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Morel v. AFP, AFP v. Morel - Which Way Blows the Wind?

Let's Pay the Oregon Arts Commission Staff with Website Credit

Real World Estimates - Corporate Portraits

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Portions of this column were originally written for the November 2010 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.

November 2010, Volume 97
By Mark Loundy

"Human nature constitutes a part of the evidence in every case."

— Elisha Potter

John Harrington and I usually agree on matters relating to the photo business. But we part company when he takes photographer Daniel Morel to task for posting images from the Haiti earthquake on TwitPic where they were grabbed by AFP and then distributed without Morel's permission (See June Common Cents.)

Human NatureWhile I strongly discourage any professional photographer from uploading images to services that grab your rights (Facebook, MySpace, TwitPic, etc.) That has no bearing on the bad acts of others. The poor judgment of a photographer does not remove the burden from a potential reuser to obtain permission. In other words, just because Morel placed his images where they could be seen by anyone, that doesn't make it OK for AFP to include his work in their commercial service.

None of this means that photographers should avoid social media. On the contrary, SM is an excellent way for photographers to promote their work and engage with clients and potential clients. But beware of the fine-print terms of service (Yes you should actually read them.) Companies like Facebook are set up to freely distribute images and to exploit member-supplied material as much as they can. Their business models depend upon free access to your content.

Professional work belongs on sites like Photoshelter, SmugMug and similar services, which not only do not grab rights to your work, but also provide numerous tools that help you run your business.

Copyright law might protect you, but keep human nature in mind.

The Good
Bullet I was hoping for the Goods this month, but I was disappointed. But hope springs eternal.

The Bad
Bullet The Bodega Bay Chamber of Commerce for holding a contest to select the images that it will use in its annual area map and guide rather than hiring a professional. Where is the commerce in a free image?
Bullet The National Parks Service for its rights-grabbing "Share The Experience 2010" contest. If they really wanted to share the experience, there would be no park entry or usage fees.

The Ugly
Bullet Helsingin Sanomat, for scanning, removing the printed credit of Finnish photographer Kari Kuukka and then publishing the image without permission. They did apologize, however. What's really annoying is that HS is published behind a paywall.
Bullet AOL's Patch online local news service for its amazingly low assignment fees and for its rights-grabbing contract.
Bullet The Oregon Arts Commission for soliciting "volunteer" photographers to shoot images for the state's Cultural Trust publications. I thought that arts commissions were supposed to support the arts and artists — not exploit them.

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.

Leftovers
  • Wonderful Machine producer Jess Dudley wrote a terrific piece about the value of corporate portrait shooting and how to construct a an estimate. Writing in APhotoeditor," Dudley describes how and why corporations use photography, how fees are formulated and how to estimate expenses. He also includes actual paperwork. One commenter notes that Dudley didn't ask to know how much the client had budgeted for the project — a question that should never be overlooked.