Thursday, December 20, 2007

An Important Post on the Issues of Copyright

Recently there has been more added to the ongoing debate on photographs used online without permission.

Photographers in general seem to be overwhelmingly in support of Lane Hartwell for sending a bill for a usage of her photo for a couple seconds in a youtube video.

I’m going to start this off by saying that as an artist I survive primarily from my photo work. I’ve shot everything from commercial tabletop to weddings, set photography for films to having gallery shows. And I’ve had images taken for commercial use (which I care about) and posted in places as strange as 13 year old’s myspace pages and porn messageboards (which I don’t care as much about, except as a matter of surreal social interest).

I agree that it may feel weird when you see your image in a place without knowing it would be there beforehand, but I think it is MUCH MUCH more important to defend the ability of art to be as CREATIVE as possible with as FEW roadblocks in its path. Commercial use is another thing entirely, of course. Lane is quoted as defending her image from unapproved commercial use, but to me, this obviously is not the case.

picture has nothing to do with this post. (c) 2007 who gives a fuck (me. please don’t sell tampons with this picture)

Video art and sound art, especially modern experimental work (as well as documentary work, where independent filmmakers trying to show something important to the world often get stonewalled by a copyright issue, trying to find some archival footage copyright owner), thrives on mashup culture. To me, this is a clear cut case of a professional going after a non-profit group of people having a little fun in their time off work, trying to make something creative. I think it’s very petty. The idea that she got a lawyer to harass a group of a capella singers who made a funny youtube video is ridiculous.

What about appropriation? Hasn’t it been heavily defended in art?

Haven’t many famous photographs been produced of other photographs, including some of the best selling of all time? ( eg. Prince’s marlboro photograph)

Isn’t photography itself one of the most heavily contested mediums, for “stealing” other artist’s or organization’s images and using them? Aren’t photographers often protesting someone trying to get them to stop taking pictures of their buildings, sculptures, faces, etc?

With the internet comes the next level of this debate, and I see it as one that traditional art and copyright is set to lose. Artists will do whatever it takes to make whatever points they want to make, as trivial or earthshattering as they may be.

To conclude: of course I like money for the use of my image. And of course I like credit, especially if money is not an option for the user.
But in this case they did make a huge effort to give credit (after a reminder). I see them as clearly on the right in this particular case.

I say use it to your benefit and don’t end up lost with the flow.

I want to add that I think in different circumstances the response of the photographer should be appropriate.

Some examples of unapproved use and what response I think is appropriate:

Corporate ad – Send bill or use legal action

Editorial usage(in a publication for sale) – send bill or use legal action

Website usage for corporation – Send bill or use legal action

Newsletter/email/etc for corporation – Send bill or use legal action

Website for nonprofit – send email asking if they knew they forgot to ask, possibly compensation if they are able, ask for credit

Non-profit publication – ask for credit, possible compensation

Arts non-profit publication (zine) – ask for credit

Arts usage (appropriation, gallery, mashup, etc) - ask for credit

Internet video – ask for credit, postdated royalties if video ever becomes popular and makes large amounts of money (never)

Myspace, livejournal, imageboard (such as, etc – laugh, post credit yourself as anon, stop being such a stickler and realize the internet is always going to be a den of scum and villainy. Go have an ice cream.

Also posted to Copyright and Photopros. Some interesting discussion there.

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 9:14 pm  

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