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Bill Pierce - Leica M photog and author

 

“Our autobiography is written in our contact sheets,  and our opinion of the world in our selects”  

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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
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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
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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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... 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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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.

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Old 04-04-2012   #26
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Somewhere along the line, someone forgot to teach a generation or three about a value system.

Several years ago--before I ever owned a digital camera--a summer intern where I used to work saw some of my pictures hanging in my office and asked about them. During the short conversation, he mentioned he liked photography and often went online to Flickr and other sites and downloaded photos to use in brochures and presentations for his church and its affiliates. I said something to the effect that he really should obtain permission before using someone else's photographs but he obviously didn't even understand the concept. Here's an intelligent high school kid who is apparently involved in his church and no one had ever instilled in him the fact that "stealing is stealing".

I'm afraid there is no solution to this problem in the foreseeable future. Too many people believe they are entitled to anything and everything without regard to anyone else.
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Old 04-04-2012   #27
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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.
It is definitely not the university's job to teach values. The problem is not the university: it is people who think it's the university's job; namely, the parents and the surrounding community. If you don't have values by the time you go to college, it's way too late. Parents no longer parent, elementary teachers no longer teach, TV . . . well, I can't watch TV at all, because of the values it projects, and if I had kids they would not be watching it.

After reading the whole thread, I see the same old suspects popping up arguing against values, anyway: people who don't understand property, don't understand theft, and don't understand copyright. Along with one person who apparently blames the victim for making nice pictures when there are so many people who want to steal them, and thinks that once something is stolen, the person who stole it now is the owner.
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Old 04-04-2012   #28
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I don't know if it's stealing but I'm quite certain that the poster is a crime.
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Old 04-04-2012   #29
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I don't know if it's stealing but I'm quite certain that the poster is a crime.
Yes, it did make me wonder what the rest of the entries were like.
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Old 04-04-2012   #30
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This may seem to be a snarky comment, but I assure you it is not:

The original article uses a poster that includes a photograph but also some original design work by an Alvernia University student. Is luminous-landscape and/or Alain Briot liable for reproducing the design aspect of the infringing poster without permission of the student or university?

Is it a case of: 1) He stole my photo, so I feel ok in stealing that design work back? If so, then "stealing is stealing" is false because Briot must feel that some stealing is OK within certain situations.

Or is it a case of: 2) I only care about the photo and the text and design of the poster are irrelevant?

Because if it's 2, then perhaps you can start to see why this gets to be a tricky issue. We throw our hands up and cry about values and theft, but feel it's ok to steal fonts, themes, we use trademarks willy-nilly and probably break the speed limit every day.

Briot makes the statement "Copyright legislation is supposed to take care of this, unfortunately as we all know it does not work."

But, he says "Furthermore, it took nearly a week for my photograph, and the poster, to be removed from Alvernia’s website."

So, the image was removed. I'm not convinced that copyright legislation has been proven to be broken by Briot's tale of woe.

Now, I wonder if Briot got paid to write that column for luminous landscape, or if he was happy to devalue the labor of writing for paid writers everywhere. (OK, that last part was a little snarky)
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Old 04-04-2012   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Fizzlesticks View Post
There used to be a band, I don't know if they still exist, called Me First and the Gimme Gimme's. I think that just about sums up modern society.
The band took their name from a book which is over 20 years old...
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Old 04-04-2012   #32
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I'm speechless. Although I produce no work worth stealing or even giving away that is not true for working artist's whose livelihood depends on their work. What is surprising is the attitude of the university. They seemed too dense or arrogant to get it.
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Old 04-04-2012   #33
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Alain Briot's use of the university poster with his stolen image was editorial and not commercial, therefor not subject to copyright by the student or university. It was in fact, 'exhibit A' in his argument.
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Old 04-05-2012   #34
L David Tomei
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I have no objection to educational use of my images but when someone uses one of my images for their own commercial benefit, I have a serious problem. After reading this thread I went to the internet to do a quick search for one of my images. It took me less than one minute to find it being used by a commercial photography site at http://www.hardmountphoto.com/gallery. The image of the vintage Kodak camera appears on my RFF gallery.

Now I await a response from them.
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Old 04-05-2012   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Pio View Post
I have no objection to educational use of my images but when someone uses one of my images for their own commercial benefit, I have a serious problem. After reading this thread I went to the internet to do a quick search for one of my images. It took me less than one minute to find it being used by a commercial photography site at http://www.hardmountphoto.com/gallery. The image of the vintage Kodak camera appears on my RFF gallery.

Now I await a response from them.

Well I, for one, found that site educational ...
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Old 04-05-2012   #36
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Apparently Google leaves no doubt about "unauthorized" use of images when they call their search "Who Stole My Pictures". In the past few minutes I have found several commercial sites with one of my images being used to make money. I must be really naive.
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Old 04-05-2012   #37
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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.
It's no wonder really. There aren't that many forms of property that you can take and the owner keeps them anyway. There aren't many forms of "stealing" where the damage calculations are similarly hypothetical, as in based on the assumption that the "thief" would actually have bought the work, where this assumption itself is taken for granted in a completely unsubstantiated fashion.

Copyright infringement is convenience-driven - it occurs because it is so convenient to take things for free. If the only way to get your work was to pay for it, many "thieves" wouldn't take them to begin with, there would be no income, and hence there is no loss of income either, because zero minus zero is zero.

So no, "stealing" is not stealing. It's really not the same as stealing, say, a car, where the car has a monetary value that it is worth exactly once and where the car is gone after the theft and the damage is exactly the value of the car.

Claiming it's the same thing and claiming enormous damages for allegedly lost income is really sour grapes and the stomping of John's dinosaur horde. Nobody denies its a problem and there is a real need for a solution, but the solution has to be adequate to the problem of copying, not to the completely problem of physical theft. Mixing up the words is not going to help.
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Old 04-05-2012   #38
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How about when someone does not actually steal a photo, but steals the concept and idea behind a certain photo?

Several years ago, my wife and I were sitting in a movie theater waiting for the movie to start. You know how they play ads, public service announcements, etc while you are waiting? Well, lo and behold, up pops an ad for a charity organization dealing with runaway kids and there is a B&W photo accompanying the ad. I almost damn near dropped my popcorn as the image was an identical copy of a photo that I designed and shot for a short lived zine I published back in the mid '90's.

I waited for the ad to recycle on the screen, wrote down the contact info for the agency and called them the next day. After talking to several different people I was having a hard time making them understand that my photo was not being used without my permission, but my concept and artistic vision were certainly being used by another photographer to produce the photo they were using in their advertising. I explained that I had the original negatives to prove my position. Anyway, their final answer to me was for me to contact the photographer and sue him. Now, they would not disclose his/her name nor provide any contact info. I assured them that if I did sue, they too, would be named in the lawsuit.

Of course, such an extreme measure was never taken, and I was later contacted by the agency and assured that the photo was being removed. I, in turn, offered my original photo as a replacement, which they declined, without viewing it.

So, did I own the rights to this concept or design? Was I right about contacting the company and complaining about the theft of my artistic vision?

I know there have been similar circumstances where artists sued over this type of thing because they felt that their ideas had been stolen and they wanted compensation for their work and effort. What do all of you think ?
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Old 04-05-2012   #39
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How about when someone does not actually steal a photo, but steals the concept and idea behind a certain photo?
Elsewhere I posted a link to a British court decision about a picture that was similar, clearly not identical, but also clearly inspired by another picture, and the court found the first to be in infringement of the second on copyright grounds.



(images linked to from the court decision)

I find that highly problematic because I believe that ideas and concepts should not be copyrightable, only their manifestation in the form of concrete things - images, texts and so on. Everybody can have an idea and a concept, but the creative step and the step that involves work it's turning it into an actual, well, work. Otherwise you'll end up with lots of copyright lawsuits about "picture of president Obama, in three-quarter portrait, looking right and down".
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Old 04-05-2012   #40
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This days in our buses drivers will be prohibited to listen to radio (which they did for themselves). Idea is it's a public broadcast and thus requires licence. Someone has managed to push through laws allowing to earn cash from nothing. Note, radio stations already have paid to greedy licence operator, but now they ask to pay once more.

I believe world would be better place without good part of laws, licences and patents. Lawyers and bankers should get real jobs and stop living from legalized slavery. Musicians should go on tours not feed record industry and lawyers. If they can't play they have to work as a music teachers - if they have something to teach, of course.

Some day system will break, because it's corrupt and invalid.
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