EDITOR'S NOTE: Due to a production oversight this Common Cents column by Mark Loundy was not published in the January-February issue of News Photographer magazine. For the benefit of our NPPA members and our loyal readers it's published here now:
Common Cents, March 2016, by Mark Loundy
"He has to lose everything that is lovely and fight for a new loveliness of his own making, and it's a tragedy. A lot of people don't have the courage to do it." – Helen Hayes
The major competitor to Getty Images in the U.S. is the Bill Gates-owned Corbis Images. Both companies have been vacuuming-up smaller agencies for years, Getty has longed to acquire Corbis, but it hasn't got the financial wherewithal to do so. But China Visual Group (CVG,) an image licensing company based in the Peoples Republic of China did have the cash and it used it to acquire Corbis. Too bad for Getty, right? But there's a twist: CVG licensed the non-China distribution rights for the Corbis collection to, you guessed it, Getty Images.
As Getty Chairman Jonathan Klein said in a now-deleted tweet, "Almost 21 years but got it. Lovely to get the milk, the cream, cheese, yoghurt and the meat without buying the cow."
Basically, Getty purchased Corbis through a third party, thereby avoiding the tax liabilities of a conventional acquisition. It's lovely indeed for the people who lost their jobs at Corbis. And it's lovely for the photographers who now have one fewer outlet for their work.
[Disclaimer: One of Corbis' holdings is the Bettmann Archive, which, in turn, owned the UPI archives, including my work for that company.]
No Good this month.
Capstone Photography, an event photography company in Connecticut, for their solicitation to cover an out-of-state event for the grand total of $75.
When the State of North Carolina doesn't want to pay to license photography, it has a powerful tool at its disposal: The state legislature. In 2013, the state settled a copyright infringement case with Nautilus Productions, the company documenting the wreckage of Blackbeard's pirate ship, for $15,000. After allegations of new infringements came to light, the legislature passed a law stating that, “All photographs, video recordings, or other documentary materials of a derelict vessel or shipwreck or its contents, relics, artifacts, or historic materials,” may be used by the state with no fee due to the creators of the material. Nautilus is suing the state over the law.
* For a site specifically designed to re-use images, it's amazing that Pinterest isn't sued for infringement every day. One of the things that protect such sites is the Digital Millennium copyright Act's "safe harbor" provision. The DMCA protects such sites from litigation as long as they remove infringing material as soon as the owner notifies them. This is the so-called "DMCA takedown." But when the takedowns don't take, legal action often follows. Seattle fine art photographer Christopher Boffoli notified Pinterest of unpermissioned use of his images on the site, but for whatever reason, Pinterest failed to remove them. The copyright infringement trial date is set for May of 2016.
* The Lewisville Independent School District in Texas lost the battle but it just won't stop fighting. The district failed to force a high school student to remove images he had shot with school equipment form his personal Flickr account. Now the school is requiring students to sign a work-for-hire contract that assigns all rights to the district for images shot with school equipment. Somebody at the district has some serious control issues.
* Last year, TIME imposed a cross-brand agreement on its contributor photographers. The short description is that it sucks and there are still some determined shooters refusing to sign. Photoshelter's Allen Murbayashi wrote about the central tenet of the situation:
"When news organizations are owned by for-profit entities, cost-cutting and maximization of profits become more important than the quality of the content, and by proxy, the welfare of the content creators. Clicks become more important than quality (thus the Buzzfeed-ification of news), and content represents nothing more than a 'thing' to fill a screen rather than something thought-provoking and informative."
This means that for as long as there are multiple photographers competing for assignments, the fees will decrease, eventually to zero. In some cases zero is already happening.
* But wait, you can pull your head out of the oven. There are ways to avoid working for free. Writing for Poynter, freelancer Genevieve Belmaker explores the trend to non-compensated content, but she also dug up some sites dedicated to helping freelancers stay on the black side of the ledger. The resources, like The Freelancer and WordRates are listed toward the bottom of the piece, so stay the course and read the whole thing.
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