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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”  

"Never ever confuse sharp with good, or you will end up shaving with an ice cream cone and licking a razor blade."  

 

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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Old 04-04-2012   #26
Dogman
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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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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.
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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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
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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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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.
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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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick Waldroup View Post
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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Old 04-05-2012   #41
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When it comes to copyright infringement or improper use of intellectual property in general, it is normally up to the owner of the copyright or intellectual property to defend any legal rights. It is possible that failure to act to defend those rights could result in the loss of those rights.

Regarding the question of theft of a "concept", personally I would consider the legal principle in patent law that refers to "those skilled in the arts". If "those skilled in the arts" would reasonably be expected to create a particular image, or come up with a particular concept or design, then there isn't much protection.
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Old 04-05-2012   #42
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When it comes to copyright infringement or improper use of intellectual property in general, it is normally up to the owner of the copyright or intellectual property to defend any legal rights. It is possible that failure to act to defend those rights could result in the loss of those rights.
No, that only applies to trademarks. Please remember that trademarks, copyright and patents are different things that operate differently.
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Old 04-05-2012   #43
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I agree with you. I was only referring to the fact that the owner of intellectual property can't sit back and expect anyone to step up and defend those rights. In any case, I try to avoid acting like an amateur lawyer.
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Old 04-05-2012   #44
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Originally Posted by rxmd View Post
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.
Yes, stealing IS stealing.

This is a moral argument, not one of degree; you are saying that it isn't stealing, because someone is taking something you didn't really use, or that wasn't worth a lot.

But taking something that isn't worth a lot is still stealing. And sometime IP is worth a lot.

Plenty of people like to support your attitude because they make money out of it. In particular, big corporations like Getty are pushing for laxer control of orphan rights so they can make money. But once they've got control of a critical mass of images, do you think they'll be giving them away? No, sir.

Theft of items that [might] have negligible value is theft, however you package it.
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Old 04-05-2012   #45
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Yes, stealing IS stealing.

This is a moral argument, not one of degree; you are saying that it isn't stealing, because someone is taking something you didn't really use, or that wasn't worth a lot.
No, in fact that is not what I am saying. I am saying that there is a conceptual difference between the act where A takes X from B and B then no longer has X (stealing), and the act where A takes X from B and then A and B each have X (copyright infringement). In the first case what matters is the value of X; in the second case X can't even be assigned a single value, because what matters is revenue from some usage rights in some contexts, that can be difficult to calculate and where it can be impossible to actually prove what amount was lost (if at all). The two are logically not the same thing. Really, the only thing they have in common, at all, is that there is some damage involved.

This is neither an argument of degree nor a moral argument; it is a pure argument of logic and terminology. There is no simple analogy here; copyright infringement is a thing all in its own, however wrong, and different from stealing. Calling it "stealing" means using muddy and unclear terminology, and possibly, as often in these cases, unclear terminology also implies unclear ideas.
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Old 04-05-2012   #46
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In the first case what matters is the value of X; in the second case X can't even be assigned a single value,
In second case there's a term "not gained income" which is oxymoron because people who used X would not consider buying it. So X neither has fixed value or there's any income lost.
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Old 04-05-2012   #47
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I think the word "stealing" in normal conversation refers to the act of taking someone else's property without rights or permission. The generally accepted meaning of the word is rather clear although if we were all here to craft a law or prepare a legal brief, the term would require a proper legal definition. In any event, I agree that it can (but not necessarily) be foolish to loosely throw around terms such as "theft" and "stealing".
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Old 04-05-2012   #48
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Originally Posted by rxmd View Post
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".

I totally agree, this is very troubling. Ask a court of lions to rule on the savoriness of birdseed based on food regulation conceived by the dog food industry.
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Old 04-05-2012   #49
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Don't forget there is also Trespass to Goods if one can't make Theft stick ... and as someone else pointed out Patent, Copyright and Trademark law ... I find it a little odd that people think the law is there to be fair or just, that isn't necessarily the case in fact.
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Old 04-05-2012   #50
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I find it a little odd that people think the law is there to be fair or just, that isn't necessarily the case in fact.
Yeah, and the idea that the law should make sense, totally overrated too.
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