Caveat lector: This post was originally on the now defunct web ghost ship Open Salon, which was an adjunct site to Salon.com. The adjunct site no longer exists. OS was designed for bloggers and occasionally posts were ported to the mothership to become part of the online magazine.
NB: Some minor edits were made to clarify a syntax error or the like.
I offended a Dutch book editor.
Apparently, it’s an easy thing to do. I thought I was being thorough, but I guess I just needed to get over myself. I’m sure I still do.
I have a Flickr Pro account and have used that service for many years—for a variety of reasons. My account isn’t really divided into good and mundane, I keep regular blasé snapshots there side-by-side with my favorite images. Some images I’ve even sold for nice sums of money. I’ve also organized some images into sets, not really based on quality, but rather some connective theme.
Occasionally I’ll get a request from someone to use an image of mine. It happens a lot on Flickr. An online travel guide called Schmap.com has used several of my images. My bride and I were staying at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington in Pasadena when she served on the Board of Directors of ASAE. I took the opportunity to spend most of the day at the nearby Greene and Greene Gamble House, one of the best extant examples of an Arts and Craft home. Schmap thought the images would help promote their guide to Pasadena. I didn’t make any money off of them, it’s nice to have my name in the copyright in something like this—they’re a company I trust so I didn’t feel there was a need for a licensing fee.
I get an e-mail from Sarah, a book editor at Frame Magazine in the Netherlands. She wanted to use one of my Prada Marfa photos.
Her English is perfect and it’s a very nice and polite letter. But I’m a bit suspicious, based on previous experiences on Flickr. I check out her account there, and all I see is a grey-head avatar much like we see when we’re looking at what we suspect is a troll account on twitter. She has no profile, no images of her own, no “favorite” images to see—nothing at all.
Which means she’s a harvester. Which is ok, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that. It just depends on how someone else’s images are used. I’m aware of copyright law, and I understand Fair Use as a means of using copyrighted materials. All of my images on Flickr are © All Rights Reserved. There are different categories of rights that you can assign to your images including various levels of Creative Commons. I keep mine reserved, just because it’s easier for me and many of them have registered copyrights. The registered copyrights allow for triple damages if used in commercial settings without permission or licensing. And now with my book due out in a month or so, there are some contractual issues with my publisher on some of my images. I have a service that notifies me if one of my images is used without attribution. Many have been taken, but it’s difficult and potentially expensive to file suit in a foreign country.
It was nice to get a polite message from Sarah, and I thought for a while before responding. She offered a copy of the book where the Prada Marfa shot would be placed in compensation for its use, which is kind of cool. But what she said next probably made the decision for me. “We don’t have a photography budget…” just didn’t ring true. It might be true, it simply didn’t sound right to me. For a book that will retail at 100 Euros, I think there is indeed a photography budget, apparently just not for me.
This has happened several times before. There was a science text book in Argentina and a marquee in the aviary in a zoo in Massachusetts that wanted one of my Fairy Bluebird images—among other offers from sundry harvesters. Promises were made. Promises that were not kept.
Which resulted in me sending letters requesting removal of my images and including CC’ing my lawyer friend and consultant, a copyright lawyer in Connecticut. All of the offers and promises I’ve received on Flickr were nicely worded and polite. But they’ve all resulted in zip so far.
There are plenty of people who just don’t understand about copyrighted material (I’m not saying Sarah doesn’t understand, her request seemed legitimate in fact, I just wasn’t comfortable with her request based on my own past experience). A good example of an all too common attitude.
I wrote Sarah back and, while not going into details about my history with such things, I politely declined. I said that my images are rights-managed as far as licensing is concerned and would be happy to discuss some modest terms with her if she changed her mind. It was a lengthier reply than was necessary, but I did want to explain my position.
This is the reply I received:
Geez get over yourself. If you are not happy to have an image published then just say so.
She was offended by my considered response. She was upset that I had taken the time to explain my thoughts, all the while exempting her from any association with what had gone on before with those that had broken their promises.
I replied to her message:
Thanks for your kind response. Many of my images are published and I’m quite happy about them.
Barry B. Doyle
I know, it was a bit snarky—but just a bit.
By the way, the image at the top of this post is not the photo in question—this is one I haven’t posted to Flickr or to Open Salon. In fact, I don’t really know which photo she was referring to, as she didn’t specify which one she wanted to use.
And just for the record:
The image at the top of this post is copyright © 2009 by barry b. doyle
• all rights reserved •
Oh, and my copyright lawyer friend said “Perfect reply on your part :)”