Thursday, July 28, 2016

Photo Licensing

Sunset at Harbor Island, SC

  We are all so careful these days about using photographs (the above photo is one of mine and you are welcome to use it!  no bill will arrive from me!) from the internet and I know several people who have been threatened by photograph agencies and billed significant amounts of money even though their use of the photograph was educational only.

Therefore it was with great interest I read an article on the website  (lots of interesting articles about art), about  Carol  Highsmith, the famous photographer who over time has donated nearly 19,000 thousand photographs to the Library of Congress for use by the general public at no charge.  This has been her life's work.

Highsmith only discovered that a certain agency had taken the photographs from this source, added their own watermark and sold them, when she herself received one of their threatening bills for its use!  And she is not the only one,  2013, Daniel Morel was awarded $1.2 million, after the agency pulled his photos from Twitter and distributed them without permission to several major publications.
The agency was trying to charge the photographer a large fee, a very large fee, for the use of their own photographs, photographs they had donated to the public domain!

In the comments in this article, it was evident that several people had paid the agency in questions large sums of money, having been totally mislead by them as to who had the ownership and copyright of the image.  The agency affixed its own watermark AND frequently did not attribute the photographer with the credit.  Quite likely they have already snitched my sunset, and soon I'll be getting a bill for using it!!

Let's hope that Highsmith wins her billion dollar lawsuit against them for doing this, but my guess is that these agencies will simply consider this "the price of doing business".     Clearly - there will be more....and the old saw "the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour" is certainly going to be proven true yet again.  However, it is good to know that sometimes the artist comes out on top!

If you have been, thanks for reading!   All comments strongly welcomed by the way!! Have at it!


Betty Rivers said...

Opening your blog and seeing that beautiful sunset was a great way to start my morning. Thanks for sharing. I do agree with you about the theft of "intellectual properties". Seems more and more, there is a feeling that you can use what others have done instead of doing something of your own. This is just plain wrong and a dangerous precedent.

Melanie McNeil said...

No, not everyone is careful about use and attribution. Plagiarism is one aspect, as is using photos without permission. As I've written about on my blog, simply giving attribution is not always enough. If I post a photo from another blog and attribute it as such, without realizing the other blog used it without permission, I'm wrong in what I've done, also. It is NOT very hard to avoid theft, if one is conscious of theft as a concept. My concern is people don't even see it as stealing. Thanks as always.

Elizabeth Barton said...

What I'm writing about is that a couple of photo agencies, the ones that are so quick to send you a bill if you use "their image" have in fact appropriated those images themselves - images that were either on personal accounts, or were given to the Library of Congress for use by everyone.
it's like somebody standing outside a free museum (like the Smithsonian) saying "if you don't pay me a large fee and just walk in there....there will be all kinds of consequences"!
If you dare to breathe the air without paying for it....we're going to shut off your supply!!

Kristin said...

Clicking on your link for the article gave me the message "this site can't be reached" and it didn't open.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Kristin - thanks for letting me know, these links can be tricky:
here it is:

Elsie Montgomery said...

A few years ago, I used the picture on a Christmas card to inspire a quilt. Then people wanted the pattern. It took a long time, but I finally got "world-wide exclusive rights" to use that picture and am now selling the pattern on Etsy. I pay a small royalty to the artist. She is 70 years old and royalties are now her only income. The ironic thing is that a multitude of people are using the photo to decorate their web pages without paying a thing or even realizing that they should. This is not just an illegal copyright issue. Sometimes it involves whether or not an artist can buy groceries.

jeanne Marklin said...

Beautiful sunset! Thanks for making us aware of the Getty/Highsmith suit and the Hyperallergic site. I hope she gets billions of dollars in settlement because she deserves it, and she sounds like someone who will use it for a worthy cause.
Getty deserves to have bad press for this spread all over social media. Bad, bad, bad.

Nina Marie said...

This is interesting but not surprising! Another thing I've seen online, is that companies intentionally set up photos on Google image - hoping someone will use it without permission. When a blogger does, they are then hit with a bill or be sued. Where there is money to be made - there is always someone there to exploit the situation.

Elizabeth Barton said...

What's interesting is that it's the BIG companies that are now doing the stealing and think they can get away with it because their lawyers and Bigger than anyone else's.
Currently a company called Zara has been in the news because they have apparently stolen hundreds of images for buttons and tshirts and the like from many different artists....the images they have used are identical to the ones the artists put on their own websites. Zara's lawyer said that it was not an infringement because the images were not that distinctive (!) and also because Zara's website got a lot more hits than did those of the individual artists!!!! i.e. we can afford to go to court and you can't! So ..."plagiarism is okay" if your business is big enough (as we've seen in the political arena too recently...). Hmmm.....