Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Days You Just Get Lucky

It's true. Somedays you do. This time just last week, I was feeling anything but lucky. Those are the times when it is important to take a deep breath, close your eyes and try to count your blessings. Today is a much better day already. A new potential assignment for a restaurant chain opening it's first Hawaii outlets in Honolulu was waiting on the studio answering machine when I arrived at work this morning. Then there are those days, like the morning when I woke early, just as the sun was rising and as soon as I stepped outside, the scene above was stretching out across an ethereal canvas of sky. Cloud drama at it's best. Those are the times when you just grab the nearest available camera, exhale and push the shutter.  No thought necessary... just being in the right place at the right time and still creatively engaged; the photographic equivalent to automatic writing.

And then there are days when the Missus is on the computer, searching the local real-estate listings and comes across a series of my photographs advertising a property for sale without my prior knowledge or permission. A couple of sternly worded letters and two weeks later and a fat check arrives in today's mail.  This time, little luck was involved. Had I not followed thru when completing the original assignment to capture those images.... entering all the EXIF & ITPC Data in the proper INFO Window fields of each file, delivered a very precise use license included in the original invoice and registered the complete body of work with the US Copyright Offices, I would have had little recourse and very little clout when it came time to negotiate a license for secondary use with the infringers. Of course, none of this kept the infringing parties from moaning incessantly about the 4-figure plus price tag for the license. Screen grabs of the infringing websites, copies of the original license and excerpts from Federal Copyright Law put a quick end to all of that. As soon as the parties realized that they were facing penalties that could have totaled more than a million dollars, the 4-figure license fee began to smell like a bargain.

And speaking of meta-data, EXIF & ITPC info embedded with your image files, there appears to finally be some momentum behind attempts to force Google to stop it's practice of stripping meta-data from image files. Google, unfortunately, is not alone in this practice. Facebook, Flickr and other social network & photo-sharing sites all remove meta-data when images are uploaded to the server. 

There are couple of good, brief articles on the problem located at the Gunar Blog (just click on the links below):

In the age of digital distribution of images, words, music and just about every other form of content, protecting yourself is becoming more & more imperative. Watermarks, tracking services and other means of image location and identification are being developed and coming into play, making it a little easier for us to track down where our work is being published electronically. That said, the simple act of filling out the info window fields with your copyright notice, contact info and license information can go a long way in helping you find your work as this information is in text form and readable by web crawlers & bots that compile this sort of info. Thus, by simply performing a search of your name, chances are that links to published images that contain your meta-data may/will turn up in those search results.

Even closer to home, while conducting research to press the infringement issues I describe above, it was discovered that our local island Board of Realtors not only strips meta-data info from photo files when they are uploaded to the system's Multiple Listings Service server but they also have the hubris to apply the watermark © RAM (RAM=Realtors Association of Maui) to all images displayed on their website. Note that I was also successful in having the RAM watermark removed from images belonging to me that are hosted on that server and having it replaced with a watermark giving proper notice & attribution of the work. Further efforts are being instigated at this time to end their practice of adding the ©RAM watermark to all images supplied to the local MLS. 


Tamara said...

trying again.. inadvertently deleted my comment.. but thank you for this informative post. I will save your words for reference. I still have clients I have to tell "Nooo... you can't just 'grab an image off GOOGLE.', or 'no... just because it's on the internet doesn't mean it's free."
Designers also have the same copyright, but clients don't understand that even when there is a contract specifying usage. They think I'm a hard ass if I try to enforce it. Additionally, about 80% of the people looking at my site are "mac safari" users, from anytowncollege, usa, to McCann Erickson looking for "inspiration." I'm a little flattered by McCann, but for this reason, I haven't posted anything new in about 5 years.

Tony Novak-Clifford said...

What's wrong with being known as a hard ass? A client that doesn't feel bound to observe pre-agreed upon contractual terms is not a client. Do you, or they for that matter. go into a restaurant... order a meal and then pitch a hissy because they weren't served things they never ordered in the first place? Do you fill your plate from a cafeteria line and expect to not have to pay for it, even though the food was sitting out in plain view?