Archive for August, 2010

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Readers may recall the troubles I’ve recently had with an enhanced ebook: The Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe.

Ever the early adopter, I rushed out and plonked my money down when the immortal Oxford English Dictionary was first published electronically in 1993. We didn’t use the word ebook back then.

It was merely called “The Oxford English Dictionary on Compact Disc”, and it came in a chunky A4 sized white plastic box. This was considerably smaller and lighter than the 16 volumes of the printed work, and of course somewhat cheaper, as well.

Inside the plastic box came a printed instruction manual, a floppy disk which contained the program and the necessary fonts, and a CD-ROM which held the data.

I can’t use it any more because it only runs on Mac OS 7, 8 and 9, and I no longer have a computer that uses those operating systems. Or a floppy disk drive.

But all is not lost. In June last year I had a cheery letter from Oxford University Press offering me, as a registered user of Version 1.0d, the Oxford English Dictionary 2nd ed — new Mac-compatible CD-ROM v4.0 on a Special Offer!

For a mere £149.25 more I would be able to read my version of the OED on a more up-to-date computer.

Of course for the same amount of money I could buy all 16 volumes second-hand from Abe Books.

And I wouldn’t have to chuck it away when Apple finally release Mac OS XI.

But now OUP have announced that the next edition of the OED may well be available only as an ebook — no print edition at all. So we’re moving to a situation where we will have to pay out regularly for upgrades to carry on using a necessary reference work.

It’s what the software and publishing giants have dreamed of. Books that expire after a certain time. After all, who is still using Photoshop I nowadays?

Property Releases

August 19th, 2010

We recently posted a blog about Model Releases.

Reading Jacqui Norman’s August Newsletter to fotoLibra members this afternoon I noticed she repeated her advice not to photograph National Trust properties as they wanted to reserve the rights to themselves.

As far as I know, this “right” hasn’t been tested in law. I’m a staunch supporter of the National Trust, but their unilateral ban on photography of our national heritage does get up my nose.

I’m also a supporter of personal privacy. Not so long ago someone complained because a photograph of his unusual (and ugly) car had been posted on fotoLibra. With the agreement of the photographer, we removed it, simply because it wasn’t worth fussing about. The complainant had absolutely no right to prevent its use, but as he asked nicely enough and we saw no early prospect of a sale we took it down.

The National Trust and other owners of heritage and interesting buildings deserve protection from exploitation. Images of their properties should not be used for promotional purposes without their consent. They shouldn’t be used to endorse commercial products without some sort of fee being paid.

But I absolutely defend the right of people to photograph what they will, and sell those photographs if they can, if they are to be used in an educational, illustrative, informative or editorial function. If you’re publishing a book on Castles, you’ll be including a number of National Trust properties. The book will be about those properties. There is no way anyone should only be allowed to use pre-approved images of these buildings.

It’s down to power and control. Celebs in the pupal stage will do anything to court publicity. Once they achieve imago they need to control publicity: vetting photographs, checking journalists’ credentials, only being photographed from one side.

The National Trust’s position is looking increasingly fragile. It only needs someone with a little spare time and a little spare money to challenge their stand, and I suspect the edifice will go the way of the walls of Jericho.

A recent case in America will illustrate the point. I may say that in this instance I am firmly on the side of the property owner.

Douglass Robinson lives in a startling yellow house of the Painted Lady style in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, fondly remembered by all old ’60s potheads. He’s accustomed to having the house photographed, and he normally puts up with it.

But he finally drew the line when his venerable old pad featured as the solus lead on a leaflet advertising mortgages for an international bank. Sympathetic neighbors asked if he was going to sell, or if he was running into financial difficulties?

So he did what every red-blooded American does in times of crisis: he sued. On seven counts.

And the HSBC Bank (for it was they) won every one of them.

You can read the whole sorry saga here. The blog is headlined “A House’s Right To Publicity”, but surely it should have been “A House’s Right To Privacy.”

HSBC should not have gotten away with it. Apart from anything else, it was discourteous in the extreme not to request permission of the owner. (I can hear the lawyers whispering in the back of my head: “such permission not to be unreasonably withheld”).

American law is based on precedent. This judgement is going to make it harder for property owners to claim visual rights over their buildings.

Unlesse the owners are large American corporations, of course.

Mature Times

August 13th, 2010

Keen on your hobby? Why not turn it into a business?

I don’t know much about the magazine Mature Times, but I do know they’ve got EXCELLENT ideas. Because the nice people there have written an article about fotoLibra photographer Linda Wright (she of the wondrous Birds of Prey photographs) in which they say very nice things about the part fotoLibra had to play in Linda’s success.

Aw shucks! (scuffles foot shyly behind other heel).

Hovering Eurasian Kestrel ©Linda Wright / fotoLibra

The Dictionary Game

August 4th, 2010

Before I tell you about this wonderful and enjoyable challenge, just a word on the new fotoLibra Version 4.1.

We launched it a couple of days ago and the reaction from both buyers and sellers has been extremely positive, once users discovered where to access all the new features. If they still elude you, please check out the comments in the last blog posting, where all is revealed.

Now for the The Dictionary Game.

It’s summer, time for fun and frolics (it’s raining hard as I write this), and this is an amusing if cerebral pastime.

I used to do this for fun as a kid, but I’m not a photographer, simply a man who takes photographs.

Flip open the dictionary. Find a word you don’t know (come on, there must be one).

Read the definition.

Now photograph it.

Do you see? It makes you think very hard about how you convey the meaning of a word visually. It’s even more of a challenge — and therefore much more satisfying — if the word is an abstract concept. Or a verb.

When you upload the resulting image to fotoLibra, imagine the pleasure of getting a fotoLibrawhack — your picture being the sole one returned when a search for ‘glabrous’ is made, for example.

Here are some words that have sent me scurrying for the dictionary recently:

  • aboulia
  • gremial
  • eirenicon
  • cagot
  • lepid
  • manyplies
  • temulent
  • paneity
  • lucubration
  • zoilism
  • lek
  • coper
  • hamfatter
  • copacetic
  • autochthon
  • luculent
  • epicene

Have fun!