wonder what they expected?

What they expected was a few pence per image and lots of sales. What they got was something like £18 per picture, and exposure to 400 million people who are using Windows 10. But no picture credit.

Yes, the canny purchaser was Microsoft. If there are photographers out there prepared to offer their work for peanuts, then pay them peanuts. No matter that Microsoft turned over $85,320 MILLION last year. Why pay more if it’s being offered so cheaply?

I can’t say that had Microsoft come browsing around fotoLibra we’d have made millions for our contributors. I can safely say we would have charged much, much more and I believe Microsoft would have been happy to pay it. We’ve sold half-a-dozen images to Microsoft’s excellent search engine Bing and they paid us £175 each.

What’s the answer? Don’t undervalue your work. Put it with an agency that respects your value and your worth. You may not see sale notifications quite so frequently, but when they do come in they’re in pounds rather than pence.

Source material came from Journalisten and PetaPixel, with thanx to Petax Howl.
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Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

fotoLibra‘s Home Page images have always been a source of joy to picture buyers and general browsers alike.
We’ve had only one lingering worry. Because computers have horizontal screens, all our chosen images had to be Landscape.

And we’ve got just as many superb Portrait images, which we couldn’t show you.

Then we thought, hey, Instagram works well on mobiles and cellphones and tablets, and people tend to hold those things in vertical mode, so why don’t we upload some of our great Portrait format images to Instagram?

Good plan, we thought, patting ourselves on our shapely backs. So here goes. The first one went up earlier this week. Because it won’t click through to the fotoLibra site, each one will be credited as follows:
“Film helicopter: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Kevin Fitzmaurice-Brown. You can licence this image and millions more through fotoLibra.com. #fotoLibra”

Of course they won’t all be photos of Film helicopter: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Kevin Fitzmaurice-Brown.  There’ll be a different picture every day, probably including one of yours at some stage. But each image will finish “You can license this image through fotoLibra.com.”

So please go to Instagram, search for fotoLibrarian, and please LIKE every picture you see!

A word of comfort: each image will be small size, lo-res and watermarked so ongoing opportunities for illegal usage have been minimised.

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Tergiversation

February 13th, 2017
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Don’t know the word? Neither did I until I searched for a way to describe the way fotoLibra contributors preferred to photograph people.

Tergiversation means the literal turning of the back — that is, the tendency of most photographers to photograph people from behind, primarily because they don’t wish to cause offence or go through the tedious hassle of obtaining model releases.

I ranted and railed against this — and I Was Wrong.

There. I’ve said it. I admit it, and I apologise.

But I hedge my apology with numerous sub-clauses and conditions, provisos and reservations. In normal life PLEASE photograph people so we can see their faces, and if you seriously want to sell people photographs in this litigious world, you must get a model release. It’s as simple as that.

So why do I now say I was wrong to forbid photographs of people’s backs?

For the simple reason that it’s rare today to find a novel that doesn’t feature a photograph of someone’s back view on the cover. Have a look at these recent publications:

Back View Covers

What’s the reason for this? Well, fashion as much as anything. Book publishers are ovine in behaviour — as soon as one of them gets a bestseller, others stumble over themselves to mimic the success story as closely as possible. Clearly there was a recent bestseller with a haunted, lonely figure on the cover, so now everyone else has piled in on the act.

Please note that these are not simply photographs of people from the back. They are solitary, anguished, haunted folk, struggling with inner and outer demons. And another reason is that they probably don’t require model releases!

So more of these please. Not group shots, just wild, mournful, tragic heroines. And the odd hero, of course.

I secretly wish that on the back covers we could see the front view of the haunted, lonely figure.

Tergiversation, by the way, in case you’re as interested in words as I am, has a darker meaning: the action of ‘turning one’s back on’, i.e. forsaking, something in which one was previously engaged, interested, or concerned; desertion or abandonment of a cause, party, etc.; apostasy, renegation. Also an instance of this; an act of desertion or apostasy.

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