Thursday, August 02, 2012

In which I go “GRRR!”

It’s 35 years, give or take a month, since I had my first photograph published. It was a shot of the Harbour Bridge at night, taken from what is now the MLC Centre in Martin Place, which opened that year. (It was the nation’s tallest building until 1985.)

Given the millions of pics taken of the coat hanger in any given year, I was pretty bloody proud of myself. I also received the princely publication fee (from a national glossy) of four bucks. (Don’t forget, they were notes in those days, Virginia. Paper, not polymer! They went a long way... well, for a teen. Okay, it sucked. But it was the first step on the road to becoming a pro. And the buck it cost to get to the building’s ‘skywalk’ was a deduction, right?)

Later the same year, two of my photographs appeared in a lavish year book with a print run in the thousands, used without permission, credit or payment. Only the sportsmen in the photographs were credited.

I drive some of my friends spare with my ‘quaint’ ideas about intellectual property and, gasp, copyright. How second millennium of me. But the count of my photographs that have been knocked off -- and we’re not just talking web sites, here, we’re talking reputable newspapers and magazines -- now exceeds the number that I’ve been credited for, let alone paid for.

Incredibly, the last culprit was The Age which ran a unique portrait of mine without permission, credit or payment. That’s especially galling cos I’ve had photographs published in the Aged -- and been handsomely paid for them -- as far back as 1994. I’ve also had a couple in the Financial Review, also in the Fairfax stable. So, they can’t say they don’t know me.

These days, I embed clear copyright messages like “All rights reserved” and include my name and contact information in EXIF data so that images that have done the rounds on-line, for example, can still be tracked back to me. (Nowadays, thanks to the new “drag and drop” Google image search, it’s massively easier to track down the provenance of a photograph... and, indeed, to see who is using one.) (My pic of French actress Romaine Bohringer is popular.)

This week, a photograph of mine of a “notoriously unphotographable” subject appears on the Wheeler Centre’s web site next to an article of his. (And, no, he wouldn’t nick a photograph of mine without asking; in fact, he likes to keep a low profile and would prefer the secret of his true identity -- his face, at the very least -- be hidden. He writes: “there’s only ever about three photos taken of me a year and I always look crap in them. Hang on, that probably explains why there’s only three photos of me a year...”)

It’s a great shot if I say so myself. I wouldn’t call it a unique shot. But it’s one of the few around A.M. can stomach. It’s made absolutely clear in a Wheeler Centre tweet [July 31, 11:23AM] that they know I took the photograph, which they purloined from Facebook. So why the hell wasn’t I asked?

I’ve gotta say, I’m just tempted to send in a nasty-ass invoice. Grrr.

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Blogger Chris Boyd said...

According to the Wheeler Centre site, great artists steal. See here. (But great plagiarists only use one source.)

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Rochelle said...

Yeah, I would be one of those friends who find it a bit quaint...

12:42 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Ha, and you thought it was your photo. :P

5:25 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

Even in the most open and generous Creative Commons arrangements, the 'stealer' has to credit the source/creator (or the person who has done the 'work' even if it's just digitisation of an out-of-copyright work) and can't on-sell it, or profit from the thing stolen. (Like The Age.) I'm sure you wouldn't disagree with that.

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, I took that photo from Anthony's Facebook page and asked his permission to use it. Don't blame him, I just asked if I could use a photo from his Facebook page and he said sure. I had no idea you were so attached to ownership of it, as it was a personal snap taken at a party. We're not in the habit of crediting photographers of personal snaps we take from contributors (with their permission), though we're happy to if asked. There were actually other snaps of Anthony I thought perfectly photogenic & would have happily used; I can swap image for one of them if you like. In the meantime, I have credited you. I'm a bit surprised you chose to address this with an angry blog post instead of simply contacting me (we do know each other!) and raising it directly. I would happily have sorted it out by removing the offending picture or crediting.

Jo Case, Senior writer/editor, The Wheeler Centre

7:25 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

There's no indication on Twitter than Wheeler Centre blog is kept by you, Jo, and there's no email option under 'contact' at the Centre's web site.

So whatever my response, and it was too complicated to Tweet, it was going to be public. I think your "it's just a party photo" is a bit rich. At least shamefully logocentric.

If your words had been lifted verbatim -- or someone reblogged one of your pieces without asking you -- and your name was left off the duplicate, how would you feel? Somewhere between irritated and incensed I reckon.

Obviously, the Wheeler Centre is not profiting from my work in the same way that The Age is, say, but for (at the very least) good will's sake, you should ask first and always credit.

6:52 AM  

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