by Gwyn Headley
We received a cheery sales enquiry this morning:
I work for the Social Security Administration (SSA) in the Dallas Region. The Dallas Region is comprised of Social Security offices in 5 states (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas). The Dallas Region is separated into 6 parts called Area’s [I think he means Areas]. One such Area has Social Security Offices in two states (Oklahoma and Arkansas).
We are creating a banner for the Area front page that would represent 2 states (Oklahoma and Arkansas) and we would like to use one of your pictures as part of the banner to represent the State of Arkansas. This front page would exist on a Secure intranet and would only be visible to Social Security employees. This Intranet is not accessible to the general public or anyone outside of the Social Security Administration and serves as an information portal for SSA employees.
Please consider allowing us to use your image shown. As a government entity we cannot pay for rights.
Yvonne was on it in a flash:
Many thanks for your message and for your interest in one of our images. I’m sorry to read that as a government entity you can’t pay for rights because, as a stock agency, our business is selling usage rights for our many contributors.
I regret that I can see no reason why we should give you free rights to use one of our images and wish you luck in persuading someone else to give away their work for no reward.
What a model of restraint. It’s fortunate she responded before I had a chance to vent my spleen, otherwise Anglo-American relationships could have been irreparably damaged.
This scenario is becoming increasingly common. I wrote about it in a blog last November, Give Us Your Work For Free. Yvonne was more concise and to the point than Whitey. Why should anybody, in any organisation, in any country, anywhere in the world, expect to be paid for what they do and yet expect you and me to hand over the fruits of our investment, creativity and labour for nothing? It’s contemptuous, patronising and demeaning.
Mind you, Yvonne has form where this sort of behaviour is concerned. Some years ago when she was working for BASF and Sir Peter Hall was Director of the National Theatre, Hall’s secretary rang up to order 10 reels of recording tape. Yvonne’s question was to be expected: “To whom shall I send the invoice?” In a flash Hall (as he was then) was on the phone, fulminating “Don’t you know who I am? I’ll have your job for this!” Yvonne answered evenly, “I don’t think so. Now do you want to buy these tapes or not?”
Collapse of stout party, as they say.
Only one good comes of this. It shows that a picture library set up in a remote corner of North-West Wales can be seen and used by a US government department.
The next step is to get them to pay $600 for our lavatory seat. Older readers will recall the reference.