Posts Tagged ‘fotoLibra’
This story comes from the Consumer Champions page in The Guardian this Saturday:
Why can’t we use Google images on our website?
I set up my sister’s website and used two Google images. It said nothing about copyright – but now Getty has billed us £950.
In August 2010 my sister asked me to design a website for her hair and beauty salon.
We found two striking images on Google and used them. We rejected those which had “copyright” or similar words, or where the identity of the model was obvious.
Three months later, Getty Images wrote claiming the photos were subject to its copyright. She was asked to remove them immediately and to cease and desist from further use. She was also billed £950 for “unpaid licence fees”, an enormous sum for a local business.
As I reckoned the images were worth about £50 at most, and were only on the site for three months, I ignored this demand. Getty sent a heavier letter in January 2011. In June, she received a “notice of case escalation” and the fee demanded was now £1,149.50, an impossible amount to pay.
We heard nothing more – I thought Getty had realised there was little point in chasing this – until December 2012 when debt collectors sent a threatening letter. Is this a big organisation trying to beat up a small business? BF, Shrewsbury
Getty Images collects fees for photographers whose work is used.
They have to earn their crust – and pay models, make-up artists, lighting technicians and others involved in a shoot. Using their images for free is copyright theft. But Getty Images acknowledges that when non-professional web designers try to find artwork through a search engine, it can be unclear what – if any – fee there is to pay, and even more unclear how to pay.
Phrases such as “These images may be in copyright” could apply to all, or none, of the images viewed. In your case, you selected two pricey images at £475 each to use for six months.
Getty accepts that you would not have taken these had you known the cost. These images were “digital rights managed” and their use is easily detectable.
You could, however, have chosen “royalty-free” images which would have given you a lifetime’s use for £10 to £20.
There are a number of websites to consult before using images [and here the left-leaning British newspaper The Guardian provides links to two American-owned websites].
Getty accepts “that there are many small businesses and image users that are new to licensing content” and says “it is not our core business to chase hairdressers”.
And while it called in debt collectors, it has not sold them the debt – it remains a matter between Getty and you.
Following our call, it has reassessed the situation. It says it is unfair for those involved in the shoot to be unpaid, but it is willing to cut the bill to £500 as a compromise solution.
We feel that this is reasonable.
Ah, poor dab! A big organisation trying to beat up an ickle-wickle image thief? The ‘compromise solution’ is more than reasonable, I’d say. I wonder what the complainant thought of that?
“As I reckoned the images were worth about £50 at most, and were only on the site for three months, I ignored this demand.”
So that’s all right then. This ignorant, selfish, greedy web designer is complaining because her theft has been uncovered. And by complaining, she has managed to get her bill reduced by £450. Result, I’d say.
The Internet is a wondrous thing, God wot, but it has led to a number of unforeseen situations. Firstly, the value of a photograph has plummeted. Secondly, previously honest, trustworthy individuals now feel no qualms about stealing images, music, films and games on the basis that “if I can see it on my screen it’s mine.”
It’s interesting, but hardly surprising, that the people who have commented on this complaint on The Guardian’s website have all been critical of the complainant.
Photos cost photographers to take. The photographer will probably have had to pay for equipment, studio / lighting hire and models. What you thought the photos were worth is irrelevant. As is the excuse that you were not professional. It saddens me that the Guardian would run an ill-thought out and unbalanced piece like this that completely undermines an industry that has it tough enough already.
And Baldur McQueen comments
“….I reckoned the images were worth about £50 at most…”
I love that
I do wonder if I could do the same at the Hair & Beauty Salon?
“…. I reckon this haircut is worth a fiver at most, so I’ll pay you nothing…”
Good on you both.
I’m thinking maybe we should have a Copyright notice on every fotoLibra page. We should never overestimate the intelligence of users.
fotoLibra is to Getty Images as plankton to a whale, and we do not have cadres of sharp-suited lawyers we can order to jump at our command. And obviously we can’t police illegal image usage around the world.
But we are prepared to go to law in the UK on behalf of our Pro and Platinum members in good standing who can show us proof of UK commercial usage of any of their images which had earlier been uploaded to fotoLibra. This is strung about with conditions, alas, which is not as good as we would have liked, but it is a strong gesture of intent. Where we have had sufficient evidence to go before the Small Claims Court on behalf of our Pro and Platinum members, we have done so — and we have won every time, and got the money.
What we can’t do is sue private bloggers who use watermarked fotoLibra Previews, or organisations based overseas. Any Previews they may take have all got big fotoLibra watermarks, so everyone know’s they nicked the image, and who they nicked it from. In the UK we can certainly send them take-down notices and demand payment and a link through to the photographer’s page on fotoLibra, but the threat of having a County Court Judgement against them seems little deterrent to bloggers, who are often pseudonymous.
On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.
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.
agnostic, bigot, bigoted, Britain, colour, culture, educational, European, fotoLibra, gender, hala, image requests, Israeli, Jewish, kosher, learning materials, liberal, members, Middle East, monocultural, Moslem, multicultural, photographs, Picture Call, professional, publisher, racial insinuations, religion, stupidity, textbook, tolerated
One of fotoLibra‘s unique features is the Picture Call sent out to all members, listing the photographs our clients are actively searching for. If you’ve been a member for a while, you know that it would be hard to create a more diverse and random set of image requests. There’s something for everyone, from landscape photographers to people pix.
And because Britain is home to the world’s most internationally-minded book publishers, we have requests to supply images in books produced for every market, every culture. In multicultural Britain we are inured to butchers selling kosher or halal meat; in monocultural societies any deviation from the prescribed pattern is seldom tolerated.
So when a large and well-established publisher comes to us with a big picture call on to which is bolted a few strange (to our British eyes) conditions, we shrug and send it out. We don’t condone the request by doing so; we are agnostic as far as our clients’ requests go (although we will exclude pornography).
One recent request asked that in the images there should be:
- • no women and men together
- • no women looking at the camera
- • no bare arms, legs or chests
for images to be used in a textbook designed for the Middle Eastern market.
This doesn’t trouble me unduly, although personally I do find it sad that there are people who still think like this in the twenty-first century.
But one fotoLibra member found it too much to bear. He wrote to Jacqui Norman, who had sent out the Picture Call:
I have been thinking about your picture calls and really do not have a polite way of responding to some of them. I am Jewish, Israeli, liberal minded, not bigoted, and strangely professional. I do not understand or want to understand your requests for what are bigoted, probably Moslem countries. I may be the only one who finds them ridiculous but I would appreciate not being part of this stupidity. I do not remember ever refusing work to anyone with such or under such conditions. Having such requests is insulting and I prefer not to play the bigot’s game.
Colour or gender or religion cannot be a part of my metier or behavior. Please refrain from sending me any more such requests. I would not mind at all if you review my request, find it lacking or maybe even agree and publish it on your blog. All the racial insinuations on the list of requests are not a figment of my imagination. After many years in the business I can read between the lines as can so many others.
Thank you for your message and for sharing your thoughts with us. One of our major customers is a very large European educational publisher which supplies text books and learning materials to countries throughout the world. We feel that helping them to produce reference and teaching tools for Middle Eastern students may ultimately improve their understanding of different cultures and peoples in other parts of the globe.
Through our picture calls we seek only to tell photographers what images are being sought at the moment, not to judge or express our own opinions. We regret that you consider a few of these requests insulting or racially inappropriate; they are most definitely not intended to be.
Our member responded:
I have no intention of educating the world or making anyone amenable to my point of view. I do not “doctor” photographs or “stage” them in order to please the bias of a customer. I have found that loss of credibility is infinitely more important than a few cents in my bank account. Your customer is, I doubt, as naive as you make them out to be. Doctored or staged images will only confirm a biased view of the world to those asking for such and will be found out.
Please exclude me from such requests. People’s bias or their points of view are their own concern. I have no intention or presumption improving my customers’ understanding.
I have no problem in ending whatever relationship I have with your company. I cannot afford to be included and find my credibility to be more important. Please refrain from offering any of my work to any of your customers.
I apologise that our picture call and my subsequent email seem to have given you the wrong impression. Of course we are not asking you or any of our photographers to doctor or stage images, nor would a respected publisher consider using such images in an educational book. At the beginning of the picture call, we simply mentioned things that photographers should avoid when selecting images for submission to this particular project.
We can exclude your images for sale to or for use in the Middle Eastern market if you wish us to do so. If you prefer to cancel your membership of fotoLibra and remove all your images from our archive as a direct result of this, then we should be extremely sorry.
The photographer replied:
Maybe you did not understand me. I do sell a great deal of my work in the Middle East, even to countries which do not allow me to visit them. But my relationships are not only cordial but very correct. They know that my images are not staged or doctored in any way, even if the subject does not flatter my country. I cannot understand losing this credibility. They have never asked me to enhance or change the truth of the images I send them, knowing full well that would be the end of our relationship. When my images are different to their expectations they always acknowledge and thank me for showing a different point of view, which they do not usually expect.
I would prefer to cancel my membership and please remove all my images from Fotolibra. I have never qualified my work with any sort of exclusion zone and do sell and present my work without and preconditions.
And there it rests. I thought Jacqui expressed the situation well. And before I posted this blog, I showed the text in its entirety to our photographer, to solicit his comments. They are included as the first comment to this blog, posted by me to preserve the member’s anonymity.
I think that a request such as
- • no women and men together
- • no women looking at the camera
- • no bare arms, legs or chests
does not require staging or doctoring in any way, nor does it breach many peoples’ view of human rights. Like most of these requests, it’s just a cultural thing, and seldom has any basis in the scriptures of the adherents.
What do we do? fotoLibra has over 20,000 registered photographers, and this Picture Call has provoked one complaint. We don’t want to lose him, but we can’t forego the possibility of making 300+ picture sales for our members because one person is offended by the terms and conditions in a Picture Call.
I don’t think these conditions are particularly onerous or indeed unacceptably bigoted. I may be wrong. I’m sure there could be some requests where Jacqui would draw the line, but I can’t imagine any valued client ever asking us for such things.
What do you think?
Not a typo.
It’s an Australian charity which encourages men to grow a moustache during November, to raise money for prostate and testicular cancer charities.
I have never grown any kind of facial hair in my life — I’m not even sure I can — but I’m going to give it a go. It’s a worthwhile cause, and how hard can it be to grow a moustache in 30 days?
We will see. Here is the starting point:
and in 30 days or thereabouts a full fungal facial feature may appear.
I will stop shaving my upper lip on Thursday November 1st.
You may be relieved to hear that there won’t be any further updates on this fotoLibra Pro Blog, which in future will be devoted exclusively to things like lenses, picture sales and apertures (fat chance) but you may come across more mentions on the fotoLibra Groups on Facebook and Linkedin.
And if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll be hearing from me there as well. Otherwise — I won’t trouble you again. Thank you for your time in reading this.
1834, acoustic, battleships, Bethlehem, Bethlehem PA, Book, British, Brussels, Buchmesse, C. F. Martin, cartoonist, clearances, common heritage, concept, D-35, Dreadnought, Dreams, fotoLibra, Frankfurt am Main, frankfurt book fair, George, German, Germany, guitar rental, guitars, Ideas, image licensing, immigrant, Judea, London, long walks, luthier, Magazine article, Mary and Joseph, music shop, Nasareth, national stereotypes, Nazareth, Nazareth PA, Nazareth Pennsylvania, New York, picture library, pilgrimage, Pont, price agreements, Punch, registered, rent, rent a guitar, RENT-AN-AX dot com, rentanax.com, road trip, SOUTH AFRICA, Strat, strum, The British Character, three continents, Trains, TV series, twentieth century, USA, Wales
What can be more conducive to reverie than a good meal, a comfortable seat and a long smooth train journey?
Last Saturday I travelled from Frankfurt am Main to London, changing at Brussels, on the way back from the Frankfurt Book Fair — my 36th. It was a good fair, with plenty of top-level discussions about image licensing and clearances, price agreements and long-term contracts.
It’s been a rough old time in the picture library business but we’re hanging on in there and I am convinced I can see a silver lining here or there amongst the heavy cloud cover. A week at the Buchmesse always boosts my confidence.
There was a lot to think about on the way home. My mind ranged through meetings, proposals, promises, developments, the way forward, new ideas and so on until I fell into a light doze.
Earlier there had been a slight altercation between a Canadian and a German Muslim over seat allocation, and I fell to pondering on national stereotypes. Meanwhile my reading matter for the journey was the account books of C. F. Martin, luthier, based in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in the nineteenth century, not a page-turning thriller by most standards.*
So when I awoke there were three fresh ideas to make me smile.
Firstly, how about a series of picture books on national stereotypes? And before we all rush around tut-tutting and waving our hands in the air at such racism, it’s undeniable that a shared educational experience will produce a population that generally moves in the same direction and accepts the same discomforts. For example, most Americans are keener on owning guns than most Brits. Germans are generally more efficient than Greeks. Italians design prettier cars than the Welsh. And many of these attitudes could be illustrated by photographs — fotoLibra photographs, of course.
I suddenly remembered the pre-war Punch cartoonist Pont, and his series on The British Character. Wonderful, one-frame situation comedies, with captions such as
- Fondness for cricket
- Importance of being athletic
- Absence of enthusiasm for answering letters
- Preference for driving on the crown of the road
- Love of travelling alone
- A tendency to be hearty
- A fondness of anything French
- A tendency to learn the piano when young
You can imagine his drawings. So in my spare time I thought I’d rattle off a few observations on the national characteristics of the English, the Americans, the Spanish, the French, the Germans, the Italians and any other nation where I’ve had some experience of the inhabitants, each illustrated by a suitable fotoLibra image. If you have any suggestions for captions — and for images — please let me know. I’m looking for an affectionate and gently ironic tone. But I’m happy to offend, if it’s funny enough.
Then I contemplated Herr Martin, German immigrant to New York in 1834 and his subsequent move to Nazareth, PA, where the company he founded still makes fabulous and sought-after guitars. I discovered that Nazareth was a suburb of Bethlehem, PA and I thought that would have made Mary and Joseph’s life a little easier, having to travel 10 miles instead of 110. But there’s a Nasareth and a Bethlehem in Wales, as well — and they’re the same distance apart as the original Nazareth in Judea and Bethlehem.
There we are! How about a pilgrimage across three continents? A description of three journeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem — one in Israel / Palestine, one in Wales, one in the USA. It would be a road trip, maybe even one short and two long walks, discovering the sights to be seen and the wonders to be shared in three such different environments, all with a common heritage. TV series? Book? Magazine article? I have yet to decide. But an agreeable concept.
And then Mr Martin and his lovely guitars. I am fortunate enough to own one, a 1972 D-35 Dreadnought acoustic, named for the British battleships of the early twentieth century. When I’m away from it, my fingertips get soft and itchy, and it’s not really practical to lug it around. Why couldn’t I rent one while I was in Frankfurt so I could have a quick strum before bedtime?
Eleven years ago I spent three weeks in George, South Africa, rocking on my heels. On the second day, fearing I might go stir crazy, I found a music shop and asked the owner if he would consider renting me a guitar for three weeks. He looked at me as if I was black. Then someone renting my house in Wales asked if there was a local shop which could rent him a guitar for two weeks. There isn’t.
Why not? Don’t be silly, I told myself, there will be a giant corporation which has this sewn up. I just haven’t heard of it yet. RENT-AN-AX dot com probably has depots scattered across the world where tired businesspeople can have a Strat delivered to their hotel room when they check in. Blindingly obvious. Ah well.
I got back home, and looked up rentanax.com. No such website. So I registered it. I am now the proud owner of rentanax.com.
Now what do I do? Anyone want to start a guitar rental company?
Me, I’ve got a picture library to run.
*Fascinating nonetheless: C F Martin & His Guitars: 1796—1873, by Philip F Gura, Centerstream Publishing, Anaheim Hills 2012.
First, some housekeeping. We’ve had teething problems with an email server since last Friday. It’s fixed now, but if you’ve recently contacted fotoLibra and haven’t yet had a reply, please send your message again. Thanks, and apologies.
I was prompted to write this after reading a posting about the subject on Mike Shatzkin’s invariably thought-provoking blog. Shatzkin leans more towards pessimism than I do. But he thinks carefully, deeply and analytically before he puts fingers to keyboard and what has has to say is always worth listening to.
He pleaded “Somebody please tell me the path to survival for the illustrated book business.” He meant illustrated ebooks, of course.
OK, this is the view I’m getting from where I’m standing. I admit you can’t see very far when you’re staring at the coal face, but if our sole purpose was to make money out of illustrated ebooks in the next 12 months, a) we’d have chosen a different subject, such as porn, and b) we probably wouldn’t have started to dig the mine.
There’s no denying that the sales of Heritage Ebooks’ first 40 illustrated titles have been less than spectacular. I would go so far as to describe them as disappointing. But all publishers are optimists by nature, and what gives me hope is that having created the books, they now are sitting in virtual warehouses at no cost to us, as ready and available for sale to your device today as they will be in five years time.
It is very true that the market hasn’t yet evolved for the illustrated ebook. We are seeing sales in ones and twos. But when people have grasped the concept, they have committed themselves wholeheartedly. So far seven of our customers have ticked the two most important boxes — they are interested in the subject we’re publishing, and they are comfortable with digital reading, and as a result they have bought thirty or more ebooks from our Follies of England series. Two have purchased all forty titles.
Heritage Ebooks is constrained by geography and field of interest. If you’re not interested in follies and you don’t often get to England, then we are not your kind of epublisher — at the moment. We have more titles on other topics planned; an illustrated tour of every Spanish province, a parenting guide; but for the moment we are cornered in a niche market.
Amazon’s hegemony isn’t particularly helpful. To build market domination, they gathered low-hanging fruit in bushels — bestselling fiction. The Kindle is designed for reading plain text, not illustrated books. 16 shades of grey may have inspired a bestseller, but it’s not a turn-on for illustrated ebook publishers. The colour Kindle Fire hasn’t yet got a release date in the UK.
Nevertheless Amazon sell eleven times as many of our ebooks as all our other sales outlets, including our own heritage.co.uk website, put together. Our return from them is feeble. Our ebooks are heavily illustrated, so they have large file sizes. Amazon charges us, as publishers, for their bandwidth used when a purchaser downloads a copy of one of our ebooks. If it’s a £4.99 ebook, that can be as much as 80p per title. Remember that comes after VAT and KDP’s 30% fee has been taken off.
Our choice to publish ebooks using Epub was driven by a number of factors. Foremost was Heritage Ebooks’ position as a sister company of the picture library fotoLibra.com. Pricing images for digital use was posing problems for us as the foundations for calculating the great majority of prices — print run and image size — had been removed at a stroke. We wanted to provide a system which would work for us, for our photographers and for digital publishers. We created advanceImages, a microroyalty system with no upfront fees, so epublishers could use as many images as they liked without any cashflow worries before publication. After six months sales, the publisher submits the retailers’ sales reports and is billed a royalty on the images used. Clearly no one was going to play guinea pig, so we set up our own publishing division to demonstrate the service’s functionality. To that extent Heritage Ebooks has been a tremendous success — the system works, and works well. The first advanceImages royalty statements will be posted with the launch of fotoLibra Version 5.0, hopefully next week.
Another incentive was to display our Active Location Finder, a mapping system which displayed both the reader’s location and the precise position of the building described, a tremendous asset to any ebook guide publisher. This is simply impossible to do in a conventional printed book, and it was another spur to creating our first illustrated architectural guide books.
A third was graphical: graphics, typography, design, subjects that were embedded in me from my earliest days in publishing, suddenly became irrelevant. I find it incomprehensible that Fifty Shades of Grey can be presented in the same Caecilia font as Bring Down The Bodies, Harry Potter or this week’s Jack Reacher story. To me each font has its own unique voice, accent and point of view. Using the same font for everything you read is like listening to Churchill’s speeches being spoken by a computer.
Heritage Ebooks were created with the iPad as its preferred reading device. There was sufficient screen real estate to display images well, better in fact than in most physical books. We wanted reflowable and resizable text which would stay with the images it referred to. And although we couldn’t force readers to use our font choice of Cochin, at least we could recommend it. Then came iPad 2, and Cochin disappeared from the selection of fonts available. It has returned for iPad 3.
The future? More people will read illustrated ebooks on more devices. No, printed books will not disappear. It’s uncertain whether illustrated ebooks will take market share from illustrated books, or create a new segment. When automatic transmission was first introduced for cars in 1940 it was widely seen as the death knell for the stick shift. Yet over 70 years later in Europe, the world’s most sophisticated car market, over 80% of new car buyers choose manual transmissions. Even in America, home of the Wafter, sales of manual shifts are on the increase. Easier isn’t always better or more popular. We will have printed books alongside ebooks, which will have to have additional features (I refuse to use the word enh*nc*d) to recommend them to a separate but similar market.
Yes, the first forty Heritage Ebooks have cost us more than they have made so far. But they are out there in the marketplace, they look great, they work perfectly, and we have learned useful lessons, and we have proved the efficacy and worth of fotoLibra’s advanceImages system to the benefit of photographers and publishers alike. We’ll be publishing more. There are no remainders in this business.
The customer doesn’t want a quarter-inch drill. He wants a quarter-inch hole.
The drill itself is merely his instrument of delivery, just as the cameras of fotoLibra photographers are theirs.
That’s the sort of insight that delights management consultants, and it does have a certain seductive logic. If you concentrate on what the customer actually wants, instead of dressing up your product to fulfill your own desires and aspirations, then the road to fortune and fame will be open to you.
That was the disruptive thinking that lay behind the concept of fotoLibra. We are neither photographers nor critics. Who were we to judge one photograph over another? It would be purely our personal taste. It would have no reference to what the market wanted.
Our solution? Let the market itself decide. In fact, we would go a step further — the market would detail what it wanted to buy, and we would tell our photographers through regular Picture Calls. How simple is that?
Then fotoLibra found itself in that awkward position between overbearing boss and nagging wife. All our photographers wanted to do was buy spiffy new lenses, and there we were hectoring them about the photographs they should be taking, not the ones they wanted to take.
Happily I hope we’ve matured a bit. We’re more relaxed about the choices our photographers make. And going back to our drill imagery, our picture buyers don’t care if the photograph has been taken with a Coastal Optics 60 mm f/4 UV-Vis-IR APO Macro or a pinhole camera, as long as it matches their imagination.
So in our regular Picture Calls we describe the “quarter-inch and other-sized cavities” our customers are looking for to our army of photographers, and with the tools at their disposal they go out and Drill Dem Holes.
And it works very well.
And because the burden of fortune and fame is not yet an intolerable weight on the shoulders of fotoLibra, we’d welcome a little more of both.
We have come across websites which are using fotoLibra images without paying for them. They are using watermarked Preview images, which anyone is at liberty to drag off the site, but not for commercial use.
I’ve borrowed the following piece in its entirety from Jacqui Norman’s May fotoLibra Newsletter because I think an important function of a picture library is not only to sell but also to guard and protect our photographers’ assets, and if we come across any unauthorised image usage it is our duty to harry and beset the perpetrators as best we can. In Britain we have the Small Claims Court which we will unhesitatingly use — overseas it’s more difficult, but there are ways and means — one of which Jacqui proposes at the end of her article.
The benefit for fotoLibra photographers is that a complaint from a company will usually carry more weight then a complaint from an individual. A company is generally perceived to have deeper pockets and better legal support than most individuals, and will usually be prepared to pursue trivial debts which a sole person may not be able to afford, in time or money.
We’re mainly talking here about image sales in the region of £25 / $40. This is not going to rescue Greece’s economy, but if our photographers are losing money through illegal usage, then so are we. We are going to do something about it — but you have to help us by following this procedure. Over to Jacqui:
fotoLibra Member Bob Crook alerted us when he found one of his images with a large fotoLibra watermark being used on somebody’s blog. He asked if we’d made the sale, and we hadn’t — the thief had simply stolen the lo-res watermarked Preview and posted it on her blog.
But Do Not Panic. Your original images are safe. They cannot be downloaded from the fotoLibra site without our knowledge. But anyone can drag Thumbnails and Previews off any website, which is why in our case they are protected with embedded metadata and, in the case of Previews, with embedded watermarks too. We don’t mind students using such images for free in dissertations and essays. If they want to use an unwatermarked version they have to pay, which of course outrages them because they think everything on the internet should be free.
If it’s not for student use, we charge. But how do you track down unauthorised usage of your images?
Here’s how Bob does it, slightly adapted to suit all fotoLibra members:
Open Google Images in one browser.
In another browser, go to your Portfolio in the fotoLibra Control Centre. Choose one of your images. Double click to enlarge it into a watermarked Preview image.
Highlight the image, and slide it onto the bar on the Google page.
It will take only a few seconds to search.
When it has finished you will see the image at the top of the page and a list underneath of where it is being used.
It also attempts to show you similar images by matching the colours. Sometimes this is impressive. Sometimes it makes you realise how alien a computer’s “intelligence” can be.
If you have some curiosity and spare time, please check through some of your images this way. If you do find evidence that one or more of your images is being used without your knowledge or consent, this is what we want you to do: Email me [that's jacqui (dot) norman (at) fotoLibra (dot) com] with a) the FOT number of your image, and b) the precise, full URL of where you saw that image being used.
We will contact the abusers and demand payment on your behalf. We can never guarantee success, particularly in overseas jurisdictions, but we can certainly frighten them, and we can name and shame them.
In fact — here’s a thought — if people don’t pay up, I might publish a regular Cheat List, where we can publicise URLs where any unpaid for fotoLibra Preview images appear, and fotoLibra members and friends can then comment on the probity and honesty (or otherwise) of the offending sites. What do you think?
Well Jacqui, I think it’s a good idea. Not a great one, because at heart I’m not confrontational, but if I sit down and think about this I can work myself up into quite a state of indignation. These people — I don’t know how many of them there are — are thieves. Bob Crook has found two, and checking through ten of my underwhelming images I have already found two which are currently being used illegally. That’s 20%. Admittedly I did choose ten images I thought might lend themselves most readily to theft. Tineye is another good way of uncovering shady image use.
I’m happy to name and shame any site which uses a fotoLibra watermarked image without permission. However I won’t rush straight in whirling my bat around my head because I’ve stepped up to the plate for young Bob before, when he claimed some publisher had used a fotoLibra image without permission. We investigated and discovered the image had been uploaded to fotoLibra three weeks after the book had been published — Bob had sold it through another picture library and had forgotten all about it. We had our ears torn off by a slider from the publisher and I don’t think we’ll be selling them any images for a while.
So we’ll tread softly. And carry a big stick.
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?