Saturday, 26 February 2011

What Value Copyright .... ??

I've just been having an exchange of messages with other users in the 'Talk Photography' forum over the real value of copyright when it comes to photographers and their images.  And I have to say that as a result my views have changed!  Will I be doing things differently now?  In my personal work probably not, but in my business life, maybe!

If you're not a member of the Talk Photography forum I suggest you get over there and join up.  It's free of course and in the main it's a friendly and helpful community (I'm amazed how some people have the patience to answer even some of the most basic questions!).  There are of course the minority who want to make their voice heard even if they've got nothing of value to say - who prefer to criticise or ridicule rather than be constructive.  I guess it's a sign of the times, and of poor self esteem, so it gives them a feeling of importance - hey ho.

Anyway, back to the discussion.  The original message was posted by a pro photographer querying why any photographer would sign over their copyright.  In my business life we do this (as I explained) to: -
a) protect our brand, and 
b) prevent commercial exploitation [of our images] other than self promotion
(I won't name the photographer we use but if anyone does put two and two together let me say that I would have absolutely no concerns about him doing anything contrary to our best interests)

A couple of other pros (should that be 'old pros' ?!) responded with the usual reasons (loss of future revenue etc.) which I don't have much time for (there is no future revenue to lose!), but one good point was made: -
"My issue is the same as yours - brand protection. If you buy the copyright then you can edit the images into some horrible creation, publish it all over the world, and then credit me as the originator!"
 I'd never really thought about this, probably because we never credit the photographer!  Most of our use is brochures, websites and the like so not the medium where any credit would be normally be given.

Then the old cliche about 'buying a book or CD doesn't give you the right to use it other than as intended' was rolled out, again; I've not a lot of time for this because, in my view, if I'm commissioning the book to be written, pay all the research costs, pay the author for his time and pay the publisher his costs, then the book is mine to do with as I please and it's not available for anyone else to sell - ever.

But then the discussion took a slightly different turn.  From my comment in response: -
"I guess the reality is that it doesn't really matter to me who owns copyright provided that a) we get to use the images in any way we choose, and b) the photographer has no right to use or exploit our images (brand) without our prior agreement .... with regard to point b) I've never been asked if [our images] can be sold for profit but the flip side of this is what if we attempted to sell 'his' images for our gain"
So this has made me think again about my views - are we entitled to pay a photographer a rate for his photos for an intended use (brochures, websites), but then offer them for sale to the market without any further recompense?  I would say no.  We've never done this, nor ever likely to do (excepting good causes perhaps) but contractually there's nothing stopping us.

It's a moot point from our position - photos of cars taken at Millbrook being offered for general sale are likely to do nothing for our reputation for secrecy and confidentiality!  But it does make me think that a different form of agreement, a licence for us to use the images in perpetuity and reasonable restrictions on photographers own use, might be more appropriate.

Like I said, and interesting and useful forum!

If you want to read the whole discussion thread then follow da link!