I was pretty pissed off when I wrote my previous post (maybe you could tell?)
Writing a follow-up is not easy. Trying to stay calm. I can already see the commentary: “You are milking the subject, yesterday’s news, oh just quit whining, blah, blah, blah…”
Yet, it needs to be done.
I have read the commentary on my previous blogpost – plus the discussion in numerous websites in Finland (and elsewhere) – plus the emails….
No, I am not going to comment back to “The-Danish-photographer-Kari-Kuuk-had-his-picture-stolen…” and “quite(meaning “quit” I guess…?)-whining-and-you-cannot-be-taken-seriously-as-you-can’t-spell (either Finnish or English)…” and “don’t-you-understand-how-hard-it-is-to-create-a-computer-games-and-Steve-Jobs-had-nothing-to-do-with-it…”
You get my drift? :-) Not worth it.
But: there are two repeating themes which need addressing: “Bullshit! It’s always about the money” and “You put it in the net: thus, it’s there for everybody to take”.
“Bullshit! It’s always about the money”
The first one is pretty easy: yes, the criticism is partly correct. Yes, it is about money. It’s about the money a person should receive for the work he/she created. That person should get a compensation – shall we call it – the normal way: as a payment for goods purchased.
The default M.O should not be: you take what you want and hope you don’t get caught (and your past experience has taught you that normally you don’t). And if you do, the payment is thru threats, lawyers and litigation. Yes, it might be 3 times the “market price” (standard procedure in Finland) but if the market price is peanuts to start with, it does not really matter. Besides, if you get caught less than every fourth time, you actually save money building your business model this way.
In this case LATimes did get caught – apologized (and pleaded mea culpa) immediately. It’s what we call “damage control” – minimize the harm done to the brand.
Their true character was revealed with the action: “ok, we put his name there and pay him 50 USD”.
That’s what we call an insult.
But: some of the commentary have been implying that photographer (Matti Matikainen) is just trying make money by bringing this out in the open.
Now let’s just stop that one right there: Matti called me immediately when he saw those comments – and when he was interviewed in the radio – and further quoted on national TV -each time repeating the same thing: if he eventually gets any financial compensation on this – which most probably will be peanuts – it will be given to charity(to be determined later).
So please, cut the BS and show some respect.
The second one is much more serious an issue – and the actual topic of this post: seems like there are loads of people who have no idea of what copyright (or IPR intellectual/immaterial property rights) mean. Or don’t care.
And seems like many of those people have found their way into the offices of these once respected media corporations. Call themselves “media professionals” these days.
“You put it into the web – thus it’s free for anyone to take”
No, no and no. Actually, almost all of the content in the web is protected: movies, music, pictures, etc.
As someone (Tim) said in the comments: “Publishing an image, even for free, does NOT release the image into the public domain. In fact it’s challenging to ever release something into the public domain, even intentionally.”
Absolutely true, as Tony Sleep further continues in his commentary: “Just about everything on the internet is created by someone and they, or their employer, automatically owns copyright.”
Copyright is based on the Berne Convention and that forms the basis of legislation for almost every country in the world.
There are some national differences etc. – but the underlying principle is very simple and common to all: when you create something, it is yours. This process is automatic and occurs at the moment creation (be it photograph, piece of music, film, whatever).
It does not matter if somebody else could have done it, how great a piece it is – or how bad – or what value you or anybody else consider it to have etc. – it’s simply yours because you did it. Nobody should take it from you without permission.
Regardless if you – or somebody you work for – present it publicly in e.g. the web or elsewhere.
Right to Quote
It should be added: there is something which is called “right to quote” or “citation right” (- I hope that is the correct term in English). Meaning: to illustrate a point you might use a fraction/sample of somebody’s work even without their permission – say a piece of poetry or prose – to show e.g. how great/personal the writer in question is etc. – and naturally giving full credit and reference to the original work. Same is allowed for quoting somebody’s work as scientific reference.
But when multimillion dollar media corporations rip off somebody’s work in order to make more profit themselves, they can hardly hide behind “It’s simply a quote” -excuse.
“It’s out there, I can take it”
Somebody suggested (actually quite a lot of people did…) that as Iltalehti put it on their website, it was open game for everybody as it was not behind a pay wall, password protected, closed website, etc.
Aaah… No. No, no and NO!!! Read the paragraphs above. Just about everything in the web is copyrighted – if the reader/copy-paster of this material is an ignorant idiot does not alter this fact. Even if the idiot works for e.g. LA Times etc.
Copyright is not open to your personal interpretations: “Well, I don’t think it’s that great a picture, I could have taken it…” That’s totally irrelevant.
In order for it NOT to be copyrighted, it has to specifically be put into – more or less – public domain, using licensing such as CC (Creative Commons) etc.
Let us take a simple example:
Somebody leaves a car parked outside. That does not mean anybody can take it. I think we agree on this one?
Even if the doors are unlocked .
Even if the keys are in.
Even if the motor is humming.
Even if it is a Ferrari you really admire and would like to have…
Even if that Ferrari would make you look soooo cool…
I see – and we all see the attraction. But: I think it’s safe to say we all would agree that taking that car would be illegal. Damn easy, but still: illegal. The fact that you can nick something easily (as you can in the net) does not make it a lesser offense.
And when the nicker is a corporation who is among the selected few in the world (such as New York Times, Washington Post, Guardian – or LATimes – or back home here in the North Pole: Helsingin Sanomat) who sets the rules as how the game is played or how the society values itself… it becomes very, very serious.
Don’t see the difference? Let’s take another one (somebody might say a naive example, but bear with me):
What percentage of the e.g. US population would you estimate has tried pot? It’s illegal, easy to get, no big thing and… actually, don’t care about the answer, but – say if e.g. Mr. Obama was found on a park bench with a joint in his hand, puffing away. I think that would cause some concern, don’t you think? Maybe even get some media attention? Maybe even some of this concern would be justified for the whole society?
Because he stands for something. Something more than most of us.
See my point? That’s why photographers usually do not raise hell when their work gets e.g. used as a wallpaper on somebody’s screen… Yes, it’s still not legal, but let’s be real, there are bigger problems in the world, so we really do not typically shout loud about it. (EDITED 25.12.2011. I actually realize now that what I was saying is not correct – i.e. it is totally legal to make a copy for your own purposes – but only for your own. Please see the commentary in the end of the post.)
But: when publications such as Daily Mail, LaTimes, Hollywood Reporter, Tech Crunch, etc. (there were closer to 300 publications of that image in the world) does it, it is a big deal. It is a huge deal. It’s much more an issue than “stealing just one mediocre image from a website for your own personal viewing”.
“Well, they did credit him?”
That’s insulting. Yet we hear it every day. Each and every professional photographer gets those occasionally – some on a weekly basis nowadays: “we won’t pay you but we will mention your name”. Oh, please!
That’s absurd. Tony Sleep – mentioned earlier – has made a great service to all of us by creating an appropriate letter we can always refer these people to when somebody comes suggesting this – so we don’t have to resort to foul language and four letter words. I urge you to take a look.
Simply stated: mentioning your name in the byline justifies nothing (i.e. stealing your property and not paying) – and my limited experience says also that mentioning your name does not pay the bills.
Try paying your credit card with “hey, I just got mentioned in LA Times”. I don’t think so…
Integrity and Trust are Sine Qua Non
I am happy about several really intelligent and insightful comments I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Tony, Tatu, Tim, Rita et al… you know who you are. I thank you for taking your time to comment. Highly appreciated. In the middle of all this it is wonderful to see that there are people who do care and who are not afraid nor too busy to share their views/experience/knowledge/concern with others.
But at the same time: I am horrified by the total ignorance, je m’en foutisme, malice or plain stupidity some of the comments portray – in this blog and especially elsewhere – talking here about blogs I’ve read and commentary on the national dailies news websites back home. If you speak Finnish, I urge you to read e.g. the commentary chain of Helsingin Sanomat. It’s pretty grim reading… and that’s the biggest national daily, from number one country in the world on top of the PISA charts in education.
I am quoting Tony here extensively, but I value his words very highly. “If this gets any more traction”, he says”… well let’s just forget any hope of democracy.”
I could not agree more. Seriously, it is that big. Much bigger than taking a screenshot “accidentally” and plastering it on your home screen. Much bigger. Huge.
We – professional media – we should really watch our step and try to see where our world, the professional media – our chosen field and our values – are heading and defend these to our best ability. Maybe then we dare to look in the mirror ourselves again – and most importantly: we owe it to our audience.
“The tail has been wagging the dog so hard and for so long it has nearly beaten it to death already. Integrity and trust are sine qua non (look out the window to see the consequences of sacrificing them for the sake of profit).”
(Tony’s commentary in the previous post.)
Sine Qua Non… Without which there is Nothing.