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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

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Bill Pierce is one of the most successful Leica photographers and authors ever. I initially "met" Bill in the wonderful 1973 15th edition Leica Manual (the one with the M5 on the cover). I kept reading and re-reading his four chapters, continually amazed at his knoweldge and ability, thinking "if I only knew a small part of what this guy knows... wow."  I looked foward to his monthly columns in Camera 35 and devoured them like a starving man.  Bill has worked as a photojournalist  for 25 years, keyword: WORK.  Many photogs dream of the professional photographer's  life that Bill has earned and enjoyed.  Probably Bill's most famous pic is Nixon departing the White House for the last time, victory signs still waving. 

 

Bill  has been published in many major magazines, including  Time, Life, Newsweek, U.S. News, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, New York Magazine, Stern, L'Express and Paris Match.  :His published books include  The Leica Manual,  War Torn, Survivors and Victims in the Late 20th Century, Homeless in America,  Human Rights in China,  Children of War.  Add to that numerous exhibitions at major galleries and museums.  Magazine contributions include  Popular Photography,  Camera 35, Leica Manual,  Photo District News, the Encyclopedia of Brittanica, the Digital Journalist, and now RFF.  Major awards include Leica Medal of Excellence, Overseas Press Club's Oliver Rebbot Award for Best Photojournalism from Abroad,  and the World Press Photo's Budapest Award. Perhaps an ever bigger award is Tom Abrahamsson's comment: "If you want to know Rodinal, ask Bill."

 

I met Bill in person through our mutual friend Tom Abrahamsson.  In person his insight and comments are every bit as interesting and engaging as his writing.  He is a great guy who really KNOWS photography.  I am happy to say he has generously agreed to host this forum at RFF  From time to time Bill will bring up topics, but you are also invited to ask questions.  Sit down and enjoy the ride!

 


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Stealing is stealing...
Old 04-03-2012   #1
Bill Pierce
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Stealing is stealing...

To me, this is an exceptionally important article. Many people are not concerned with picture theft and won’t find the article of interest. On the other hand, stealing is stealing…

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/co...our_work.shtml
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Old 04-03-2012   #2
boomguy57
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Great...now there is a whole cottage industry evolving around tracking down photographs on the Internet.
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Old 04-04-2012   #3
Bill Pierce
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boomguy57 View Post
Great...now there is a whole cottage industry evolving around tracking down photographs on the Internet.
Cottage industry? The photographer taking certain precautions, using search services that are free and copyrighting his pictures is a “cottage industry?” Or, do you just think that theft is OK or professionals shouldn’t charge for their services?
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Old 04-04-2012   #4
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Quote:
... and that a student had won a contest for a poster design featuring my image.
The fact that that poster design won a contest is even more worrisome than the infringement...
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Old 04-04-2012   #5
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I have lost faith years ago in the university community teaching young people any real values. Case in point.
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Old 04-04-2012   #6
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The only solution, and you have to be a real Luddite like me, is not posting images on the internet. That removes a valuable source of knowledgeable criticism as well as a chance to share. I would like to participate, but I do sell images and publish them - on paper. Bill is right - stealing is stealing.
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Old 04-04-2012   #7
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It is not true that the professor "ignored" copyright law as implied in the article; in fact she was fully aware of it as evidenced by her belated attempt to contact the photographer. She found copyright law INCONVENIENT when she heard the price.

Here is what happened (I guarantee) - student produces poster with "found" photograph, professor discovers after the fact that it is not a public-domain image, gets nervous, contacts photographer, hears price she doesn't like, decides to ignore the whole issue and hopes it goes away.

A long time ago I received a manuscript to review - one of the figures looked weirdly familiar. I realized it was one of my own drawings, from published work, with additions layered on. The paper was by a student of an academic I greatly respect, so I let it by with a comment to the editor asking for appropriate citation. The "theft" was of an illustration that was really a cartoon, so the motivation was pure laziness on the part of the student. But that cartoon represented over an hour of diligent work on my part, effort he student did not have to put in, and it was clearly theft of my TIME if nothing else.

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Old 04-04-2012   #8
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Well there is some generally accepted "educational use" allowed for images, but this certainly was not that as I understand it. Images can be used by students if they are not to be published beyond the classroom- tho this certainly does spread the notion to students that one can take images freely.
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Old 04-04-2012   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zauhar View Post
It is not true that the professor "ignored" copyright law as implied in the article; in fact she was fully aware of it as evidenced by her belated attempt to contact the photographer. She found copyright law INCONVENIENT when she heard the price.

Here is what happened (I guarantee) - student produces poster with "found" photograph, professor discovers after the fact that it is not a public-domain image, gets nervous, contacts photographer, hears price she doesn't like, decides to ignore the whole issue and hopes it goes away.
Randy
The difference between the market and the law is precisely what fuels copyright violations in the first place. In a world of 100% copy utility the price of a unique work that can be indefinitely reproduced falls proportionately to its mass appeal.

Technically, much copy and paste functions and "quotes" are violations. The law is bent into a pretzel to allow such transgressions, but there are no firm boundaries because there is no market nor legal consensus on exactly where those lie as lawsuits--mostly futile--attest.

It is an analogous to caveat emptor. The buyer must protect themselves up front or the law bars them from not doing so through expensive court remedy afterwards.

Here, the copyright holder should protect themselves up front or suffer from infinite reproduction, difficult to trace, and almost impossible to collect revenues.

In this particular case, the inflexible "minimum fee of $250" appears to be completely out of line with:

1) The nature of the image's use in this context
2) The willingness of the consumer to pay that amount
3) The apparent (and stated) lack of bargaining
4) The cost of remedy or redress

In short, the "market" for trade of copyright materials is stunted right from the start. This is, in part, the copyright holder's fault. This should have been conveyed in the article. Note how the term "unauthorized" is in the negative. It is up to the copyright holder to "authorize" their works. It is not up to the end-user to verify authorship much less market compensation.

Requesting "immediate payment" of an item already in use without an up-front contract is simply poor protection, and instead tries to rely on moral suasion rather than sound business economics and a persistent knowledge of the law. Copyright is not passive; it must actively defended and protected by the producer. We do not ring-fence the free exchange of ideas but only allow those who produce to ring-fence at their own cost their products. This was not done in this case and these are the consequences. To get to the heart of what occurred here one must step away from moral arguments and look at the value, the legal responsibilities, and the contracts (or lack thereof).
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Old 04-04-2012   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSU View Post
That there is a cottage industry for tracking online image theft is illustrative of the severity of the problem.
Well, it may be illustrative of the economical situation of small scale graphic artists in the current market - but the notion that income relevant image theft has grown (apart from the special issue of from-and-for-web usage) is rather questionable.

I've had many problems similar to the one described in the original posting, long before any re-usable image sizes appeared on the internet. In the eighties I even had an US publisher reprint all my books without my permission or payment, and even register these counterfeits with the LoC. In the real world, you have your agent send a bill, and he'll sue the offender if that does not get paid. So what...

In the case in question, the far more troublesome thing is that that typographic abomination won a contest - or that a place where such a thing can win a contest claims to be a university!
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I agree
Old 04-04-2012   #11
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I agree

Stealing images is easy, widespread, unethical and illegal.
But I think that it is an unsolvable problem.

Most people believe that whatever is posted to the internet is now in the "public domain", no matter what protective wording it is wrapped in. To most people, downloading stuff is not unethical or wrong, and you are not going to change their minds.

I am not offering excuses for this bad behavior, I offer this as an explanation and a commentary that, if you put stuff on the internet, expect it to be downloaded often and maybe used for commercial purposes.

(Don't shoot the messenger, please.)
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Old 04-04-2012   #12
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Sadly, last time I checked (as in, last time a big chunk of my work was used on a commercial site) the Small Claims court considered Copyright outside of it expertise.
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Old 04-04-2012   #13
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As one who uses microstock to generate a little retirement income, these sites operate on volume, not premium pricing. As a result, I have a LOT of images out there, most of which were paid for. At one site my current count of images sold is 21,500!

Now, I am almost sure that some additional images are in use without my being paid but they are very difficult to identify. All the ones I am able to track via Yahoo or Google have the proper credit line attached, but those identified are just a small portion of the ones uned on the internet to say nothing of print media.

I hear music artists are having a tough time, too.
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Old 04-04-2012   #14
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Stealing is stealing indeed, and intellectual property is property as much as anything else. It is strange that this form of intangible property is so little respected. If one owned 100 shares of stock, it is just as intangible as a photo given that we no longer deal with physical stock certificates. So would anyone excuse stealing that stock? It is also strange to me that the ubiquitousness of the net, and/or the problems with the court system, might provide any rationale to excuse out-and-out theft. But hopefully, here at RFF we are "preaching to the choir". How can this be "preached" to the public in general? For my little part, I refuse for instance to let my daughter copy films or music or anything else without legitimately paying for them. We are a pirating-free house.
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Old 04-04-2012   #15
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Stealing is stealing, copyright infringement is copyright infringement.

At least in Sweden
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Old 04-04-2012   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jippiejee View Post
The fact that that poster design won a contest is even more worrisome than the infringement...
Hey! It's thought-provoking, and hence MoMA-worthy art!!


But seriously, Me-ism + ignorance + disregard for others (a variant of "who cares!"-ism) is a dangerous long-term poison:

Quote:
What’s shocking is that the teacher who supervised this contest did not see anything wrong [with] that. She did not teach her students about copyright law, and did not tell them to ask the copyright holder for permission. When she called me she seemed surprised to learn that use of copyrighted work is subject to terms defined by the copyright holder.

In this day and age, the certitude of being right is enough and Syllogisms are used as irrefutable backup. Arguments are less than often reasonable, and anything that challenges our (no matter how proven otherwise) truths are felt as attacks to the core of the person itself: how can I...I!! not be right?


I've had my photos also copied, but never have felt the need to pursue legal action, since my requests to either give me compensation, full credit or remove the image completely have been granted.

In a few occasions, they took the photo and either cloned or cropped out the copyright notice. When I contacted them they were offended! that I asked them to either purchase the image or both put the copyright notice back and give me full credit.

I remember years ago when I started making my website disable downloads people were outraged --outraged, I tell ya!-- that I was thwarting their freedom to download my photos: "once I can see it on the browser, I have a copy, so why can't I keep it?" was as baffling to me as an argument as "the plane is already on its way to Paris, why can't I just jump in a seat that nobody's paid for anyway?"

I've resorted to adding hard-not-to-notice frames --and idiotically enough, some people complain about the frame when looking at photo-sharing sites...but that's a different topic-- simply because this is yet another *deterrent*.

The least one can do is be vigilant.
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Old 04-04-2012   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSU View Post
This cottage industry specifically applies to "from-and-for-web usage" and the problem is serious.

Image theft is an ongoing issue in book publishing, nothing new there. But in the grand scheme image theft within the confines of the internet isn't even 20 years old. And in the last 10 years it has mushroomed. There is probably far more image theft occurring online than in hard copy publishing. But the issue is not one of printing on paper or inserting a jpeg into a website, the issue is stealing, pure and simple.
That is debatable. You cannot simply make believe a new medium is the old one and the same mechanisms of revenue gathering should apply (and even less so, if you back-refer to a romantic notion of past media that weren't ever really that nice to the authors).

The internet has been cheered by photographers for giving them far more exposure and opening them larger markets. The downside of that however is that the world at large will not boost its expenses for stock photography by a magnitude or two just because a new medium has sprung up and is packed with unprofitable micro publications, and that a globalization of markets means more competition - a smaller share for each author, off a bigger, but lower price market.

A copyright police that enforces that tertiary use of a image for a poster, flyer or web site with marginal circulation gets the full pay for an original will not be a solution - practical issues aside it would reward third- and fourth-rate artists with entirely inappropriate sums. We really need a copyright tax scheme that collects the (barely litigable) amounts appropriate in these cases. This will however partially replace the publishers (which have become increasingly useless thanks to the internet) - the main battles will happen on that front, as that multi-billion industry will not give up its privileges without a fight...
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Old 04-04-2012   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by julianphotoart View Post
Stealing is stealing indeed, and intellectual property is property as much as anything else. It is strange that this form of intangible property is so little respected.

One of the problems is that law still has to catch up, and one of the reasons for that is that the people making the laws don't understand the issue, and are often lobbied by entities who have only their interest in mind and promote awfully-flawed legislation.

There is a scandalous lack of education on the technical aspects, compounded by rampant ignorance and/or disregard to common decency and common sense.

The tragedy is, in order for common sense to prevail, one needs a benevolent and enlightened dictatorship. And we all know how long those last.
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Old 04-04-2012   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kshapero View Post
I have lost faith years ago in the university community teaching young people any real values. Case in point.
This is what happens when parents leave it to educators to teach their children values and things other than academia. Why should we have ever put faith in the university community to teach values?

I would like to know if the student was disciplined after this all came to light.
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Old 04-04-2012   #20
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It was not a student who stole an image, but a teacher (who organized the contest) at the university who used a copyrighted image without permission as the image used for posters, letterheads, etc. for the contest promotion, etc.
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Old 04-04-2012   #21
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What a terrible poster.
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Old 04-04-2012   #22
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Have you seen this thread?:

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...d.php?t=117686

Or this 1?:

http://www.rangefinderforum.com/foru...hreadid=117885

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Pierce View Post
To me, this is an exceptionally important article. Many people are not concerned with picture theft and won’t find the article of interest. On the other hand, stealing is stealing…

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/co...our_work.shtml
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Old 04-04-2012   #23
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Careful!

When one begins equating eating a hamburger to murder, it is 1) extreme, 2) an insult to victims of murder, and 3) diluting the issue.

Things aren't absolutely black and white, and a long argument cannot be reduced to a headline sentence. It is exactly this kind of fallacy which leads to the other end of the spectrum: "if you're sharing online...you shouldn't charge for sharing".

Extremes hate nuances. Not to mention those who exploit nuances...


Not all things are the same to all other things.
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Old 04-04-2012   #24
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isn't it a nicely simple world we live in?
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Old 04-04-2012   #25
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While I blame the college professor for her lack of oversight (and apparent lack of concern for the law), I have to add that teaching values to the "kids" these days is next to impossible. They are either incapable of understanding that intellectual property is the result of LABOR, and deserves compensation, or they choose not to understand that because it would interfere with their downloading experience.

Their attitude is supported by some members of academia who claim that ownership of ideas is an illusion, and by members of the mainstream press who write gee-whiz articles about how "different" the internet has made everything, so much so that the stodgy "old rules" don't apply anymore. There was an example of this sort of thinking in the New York Times recently that incited a lengthy thread on RFF.

Randy
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