Posts Tagged ‘The Guardian’

Coming down and calming down from two hectic days at the London Book Fair, I’m sitting in our Harlech office looking out at the waves and the wind and the sunshine, and contemplating the immense power of books.

There’s no doubt the publishing world is in turmoil, with fewer people buying books, ebooks taking an ever larger slice of the pie, bookshops closing every week and a general air of uncertainty hanging over everything. This of course adds to the excitement, and there is, as always in publishing, this sense of ambiguity — are we in the right business? Should we be looking forward? Or over our shoulders?

Two companies expressed an interest, however veiled, in acquiring fotoLibra. Of course there’s a world of difference between acquiring and buying, but it’s interesting to see that some firms are discreetly expanding, and not necessarily in their core disciplines. I should add that these are the first signals of this type we’ve seen in nine years. Flattering, I guess.

To get an indication of the measure of hope in the business, I posed a theoretical question: “If you personally had fifty thousand to invest, would you put it in a firm making printing machinery or a firm making screens?” No one answered directly. Everyone nodded slowly.

There is a rearguard action. At the fair advertising king Maurice Saatchi launched his Books Are My Bag campaign, claimed to be the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. Who doesn’t love a bookshop? But we’re all buying online, and condemning them to a slow, lingering death. Asked to name my favourite bookshop, I hesitated — there used to be two in Crouch End, now there are none.

It’s not because everyone is buying ebooks. An ebook is still a book; it’s just presented differently. And the only ebooks that are selling are fiction. Illustrated ebooks, as we have found out to our cost, are hard to shift. Heritage Ebooks, which we launched with great hope and wonderful images from fotoLibra photographers, has struggled to find a market. We did a deal with The Folly Fellowship, an organisation concerned with the history and preservation of this curious aspect of Britain’s architectural heritage, to give their members a thumping great discount on the purchase of any of our forty Follies of England ebook titles. How many folly enthusiasts took up the offer? None. Not one. Zilch. That is disheartening.

But The Guardian tells me they’re now doing a feature on our Heritage Ebooks, illustrating ten of our ebook covers. That would be nice. I’ll believe it when I see it. BREAKING NEWS: They’re not doing it. Our ebook covers are Portrait format, and they said they needed Landscape. The covers have lettering on them — the book titles, actually — and they wanted them without lettering. It turns out what they really wanted was ten free photographs of follies.

Despite all this doom and gloom, the London Book Fair was humming. Large companies had dozens of tables, each one with four people talking intently with heads bowed. Business was being done. Smaller firms were concentrating just as hard. The only oases of quiet were to be found in the Arab quarter: huge, lavish, glittering, empty national stands, as depopulated as the deserts.

I captioned this piece The Power Of The Word. The word has more power to stimulate the imagination than the image, I regret to admit. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “People remember 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they see and hear.” But we’re not told what sort of people they asked. These aren’t book people.

Book people feed on words. I’ll give you an example. I’ve known my old pal Mike for over forty years. We haven’t been in touch a lot since he left publishing, but we hooked up last Christmas and resumed normal service. For a Significant Birthday he was planning a tour of Japan. His highlight was going to be queuing outside a bookshop to be the first to buy Haruki Murakami’s new novel. That was, to borrow a phrase from Gilbert Harding, his Sole Purpose of Visit. What power can there be in words to drag a foreigner halfway around the world — literally! — to join (or in Mike’s case, form) a queue outside a Japanese bookshop? I wish I had readers like that. He’s still out there, by the way, and blogging about it as he travels around the country. You can read his adventures here. Oh — and he left book publishing to become a film-maker. Images for words.

So this week was the book fair. fotoLibra’s major source of income is from book publishers. Next week will be the picture buyers’ fair, fotoFringe in King’s Cross. It will be a busy week for us. And there will be some interesting NEWS from fotoLibra.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

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.

VictoriaLuckie writes:

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.