Sunday, December 15, 2013

Image piracy fears

Today I was looking at a spectacular photo of foliage. I would love to have been the person to take the photo but sadly I wasn't the photographer in that particular instance. I'm afraid my photos are far more mundane and ordinary. This is probably one of the color combinations that I'm most pleased with. One day I dream of finding a nice valley with colorful foliage and a water mill at the center. I'm afraid that photo has been done many times over and graces many travel books though.
That leaves little really to better. I don't try. I don't compete - there are so many photographers out there, many of whom are so absolutely obsessed with photography and taking the perfect image that they have no real lives at all.

What I find sad about all the people that take photography too seriously for their own good is that they don't realise the limitations. These are the kind of people that go to every single camera club meeting, yearning to learn more about photography and how to take the best photo without ever realizing that they are just Joe Average. These are the people that become real bores at a party or an event that feel they must photograph everything and everybody; the kind of person that turns up on a 2 week trek through Kenya with 50lbs of camera gear and maybe a change of underwear. They return from their safari and proudly display photographs that the average tour guide could have taken with an all-in-one zoom compact. Of course they're all tweaked for gamma, saturation, contrast, levels etc but they are no different from those taken with a zoom compact and given the same treatment. 

The same kind of people then witter endlessly about image theft, image piracy and bemoan the fact that there's little to be done about people using others images online. This is true. In one of the most shocking bits of image piracy I have ever witnessed, somebody downloaded images of 0.3 megapixels and smaller, printed them to 6x4 and put them on tables as decorations at a function. No attempt was made to contact the photographer to ask permission. No attempt was made to acknowledge the website from which they were taken. As soon as an image is online, it is almost public domain. The law might say something different but honestly, how is Joe Blow the photographer in Boston, Massachussets going to prevent or profit from Solomon Grundy in  Newcastle-under-lyme, Britain downloading and selling prints of photographs for which the copyright belongs to Joe Blow? Is Joe Blow going to hunt every sales catalog and art shop in creation to find his work then spend vast sums of money on prosecuting somebody who probably doesn't even have any money? Seriously, this whole idea of copyright is cockamamie. It's a damn photograph. It's not as though any more effort went into it than a bit of walking and pressing a button. 

Would I be angry if somebody copied my photographs and used them on a website or on a huge billboard? No - I'd regard them as rude and uncouth for not asking permission. I'd get in touch with the webhost if it was a website and claim the copyright. If it was on an advertising hoarding then the manufacturer of the product would be suitably embarrassed by the fact that their agent had done that and would most likely settle quite reasonably. Other than that, every country has a copyright office and copyright is owned by the photographer the moment the photo is taken. As for monetary compensation, I have been paid for photos in the past. I don't regard it as my main aim in life to seek money for photos. In fact, I think photography is a joke profession used as an excuse by layabouts. "Why aren't you out there working?" "I'm a photographer and I'm waiting for clients". There's no such thing as a professional photographer. A professional layabout maybe. A professional workshy layabout more likely. Art does not pay and never has nor will it ever pay. This is why artists have the reputation for being poverty-stricken.

 If anybody wanted to use my images, I would hope they would just hyperlink them and provide a linkback. Actually, a linkback is probably all I'd ask for from non-commercial websites. I somehow doubt that a commercial website or an advertising company would want my photographs as I photograph things solely that interest me. 

I am hugely entertained when I hear about people complaining on "forums" (I already think poorly of forums and their users which is why I am not a member of any) about images being "stolen" and "used without permission". Invariably it's a different image or the image is of such low quality that they'd have to be mad to think it was worth money. People assign ludicrous values to their casual photos. A photograph of a streetlamp is worth exactly nothing. A photograph of a famous person is worth nothing unless they're dead. A photograph of a famous person with somebody they later deny having met does have value. A photograph of The White House is utterly valueless as 10,000,000 tourists will take the same photo every year. It only becomes worth something if the President's wife is in the window during a wardrobe failure.

People really need to wake up and see reality. 99.99999999% of photographs taken are worth nothing. They are of no value to anybody bar the person that took them. Thus, all this baloney about photographs being worth money is just that - baloney.

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