Category Archives: Legal Issues

Pay Me, and I Won’t Shoot!

The recent kerfuffle between Mike Sorrentino, (aka “The Situation” on the Jersey Shore) and Abercrombie and Fitch, whereby the company offered New Jersey’s second-most-famous Guido (sorry, Mike, but Tony Soprano would never forgive me) money NOT to wear its clothes, got me to thinking.

I’m from New Jersey, I’m obnoxious, and I can often be seen with a six-pack (although I usually carry mine in a brown paper bag). What if I offer my clients the opportunity NOT to shoot for them….for a nice fee?

It’s a brilliant marketing strategy for the new photographic economy. Think about it….It’s pretty much a given that publications, clients, and websites do not want to pay the going rates for experienced content producers…in fact, they’d like to not pay for content at all.

So, if you’re unfashionable enough, how much will they pay you NOT to use your content?

Most publications are desperate for ways to put old-timers out to pasture with the minimum of fuss (and this fall, from what I hear, the pasture stands a good chance of becoming rather full).

Rather than the usual; i.e. letting us drift into obscurity by simply pretending we don’t exist, not returning emails and phone calls, and ignoring story proposals, and then getting lambasted in the photo blogosphere, let’s put a positive spin on it.

Just send the checks, and we’ll promise not to shoot a thing.

In fact, make those checks big enough, and we will deny ever having wielded a camera in the name of any given publication or client.

I know what you’re thinking: this is nuts. It may well be, but it makes about as much sense as shooting for links, sweatin’ your SEO, creating your brand, and all the other career advice I read lately.

So you heard it here first. From another Jersey boy.  If it’s good enough for The Situation, and agri-business, it should be good enough for photographers. Just pay us, and we’ll promise not to shoot for you……

Meet Joe Photographer: The TSA’s Silhouetted Symbol of a Terrorist

Don't forget to wear your hoodie on your next terror assignment!!

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Ay Carumba!  As if photographers didn’t already have enough problems with overzealous police officers and security guards drunk with power harassing us in public places?

Now we’ve got the TSA using a hooded photographer’s silhouette as the symbol of a terrorist in their latest poster.

Oh boy, this is going to be fun. Couldn’t they have picked somebody else to symbolize a terrorist?

I dunno, maybe a mommy with a baby carriage (you never know, there might just be a bomb in the baby carriage that’s wired to the radio. Thanks to Paul Simon, I’ve heard that scenario over and over again!)

Or maybe a sneaky ground crew member (They wear hoodies almost all the time…..What’s up with that, anyway?).

But noooooo, it had to be a guy standing out in the open taking pictures with a big obvious SLR camera.

Yup, that’s what just terrorists do….right after they get off from a long hard day at flight school, and are tired of studying the tons of maps and information they’re finding on the internets.

But hey, it’s not as if a simple silhouetted figure can come to represent an entire profession in the public imagination!

Just ask Jerry West.

Photog fragged by fair-use-f***ing footprint artist…

When Seattle-based photographer Mike Hipple took this stock picture, at left, of a 1979-vintage, public-arts-financed, sidewalk piece called “Dance Steps on Broadway” by artist Jack Mackie, he had no idea that he had just stepped in the worst s—-t the sidewalk can dish up.

Because Mackie is suing Hipple to the tune of $60,000 for copyright infringement.

Now, we all know the economy sucks. And I usually reserve my outrage for predatory corporate entities bent on the economic pillaging of the individual content producer.

But now, things are apparently so bad, that it’s content-producer eating content-producer…a veritable Lord of the Flies scenario for image-makers.

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In the words of the ill-fated Simi Valley motorist  Rodney King, “can we all just get along?”

Apparently not.

Hipple’s stock agency, upon receiving notice from the “artist” and his legal team, took the picture down from their site. But that wasn’t good enough. Mackie, who had wisely registered his piece, is now seeking punitive damages to the tune of the aforementioned $60 grand.

For more information on how this case is playing out, and how you can help (this affects each and every one of us who shoots travel pictures in public places), hit the jump.

Continue reading »

Enter This Into Pop Photo’s “Travelographer of the Year” competition!

Well, the foxes have been put in charge of the photo contest henhouse again, this time by Popular Photography. Their “Travelographer of the Year” photo competition is another thinly-disguised rights grab similar to Frommers’ notorious contest.

Yes, the good folks at Popular Photography who depend on you, the photo enthusiast, for their bread-and-butter subscriptions have no compunction about ripping off your work. Where, you might ask, is the love? I suspect it’s left on the conference table in the Legal Department, in the folder marked “F__k ‘em if They Can’t Take a Joke,” or “Their Ignorance is Our Bliss.”

Truth be told, Pop Photo has been sliding down this path for a while under their new ownership and without the guidance of the late, great Burt Keppler, and the host of real photographer friends on staff like Monica Cipnic, Mason Resnick, and the crew from that era.

Fortunately, an organization called www.pro-imaging.org is helping to call out these rights grab contests. They offer the all-type jpeg seen above that you can use as a contest-entry, calling out the organizers of these rip-off contests and offering to educate them on issues of rights and rates.

Their Bill of Rights for photography competitions is worth a read, since these contests are springing up like weeds from all quarters, and many of them have this boilerplate ripoff rights language.

This kind of pro image-creator rights activism used to be the mainstay of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) before that organization got bogged down in a lot of internecine squabbles about dues increases, director payments to one another, and gadfly censuring.

I’ve been an ASMP member since 1982, but am reconsidering renewing in 2011 because of this bureaucratic nonsense and the erosion of member benefits that seem to move in lockstep with ever-increasing dues demands.

Pro-Imaging.Org looks to be a UK-based entity and is totally non-profit and run by volunteers. The membership is £30, which is about US$50 (as opposed to ASMP’s current $335 per year). And all the money goes to the programs (photo contests are just one aspect…they deal with all types of rights-grabbing organizations), not the leadership.

It’s too soon to tell how effective Pro-Imaging.org will be in the long run, but so far, I like the cut of their jib and it’s worth my $50 to help their cause.

Hit the jump for a read of the Travelographer of the Year contest rules. 

Warning….your sensibilities as an image producer are guaranteed to be offended, sometimes resulting in agita (aka “heartburn”), and general irrititability. If symptoms persist, see a lawyer! Continue reading »

Slip, sliding away in China

We’re in Kazakhstan, which is proving to be a great destination (Borat blew it, I’m tellin’ ya). While I’m working on that post, I had a few leftover thoughts on China.

And, since thinking isn’t my strong suit, I thought I’d air them out so I can go on with my Buddhistic pursuit of a totally empty mind!

So, just to prove that it’s not all lectures and picture taking on these charter jet trips, some of our group took the opportunity to do some sand sledding while we were in Mingsha Dunes in Dunhuang a couple of stops ago. I shot some still sequences and pasted together the timelapse above.

It’s hard not to be impressed by the Chinese juggernaut; cities popping up overnight, real estate bubbles, tons of money being invested in infrastructure, well-trained hotel staffs who smile and try to help you….all this while holding trillions of dollars of our IOUs. It bowls you over.

But everything’s not that peachy. The air quality is horrible and pollution rampant. They censor every Time and Newsweek that gets in there (one of our passengers has a souvenir Time where the censors redacted a sentence in a story about the possible successors to the current president. Pretty mild stuff, but clearly unacceptable reading for the masses!). And they are censoring the internet too.

Every one of the blogs I regularly read that is hosted by Blogspot and WordPress were blocked. And we’re talking photo blogs, not political ones. If you want your blog to reach into the Chinese market, consider hosting it yourself on your own site. None of those were blocked.

Curiously, though, Google worked. But you got kicked right over to Google Hong Kong. I wonder how they’re managing that?

Who knows how it’ll all shake out, but in the meantime, if I ever have grandkids, I’m going to encourage them to study Mandarin as their second language….