Archive for the ‘News’ Category
Accountability, bonuses, bureaucratic, contracts, copyright, educational, EU, European, fotoLibra, global corporations, grants, grim, images, incentives, inflexible, Jude The Invisible, Jude The Obscure, monolithic, new possibilities, ordeals, organisations, outlets, overseas, photographers, picture libraries, procedures, procurement, public money, public sector, revenue, suppliers, taxes, Transparency, Welsh
A Happy New Year to you!
We’re always looking for new outlets to which to sell fotoLibra members’ images, and between Christmas and the New Year we had a very interesting meeting with an extremely high-powered yet friendly executive who lives close by fotoLibra’s Hertfordshire office.
There is a vast European educational and public sector out there which is largely untapped by normal picture libraries because like most organisations funded with public money, Accountability & Transparency in Procurement are their watchwords. This inevitably means routes to market are not so much Jude The Obscure as Jude The Invisible — there is no way a company such as ours can ring up a representative from one of these monolithic organisations and mutter “pssst! wanna buy some images?” We couldn’t even find out who to talk to.
Everything has to take place through bureaucratic procurement procedures, grim, inflexible ordeals which are less concerned about the quality, range and variety of the images we have to offer than discovering the number of ethnic Welsh people we employ and our policy towards recycling hard disks.
By the simple expedient of not paying taxes, global corporations can afford to employ the sort of people who love ticking all these boxes, so they get flooded with grants, incentives and bonuses as well as three-yearly contracts to be exclusive coffee and image suppliers to the Ruritarian Public Affairs Ministry.
We struggle on. Thanks to our executive friend, we now have at least an inkling of the riches lying out there, just beyond our reach at the moment. But we have more contacts who understand this world far better than our simple viewpoint, and we believe they may be prepared to help us.
Like every other picture library, our sales have fallen over the past three or four years, and we are doing everything in our power to restore lost revenue and explore new possibilities. If our photographers aren’t making money, we’re not making money, so we need to find out about these overseas procurement procedures fast. Even so, our friend warned us “Don’t expect anything to happen for three years. This is the world of bureaucracy, after all.”
We went on to the website of one of these organisations and found this rather good and clearly explained guide to copyright for picture users in the EU. I should point out that this was discovered on the English-language subset of a foreign-language quango’s website:
Information for image users
When will you have dealings with us? Virtually every publication, every website and every television programme uses images. Copyright law stipulates that the author’s permission is required for this. That permission is usually linked to a financial payment: image creators must, after all, live on the income from their creative labours. Apart from a couple of exceptions, publishers and producers are obliged to trace the creators of the images in order to ask permission for publication. The fact that this is not always easy does not detract from this obligation. Our agency enables the user to arrange this effectively in advance. Over 50,000 image creators both in this country and abroad are registered with us and we issue licences on their behalf. Our rates are harmonised with sister organisations abroad. Our agency arranges permission for publication.
Asking permission is compulsory Users are often confused as to what they can and cannot do under copyright law. The golden rule is: anyone who wants to publish someone else’s image must ask permission for this from the creator or their heirs. This obligation only lapses 70 years after the death of the artist. Hence the work of Rembrandt is rights-free, but that of Picasso is not. Anyone who publishes a picture of a painting by Picasso in a book or leaflet without permission runs the risk of having to pay damages.
That’s nice and clear and straightforward.
Not every government announcement has to be draped in the cobwebs of obscurity. And this was English as a foreign language. I wish I could write as clearly. I think we could work with these people.
We’re busy with our final preparations for fotoFringe London 2012, the picture buyers’ fair which is being held tomorrow in King’s Place, a newish office block and conference centre where The Guardian have their offices, near King’s Cross.
And it’s an article in The Guardian that I want to write about. A friend in Euskadi alerted me to this one (thank you Peta) because it’s one of my favourite topics — the freedom of photographers to use their cameras.
Stonehenge, Trafalgar Square, National Trust properties, a whole bunch of places in the USA — the list of places where photography is banned or restricted lengthens daily. Now, unsurprisingly, we can add the Olympic park in East London to the list.
I’ll never get to see this place because all my ticket applications have proved unsuccessful. However I am permitted to contribute substantially towards it through a hike in my London rates over the next ten years. So I’d like to see some pictures of it.
The Olympic venues are technically private property (purchased using our money, but when did that ever restrain our dear leaders?) so control can be asserted over what can and can’t be photographed within the precincts. But not on the public spaces surrounding the venue, of course.
The Guardian thought this could be interesting, so they sent a couple of photographers and a video to test the temperature of the waters. They struck lucky straight away when they ran into an incompetently and incompletely briefed security guard whose debating skills and command of English were no match for the fiercely well prepared Guardian hacks. He simply attempted to stop them filming in a public place. They refused. Reinforcements arrived.
And here — well, you know I’m on the side of the photographers, but this was outright provocation and harassment. The Guardian hacks were milling around, pushing for a reaction. But they came up against an intelligent, articulate and reasonable security supervisor who conceded they had a right to photograph on public land but as this was a sensitive area — the Olympic Park’s security centre — it would be most awfully kind of them if they could possibly desist.
The Guardianistas hectored and interrupted. They tried to photograph the armband name badge of an old fart security guard who looked worryingly like me, and he tore it off to prevent them. Bad move. The hacks loved it.
I want photographers to be able to photograph what they want when they want where they want, within reason and without causing offence, upset or danger. Yes, there are security concerns. Yes, there are privacy issues. I’m less impressed by the “we own it, therefore we should profit from it” brigade. I personally find papparazzis distasteful, and I believe they were the major contributing factor in the death of Princess Diana.
Our cause isn’t helped by photographers manufacturing an incident where none existed. But every movement needs an obnoxious vanguard.
Doesn’t it? What do you think?
After every cock-up, politicians appear on our TVs to hang their heads and admit that “Lessons Have Been Learned.”
Well, now it’s my turn. As many of you will be aware, the fotolibra website suffered a calamitous collapse last week, and as it fell it brought the Heritage Ebooks site down with it, as well as all our back office tools — admin, banking, invoicing, Datacash, payments, mailing systems and more.
The good news is that the only thing we actually lost was time. No images were harmed in the making of this booboo, no data was lost and no accounts were compromised.
I’m delighted to tell you that fotoLibra is back up and running after our calamitous crash. Everything is back to normal.
You can upload images again!
If you use fotoLibra DND, please quit the application and restart it before attempting to upload.
Two questions: how do we stop this happening again, and what are we going to do about it?
Well, Lessons Have Been Learned. We are studying a cloud computing model to run in tandem with our physical array of servers and RAID 5 disks which live in a server farm in Manchester. If one system goes down, the other has to be there for it. That’s redundancy.
Redundancy (which has a different meaning in the computing world to what it used to have in my chosen career path) must be at the forefront of our plans. When a system fails, another system must step seamlessly into its place.
What are we going to do about it? Firstly of course we must apologise to all our users, buyers, sellers and browsers. We let you down, and we are very sorry. I am personally desolated — the fotoLibra website has been live since March 2004 and in that time it’s never been down for longer than ten minutes, and then only for service upgrades. I was rather proud of that; but then pride comes before a fall.
Enough breast-beating. Let’s look to the future. Assuming we have an even more robust system, we still have to have a contingency plan. As for the images, which were unharmed in this little unpleasantness, as well as our existing RAID 5 storage and possible future cloud back-up I am planning to physically secrete caches of hard drives full of images in various undisclosed locations in Snowdonia. Just in case.
One of the worrying things about last week’s crash is that it took our mailing system down with it, so we were unable to tell everyone.
There needs to be a line of communication with fotoLibra users set up outside our inhouse systems. And it appears some kind Americans have already thought of this, and have created things called LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. In exchange they want our souls for all eternity, but it’s just the price we have to pay.
fotoLibra has opened a Group on LinkedIn, which will be my preferred way of reaching you. It’s a professional networking group, and I promise I will link with you if you ask me.
There is also a fotoLibra Facebook site, which will be run by our redoubtable web editor Jacqui Norman. She will link with you, but I won’t, as I have reserved my Facebook visits for keeping an eye on my extended family.
Finally, there is Twitter. Now I am not a chatty man, so this will be difficult for me, but I will try and post something every day. The content will most likely be taken from my commonplace book, so it will largely consist of wise thoughts, pithy sayings and the world according to my friend Dede. I hope that sometimes you will find it fun and amusing. From time to time there will be something of interest to fotoLibra users. Please follow me @fotoLibrarian.
This way, if there ever is another problem, we’ll be able to let everyone know — and you will know where to check if you think you are having problems with the fotoLibra site.
Please sign up to join these groups — if you can also put up with my disconnected ramblings, of course.
And please stick with us. We’ll be even better as a result of this crisis.
As hundreds of you are aware, the fotoLibra site suffered a catastrophic failure on Wednesday afternoon. I haven’t been to our server centre, but I have been dreaming of smoking, charred lumps of metal every night.
Damien, our Technical Development Director, is on site and we think he has been sleeping in our data shed in Manchester. He’s been there three days. New servers and hard disks were delivered yesterday,
I hope you can read this blog. It’s balanced precariously on an elderly fotoLibra server, woken from long retirement, to chip in at our time of crisis.
Yes, as hundreds of you have noticed, the fotoLibra site is down.
All systems read Go. Everything tested fine. The servers responded happily. But there was no fotoLibra site to be seen.
Any images uploaded to the site before Wednesday midday are safe and well. Do not worry. If you managed to upload after that time, which is unlikely, the images may have been lost. Have another go later.
After 24 hours attempting to diagnose and rectify the problem without success, I ordered a new server. That arrived this morning, and is being installed as I write.
We do have a contingency plan, and a further part of our yet uncompleted diagnoses is to find out why that didn’t kick in as planned.
Many, many apologies to all of you who have been inconvenienced by this down time. We are reassessing our 999 strategy and we plan to set up LinkedIn and Facebook fotoLibra groups and a fotoLibra Twitter account, as well as my own rather dull Twitter platform. More details next week.
The fotoLibra site should be up and running later this evening. I will post again when it is.
This is getting ridiculous.
Utah, the American state founded by Mormons, is banning the photography of farms and farm animals.
The bill is called HB187, and the Utah Senate passed it on a 24-5 vote. Then the Utah House approved the Senate amendments 62-13. The bill goes to Governor Gary Herbert for his signature of approval today.
No doubt it will pass, and become law, and we’ll have another of those quaint old statutes such as a Welshman caught on the streets in Chester after midnight can be hanged, London cabbies must carry a bale of hay in their boots, and you’re not allowed to photograph Trafalgar Square.
Now every rational human — and quite a few irrational ones — will be scratching their heads and asking, “What is that all about?”
Well, as far as I can ascertain, farmers in Utah are fed up with rogue photographers snapping images of their appalling, brutal, barbarous, inhumane and mediaeval practices. Of course, I could be wrong, but that’s the way it looks from this Atlantic shore. By depriving humans of their rights, the Utah legislature is allowing unscrupulous people to go about depriving animals of their rights.
Talking about mediaeval, those Mormons would have been denounced as heretics by the Spanish Inquisition. And everyone knows what happened to heretics. It was appalling, brutal, barbarous and inhumane. And nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.
Those Americans, eh? What are they like? They describe their country as the home of the brave and the land of the free. Not in Utah, it isn’t. What jolly japes will they get up to next? In the words of Cerys Matthews, longtime resident of the USA, “Every day, when I wake up, I thank the Lord I’m Welsh.”
And I’m not planning to visit Utah any time soon.
Or Chester, come to think of it.
Whatever one may think about the UK Government, it cannot be faulted for its inclusive approach to pre-legislation consultation. fotoLibra, along with other parties interested or affected by changes in copyright legislation, has been offered the chance to comment on a working document of proposals to change the UK’s copyright system.
In fotoLibra’s case this directly affects our livelihood, and, by extension, not just the income but also the rights of our member photographers. We have to make our views known, whether or not we feel it will have any effect.
First, some practical considerations. The consultation document is over 50,000 words long, about the length of a novel, though not as pacily written. Then comes the consultation response form. This has 113 questions, each of which demands a full written response — no multiple choice options here.
So we can’t fault the process. We are being given every opportunity to have our voice heard, and in depth. My only quibble is my own indolence and my lifelong fear of exams. This looks like an exam paper to me. But I’ll have to buckle down to it.
If any fotoLibra members want points to be raised within the framework of the consultation document, we will be happy to include them in our response. It would be invidious of me to summarise the consultation here, so I’ll simply give you this link to it. I will be happy to include your opinions in our formal response, which we will have completed by March 14th.
Please send your responses to me by March 7th. They must contain the relevant question number from the Consultation response form. Here is a sample question from the form:
63. What do you consider the process and threshold for non-compliance should be? For example, should Government test compliance on a regular basis (say by following Ombudsman’s reports) or on an ad-hoc basis? What evidence would be appropriate to demonstrate non-compliance? Please give reasons for your response.
Any response without its relevant question number and any responses received after March 7th will not be included in our submission, and that includes comments on this blog. UK subjects only, please.
We get more questions about copyright from fotoLibra members than almost anything else, and we are no position to answer them definitively. Copyright law is complex and difficult to interpret without expensive legal assistance. Although lawyers and other people (such as us) may offer views on the meaning of the law, only the courts can set precedents through their judgements; and as we all know, the law means great expense. However well-meaning and fair-minded the new law intends to be, justice will go to those with the deepest pockets.
There’s no cloud without a silver lining. The pathetically low fees now being paid by picture buyers mean that few people are making enough money from their image sales to attract the attention of predatory lawyers. So for the time being this copyright law, such as it is or will be, probably may not be troubling us unduly.
When we become rich and successful, that’s when we can expect Mr Lionel Hutz to come calling.
The New Year is traditionally the time to herald new things, starting with the Epiphany of the Christ Child on January 6th and the chance to play and replay my Desert Island carol, Peter Cornelius’s “Three Kings from Persian lands afar”.
So a happy New Year to you all. At my age things no longer occur, they tend to recur, and it’s rare to encounter something that appears to be completely new. Continuing the religious references, the Preacher in Ecclesiastes thunders “Is there any thing whereof it can be said, See, this is new?”
What I’m writing about today is a camera. That’s not new. But a light field camera is new to me, that’s for sure.
A light field camera? A field camera is one of those bulky great things with bellows, a permanent tripod, and a hood so the photographer can view the upside-down image on the 10×8 plate in darkness. Great for architectural photography, less useful for sports.
A light field camera is nothing like that. ‘Light field’ is the word phrase, and it refers to the way the device captures light data. The ‘light field’ is defined as the light travelling in all directions through all points in space. In conventional cameras — digital or film — the image (or light data) is captured on a flat plane at the back of the box. This can either be film or a digital sensor. The rays of light are combined and recorded as a single unit of light and shade.
In a light field camera, it is claimed that its sensor can capture the colour, intensity and vector direction of all the rays of light in a scene, providing much more data from which to compile an image.
What does this mean? Well of course the science is beyond me, but what I really need to know is what does this mean for the photographer, and obviously as a picture librarian, for image sales? In what way is the resulting picture different? Note that I didn’t say better. It’s not a field camera, after all, which is the gold standard for image quality.
My first thought is lots of data means big file sizes. And what do we do with all that extra data? The answer is nothing, at the moment. We’re back to 1950s Britain, where you couldn’t buy garlic or olive oil because “there’s no call for it.” At the moment, there is no call for it — there is no commercial need for the additional data a light field camera can produce. Here in 2012 fotoLibra has the ability to supply 8 bit, 16 bit or 32 bit images; we can supply HDR images. We don’t, because we’re not asked for them. At the moment professional picture buyers are content to buy 8 bit JPEGs.
I didn’t see the point of an HD television until I got one. But I can totally see the point of a professional quality light field camera to create images of record for museums and archives. Imagine being able to focus and study every plane of Nefertiti’s head. Wow.
Because here is why an image taken on a light field camera is different. You can refocus on any part of the image — after the picture has been taken. This is not the same as an Ansel Adams image at f64 where every part of the image is pin-sharp; these are images taken at f2 with a very shallow depth of field — which you can subsequently vary at will.
It is fascinating. I can play with these images for hours.
A light field camera has just been launched for the consumer market in the United States. Its brand name is Lytro, and I guess that could go the way that Hoover and Biro (and Kodak once did) to become the generic name for a light field camera. The first Lytro has an 8x optical zoom and an f2 aperture lens. It doesn’t look much like a camera, more like a square tube, and it comes in three colours and two storage sizes, 8 GB and 16 GB — 350 or 750 photos. It costs $399 (£255, €206) and $499. The aperture stays constant across the zoom range, which allows comprehensive light capture in the foreground, the mid ground and the background. The images it produces are 1.2MB JPEGs, which are at the lower end of the quality scale.
Do I want one? No, not yet. Remember, I’m not a photographer, I’m just a bloke who has a camera. Will it be more than just a curiosity? It’s hard to say. It’s certainly cheap enough for many people to be able to buy on a whim and play with, experiment with. Would I recommend you get one? If you’re a curious and inquisitive photographer who’s not strapped for cash, then yes, definitely. I would love to see what real photographers can achieve with such a tool.
At the moment the Lytro doesn’t meet the fotoLibra quality standards set out in our Submission Guidelines.
But I think we’ll make room for it.
Even though ‘There is no new thing under the sun.’
No, this is not a complaint I suffer from, but a situation has arisen at fotoLibra which we’d like to sort out.
Here’s a new title from the highly regarded travel publisher Bradt Guides, who publish guide books for Serious Travellers, not tourist lubbers like me.
Notice the cracking front cover image which fotoLibra sold them. It’s always good to get a front cover sale, not just for the money but also the prestige, especially by being associated with an imprint such as Bradt.
The evocative photograph of “Dune 45″ was taken by fotoLibra member Tjaart van Staden. We emailed him the good news and he took it very calmly.
So calmly in fact that he didn’t respond. So we emailed him again. No reply.
We wrote to him. A real letter, with a stamp. No answer.
We checked his website. It had been taken down.
Now Tjaart van Staden is not a common name in Wales, but it may well be in Midrand, Gauteng, South Africa, where Tjaart abides — or abode.
We tried again and again, but we can’t find him.
So we can’t pay him.
I’m putting this blog up in the hope of tracking him down. If Tjaart ever succumbs to the old ego trip of Googling his own name, he’ll find this blog post and get in touch with us. But in case there’s a whole band of Tjaart van Staden impersonators out there, just be aware that a) there’ll be some questions asked to establish his identity and b) don’t put the deposit down on the Maserati just yet Tjaart, because the payment won’t cover it.
Hello, TJAART VAN STADEN, formerly of MIDRAND, GAUTENG, SOUTH AFRICA — please contact fotoLibra, where you will hear some news to your advantage!
Big business versus protestors: an American protest group is up in arms because a Powerful Coal Lobby is using images bought from a picture library to depict their supporters.
I guess what they want is for the Powerful Coal Lobby to go out and gather all its supporters together and photograph them to use in its propaganda. Then they can see for real the horns and tails they expect to see worn by PCL supporters.
Instead the PCL bought their pictures from a picture library. Well, durrr!
That’s precisely what picture libraries are for.
These are model released, royalty free images. They can be used for any purpose the purchaser wants.
If the people being photographed have any moral objections to their image being used to promote things they don’t approve of, such as guns, pornography, tobacco etc., they always have an opt-out clause, as all fotoLibra members have for every image they upload. Not many of our people use it, so we assume most of our members are happy to have their Royalty Free images used to promote taxes, the government, banks or any other form of corporate or institutional villainy.
These models clearly don’t mind their images being used to promote the coal industry. So why shouldn’t they be? The protest group could just as easily buy the same image from the same supplier and promote it as a bunch of people implacably opposed to coal mining in any form. The big thing about these RF sales is that they’re non-exclusive — the good guys can use them just as readily as the bad guys.
You can see the images and the story here, and there is also a lesson to be learned for all photographers — there is always a market for photographs of people and groups of people against a white background.
Backgrounds are very important. They should not detract from the subject. Hence the popularity of plain white backgrounds — the Dorling Kindersley effect, as we call it. If you haven’t got a plain white background to hand, try opening up your lens to f1.2.
The other lesson to be learned is when you look at the (otherwise bizarre) pricing structure offered by the agency which sold the pictures, one thing is eminently sensible: the bigger the pixel dimensions of the picture, the more pricing options the buyer has. So it always makes sense to upload the biggest files you can.
Lesson over for today.