Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Every day hundreds of thousands of innocent fotoLibra photographers are hauled off the streets of London and incarcerated in foul, dank dungeons with no hope of release for simply snapping a cop brutalizing an illegal immigrant, or some other harmless pastime.

OK, that may be a mild exaggeration but it’s nothing to what might happen if [insert name of your most loathed political party here] comes to power.

In the event of this happening — or in any event — fotoLibra members might like to read the Metropolitan Police’s official line on taking photographs in public places.

It is not what the scaremongers would have you believe. In general, you’re allowed to do pretty much what you like. And the police have NO POWER AT ALL to delete your photographs.

All the same, if you’re taking photographs in London, better print it out and keep it in your camera bag.



March 9th, 2010
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We received the following email this morning:

As the owner of this rare car, I would request that this image be deleted from this site on the grounds of privacy.

If my car was parked outside my house and it was captured on Google’s street maps facility, at least they respect an individual’s privacy by blurring out vehicle licence plates. This aspect also extents to images in the media such as newspapers and TV broadcasts.

Additionally, I was not approached or contacted regarding the inclusion of my car for a third parties financial gain.

I agreed to appear at this show because the organiser of this event is a personal friend.

Please respect my request – thank you.

This is a perfectly polite and reasoned request. But what is at stake here? We’re under no obligation to take down images because the subject of the photograph objects to his property being depicted. If he doesn’t want his car to be seen he shouldn’t take it out in public.

Yes, the photograph was posted on fotoLibra for the purpose of financial gain. We haven’t yet found someone who is planning a calendar of AC cars, but we always live in hope.

You can’t stop anyone taking and publishing a photograph of your house, and it’s a lot easier to find out who lives in a house than who owns a car. Just check the electoral roll, or the census. We as private individuals can’t find out who owns this car by looking at the registration plate (which we’ve pixelated out here).

©Geoff Alan France / fotoLibra

But private parking companies can get a driver’s name and address simply by submitting the vehicle registration number to the DVLA and filling in a form confirming that they are pursuing an alleged parking offence.

The DVLA charges £2.50 a time for details from its ‘confidential’ database of 38m drivers. Income from this lucrative sideline in selling our personal data has risen every year from £4.7million in 2004-5 to £9.2m for 2009-10.

The owner of the car might find more reason to complain about this collaboration than about an enthusiastic photograph in a picture library.

What do you think?

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

The US Patent Office has just granted a patent to Ryan Hickman of Mountain View, California (read Google) for identifying features in an online view of a real property and then replacing those features.

So if you see a poster or a billboard in Google Street View, it may not actually be there — it may have been replaced by a competitor’s advertisement. When you’re on the street, you see a big Pepsi ad, but online it’s magically transformed into a Coke ad.

I can see this would be great for cinemas and theatres, being able to update the features they’re showing, but otherwise this smacks a little of Big Brother to me. It will benefit large corporations. They will elbow out smaller businesses, like Waitrose and Tesco opening up next to the perfectly good Budgens in Crouch End.

I can’t help supporting the underdog. I am one.

Here’s the text of the granted patent. Read it and work out the implications, the ramifications, the possibilities. Rub your hands if you are in corporate life and get prepared to give yet more money to Google.

It’s damned clever, though.

Claiming Real Estate in Panoramic or 3D Mapping Environments for Advertising (granted January 7, 2010)


Techniques for identifying groups of features in an online geographic view of a real property and replacing and/or augmenting the groups of features with advertisement information are described. The techniques include providing a geographic view of a property within an online property management system, identifying a region of interest in the geographic view, analyzing the geographic view to locate one or more promotional features within the geographic view positioned upon a real property region, providing a user-selectable link associated with the region of interest in the geographic view, receiving a request for the region of interest in the geographic view via the user-selectable link, receiving data to alter at least one of the behavior or the appearance of the region of interest, storing the data in association with the geographic view, and updating the region of interest within the geographic view based upon the received data.


That’s the big headline on the front page of The Independent today, above a picture of St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Right. This stems from a general misunderstanding by the police of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which is reproduced in full at the end of this blog. Armed with this sloppily drafted legislation, the police can effectively stop anyone anywhere and question them about their activities, as long as it’s within an area specified by a police officer of or above the rank of assistant chief constable. After July 7, 2005, that effectively meant Great Britain. It certainly includes every railway station in the country, and over a hundred areas in London. This does NOT mean that photography is forbidden in these places.

What it does mean is that ordinary pro and amateur photographers have frequently been stopped and searched by police simply for taking photographs within these “specified areas”. If the perp is hidden in robes, has a long beard and has a hook for a hand they might have a point, but in the interests of equality they seem to be stopping everyone with a camera and tripod (hand-held is for wimps, we always say).

The Independent cites instances of photographers being told to delete images they have taken of trains in Wales (they are NOT permitted to demand that), being arrested for photographing two police officers after photographing a fish and chip shop in Chatham, being stopped and searched after photographing St. Paul’s Cathedral; there are many more tales.

The British Journal of Photography has been running a campaign to raise awareness of this situation among the public and law enforcement officers. I doubt that many police officers read The Independent but they might glance curiously at the front page headline if in the newsagents. But this is front-page news, tremendous publicity for the cause. We at fotoLibra fully support the BJP’s campaign, even their slightly weak slogan “I’m not a terrorist. I’m a photographer.”

The more people know about the absurd over-zealous — and illegal — applications of this well-intentioned but muddled law, the better. Support the BJP’s campaign!

Here is the full text of Section 44. Why not print it out and keep it with you? Note there is no mention of police having powers to demand the deletion of images, nor does the legislation appear to apply to horse riders (be careful with the tripod on your horse’s back).

Power to stop and search



(1) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a vehicle in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search—

(a) the vehicle;

(b) the driver of the vehicle;

(c) a passenger in the vehicle;

(d) anything in or on the vehicle or carried by the driver or a passenger.

(2) An authorisation under this subsection authorises any constable in uniform to stop a pedestrian in an area or at a place specified in the authorisation and to search—

(a) the pedestrian;

(b) anything carried by him.

(3) An authorisation under subsection (1) or (2) may be given only if the person giving it considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism.

(4) An authorisation may be given—

(a) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of a police area outside Northern Ireland other than one mentioned in paragraph (b) or (c), by a police officer for the area who is of at least the rank of assistant chief constable;

(b) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of the metropolitan police district, by a police officer for the district who is of at least the rank of commander of the metropolitan police;

(c) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of the City of London, by a police officer for the City who is of at least the rank of commander in the City of London police force;

(d) where the specified area or place is the whole or part of Northern Ireland, by a member of the Royal Ulster Constabulary who is of at least the rank of assistant chief constable.

(5) If an authorisation is given orally, the person giving it shall confirm it in writing as soon as is reasonably practicable.


A Sensible Law

September 22nd, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

French MPs propose a health warning to be put on photoshopped images of models in a campaign against eating disorders. Pictures would have to carry the message “Photograph retouched to modify the physical appearance of the person.”

As someone who believes we have far too many laws already, I think that’s a good idea.


It’s rare for a picture library to make the national news, but that’s what the National Portrait Gallery managed today.

In March this year a Wikipedia administrator appropriated three thousand high-resolution images from the NPG website and published them to Wikipedia.

The NPG contacted Wikipedia and asked for the removal of the images. Wikipedia ignored the request. So the NPG issued a lawyer’s letter.

A spokesman for Wikipedia, an amazing and wonderful resource which I use daily, eventually deigned to respond — in one of the most arrogant, high-handed, dismissive, patronising, offensive, overweening blogs I have ever had the pleasure to read.

The National Portrait Gallery, the repository of Britain’s heritage of people paintings, is derided as an antiquated, fusty old dinosaur of an organisation, hopelessly out of touch with spiffy new C21 ways. It wants to CHARGE for images, ferkrissake!

Well, you can read it for yourself here.

The comments are a joy, by turns placatory and inflammatory.

And what it all boils down to is this: should everything be free, or should we pay for people’s work?

To which, I guess, everyone at heart would share the same response: everything should be free for me, but I want to be paid for my work.

The Wikipedia / NPG confrontation is a no-brainer; it’s straightforward theft, it’s illegal, and Wikipedia should cease and desist instantly. No argument. Being British, the NPG is unlikely to pursue for damages.

But what I cannot understand is how Wikipedia got its hands on 3,000 hi-res images from the NPG (which, frankly, charges an awful lot of money for the use of its images, so it is no saint either) in the first place? Nor can I understand why it needs them — the NPG has indicated that it is happy to allow Wikipedia to display small lo-res copies of the images, which is all you need on a web site. Why on earth would Wikipedia want to hold on to this stolen property?

And does the NPG have no security? If anyone downloads a hi-res image from fotoLibra, they pay for it. We know all about it. How could the NPG have let three THOUSAND expensive hi-res images slip through their fingers? Or were they hacked?

I think we should be told.


Lovely Clients

June 25th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Here at fotoLibra we love our clients. They buy our member’s images, they pay us, they keep us in business.

Love is an inadequate word to be nestled among the glories of the English language. The Ancient Greeks had at least four words to describe different types of love*, whereas we just have to muddle through with plain old Love.

But our love for our clients is, shall we say, storgéan*. A new client bought a total of two pictures off us and threw a tantrum when he couldn’t have them at the same price per image he was getting from MammonPix, with whom he had a £50,000 p.a. contract.

Another sent us a picture order with the following ominous rider:
Upon payment of this fee, the design copyright and all other rights throughout the world in this material will be vested in us.

Umm … I’m no lawyer, but that reads curiously like a rights grab to us. We have demanded clarification.

The copyright in all fotoLibra images is asserted by our photographers. It’s not our business to sell their inheritance for a mess of pottage.

* OK then, I’m glad you asked:
αγάπη :
AGAPÉ : Love as in ‘I love you.’ This is the ‘charity’ of ‘faith, hope and charity’ in I Corinthians XIII.
ερως : EROS : Love as in ‘I fancy you something rotten and I’m going to do terrible things to you.’

στοργή : STORGE : Love as in ‘My bloody teenage son came home pissed again last night.’

φιλία : PHILIA : Love as in ‘You’re my best mate, you are.’ PHILAdelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.

Breaking news: we demanded clarification, and they have charitably removed the clause from the picture order. I wonder if we’ll ever hear from them again? I need faith.

And hope.


Small print

March 3rd, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

We regularly send out sample lightboxes to our registered buyers to demonstrate the depth, range and quality of images on the fotoLibra site.

Sometimes we get a number of out of the office auto-responses back (I am out of the office for the next six years, please address any urgent enquiries to but most mid-sized companies will send a boilerplate reply.

These often link through to their Terms & Conditions, and it’s worth reading them for the sheer gall they display.

Here’s one, verbatim from a London magazine:

By submitting Material to the Picture Desk you grant to us a perpetual non-exclusive royalty-free licence to publish or otherwise use the Material in any Publication.

Just by submitting them! In other words, “thank you for showing us your pictures. They’re ours now. So sod off.”

Ryanair is rumoured to have a clause in its T&Cs which reads “What part of NO REFUNDS do you not understand?” But I couldn’t find it.



December 4th, 2008
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Now there’s less money around, the nastier type of person is going to start scrabbling about for some of yours. We’re OK because we haven’t got any.

Seriously, if we don’t have cleared rights for an image, we’re not going to be able to make a Commercial Sale — which, in picture library terms, means a sale to an advertising agency or somewhere where the image could be assumed to endorse a product.

So that’s all the Royalty Free images gone, for a start. Never mark a picture as Royalty Free unless you’ve definitely got the Model Release, and best get the Property Release as well, unless you were standing on public ground.

The great majority of the sales we make are Editorial Sales, mainly to book publishers, so there’s less of a worry. But we’ve noticed recently that increasing numbers of publishers are demanding model and property releases when they buy images. And an image which comes with full authenticity and proper releases will be more valuable.

Our downloadable Model Release and Property Release are laughably simple, and would doubtless be shredded by any Noo Yoik attorney needing to feed his Coke (acola) habit. Here’s an extract from a US model release:

For good and valuable consideration of ____________________________, herein acknowledged as received, and by signing this release I hereby give the Artist and Assigns my permission to license the Images and to use the Images in any Media for any purpose (except pornographic or defamatory) which may include, among others, advertising, promotion, marketing and packaging for any product or service. I agree that the Images may be combined with other images, text and graphics, and cropped, altered or modified. I acknowledge and agree that I have consented to publication of my ethnicity(ies) as indicated below, but understand that other ethnicities may be associated with Images of me by the Artist and/or Assigns for descriptive purposes.
I agree that I have no rights to the Images, and all rights to the Images belong to the Artist and Assigns. I acknowledge and agree that I have no further right to additional Consideration or accounting, and that I will make no further claim for any reason to Artist and/or Assigns. I acknowledge and agree that this release is binding upon my heirs and assigns. I agree that this release is irrevocable, worldwide and perpetual, and will be governed by the laws of the state of California excluding the law of conflicts. I represent and warrant that I am at least 18 years of age and have the full legal capacity to execute this release.

And here’s ours:

I hereby assign full copyright of the photograph(s) taken of me by the above-mentioned photographer to that photographer together with the right of reproduction either wholly or in part.
I agree that the Photographer or licensees or assignees can use the above-mentioned photograph(s) either separately or together, either wholly or in part, in any way and in any medium.
The Photographer and licensees or assignees may have unrestricted use of these for whatever purpose, including advertising, with any reasonable retouching or alteration.
I agree that the above mentioned photographs and any reproductions shall be deemed to represent an imaginary person, and further agree that the Photographer or any person authorised by or acting on his or her behalf may use the above mentioned photographs or any reproductions of them for any advertising purposes or for the purpose of illustrating any wording, and agree that no such wording shall be considered to be attributed to me personally unless my name is used.
Provided my name is not mentioned in connection with any other statement or wording which may be attributed to me personally, I undertake not to prosecute or to institute proceedings, claims or demands against either the Photographer or his or her agents in respect of any usage of the above mentioned photographs.

We don’t seem to be so concerned about the model’s ethnicity. Should we be? And the American release assumes payment of the model(s) in some form, difficult when you’re faced with a rioting mob. But then getting any rioting mob to stop and sign model releases has always posed a problem.

Let’s face it, this is the boring side of photography. But people who have a high boredom threshold have the capacity to succeed in politics and to make money.

So sorry, but it has to be done.

Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I had a meeting with a large publisher yesterday.

They get over 30 letters a month from people saying “You’ve used my picture in one of your books, pay me.”

Every letter has to be answered. The publisher asks for a photograph of the complainant. It takes about an hour to check the image, check the model releases for the book, write a reply — it ties up the legal department whose time could be better spent signing contracts with fotoLibra.  Not one person has pursued their claim further.

So the publisher quite rightly has demanded model releases for all images of people that they use. Shots taken in classrooms can have the signature of the school principal, not every individual in the image. It’s impossible to get model releases for everyone in a crowd shot, so chances do have to be taken.

The same publisher has been awarded contracts to publish educational schoolbooks for a large Eastern European country, on condition the books are printed in that country. So the printing goes ahead, the rep visits the schools with the brand new books and is unblushingly informed that the school doesn’t want to buy the books because they already have them, at half the price the legit company is selling them for.

The books are shown and they are identical, except for the cheaper paper and binding. What happens is that the disc sent to the printer is immediately copied, the books printed elsewhere and rushed out to the schools. Lots of shoulder shrugging and expressions of regret, massive loss for the publisher. It’s a wonder they carry on.

It’s not simply the sneaky Slavs — the same thing happened with a long-standing EU member country whose Prime Minister owned several printing companies.

Bizarre, isn’t it?