I’m really liking the Kodak TMAX film. The detail looks great and it seems to develop easily, at least in the Kodak HC-110 I’ve been using. I have another roll that I’ll be scanning this weekend that has a lot of shots from the recent Caffeine & Octane car show.
As photographers what rights should we be attaching to the photographs we share on the web (or anywhere else, for that matter)? Is “Creative Commons” fine or is “All Rights Reserved” the better choice? After a recent potential copyright infringement issue with one of my images I have done some research and made a decision that I didn’t think I would make. Read on for the rest of the story:
Unauthorized Use Of An Image
Last week I posted about an image of mine that appeared to be used for commercial purposes without my permission. After blogging about it here and tossing the question out to the Google+ community it became fairly apparent that it was, in fact, an unauthorized use of my image. My guess is that the use wasn’t intentional. I chalk it up to someone under a tight deadline who saw the image with the “Creative Commons” designation and decided it fit what they were looking for. Still, the experience got me to thinking about the process I use and the rights I grant when I publish my images. I’ve spent some time over the long Thanksgiving weekend researching the issues surrounding the use of Creative Commons licensing versus using the “Copyright ©-All Rights Reserved” for my photographs and have come to the conclusion that, moving forward, I will attach “All Rights Reserved” to all of my images. Here’s how I came to that decision:
My Personal Copyright History
Since I got back into photography a few years ago I have been of the mind that I wanted to share my images with as many people as possible while still retaining ownership of my work. I did some research on the subject and came to the conclusion that I would use Creative Commons licensing. Creative Commons was developed in 2001 as a way to give content creators a way to share their work with certain, but not all, rights attached. There are currently 6 licenses (from least to most restrictive):
1. Attribution (by)
2. Attribution Share Alike (by-sa)
3. Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd)
4. Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc)
5. Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (by-nc-sa)
6. Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (by-nc-nd)
Information about each of the licenses can be found here. Up until now I have chosen to license my images with #6 (Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivs) which is the most restrictive of the licenses. It seemed like a good compromise between withholding all rights and giving free reign to my images.
Potential Creative Commons Pitfalls
Creative Commons seemed like a great way to go. I could let others use/share my images but protect myself from unauthorized commercial use. At first glance, it seemed like a good solution. That is, until I dug a little deeper into the Creative Commons licenses last week and saw this section of text:
License grant. Subject to the terms and conditions of this Public License, the Licensor hereby grants You a worldwide, royalty-free, non-sublicensable, non-exclusive, irrevocable license to exercise the Licensed Rights in the Licensed Material…
What does that mean? Well, it basically means that once an image is used by someone under any of the Creative Commons licenses (by following the terms of the license) the creator can’t change the terms of that use at all. That means that I can’t really control how my images are used, especially if my objectives/opportunities/desires, etc. change as it relates to my images. Here’s a realistic example of how this could play out:
Let’s say that in 2014 someone uses one of my images in a way that is 100% compliant with the Creative Commons license that I assigned to the image-in a non-commercial blog post for example. Three years later, I decide that I don’t want that image shared anymore. Well, under the terms of the Creative Commons license, I couldn’t do anything. Even though I was the creator of the image I had no real control over the image. The more I thought about that the more I became less confident in continuing to use Creative Commons.
Sharing Doesn’t Mean Free To Use
Another potential pitfall of Creative Commons is the fact that many people (wrongly) equate the term with “free to use”. I think this is what happened in my particular case and I think it stems from how/when Creative Commons came about. Specifically it is the sharing aspect that is promoted across all the licenses that trips people up and helps them assume/justify that they can use or distribute the image however they wish. This is a 100% wrong assumption but I can see how people can make the assumption based on the language in the licenses (if they even bother to read the license).
Based on those two things, as well as some thoughts about where my photography is heading and what the future may hold, I decided to make the switch to All Rights Reserved.
Why All Rights Reserved Makes Sense
After weighing the pros and cons of continuing to use Creative Commons I decided that using the “All Rights Reserved” with my images gives me, as the creator, a much higher level of control over those images. I can assign temporary or permanent terms, define the scope of use, and decide how to charge (or not) for any image in any situation. I can be as open or restrictive as I want with the use of my images. Does this mean that I will never allow any use of my images? No, absolutely not. I plan on making the use of my images relatively easy as long as people communicate with me about how they plan on using the image and give me credit for the image. That way I can better control things rather than depending on the slightly nebulous language contained in the Creative Commons licenses.
Potential Downsides Of All Rights Reserved
Using “All Rights Reserved” with my images is not a magic bullet by any means. There is still no guarantee that my images won’t be used without my permission. If someone wants to “steal” an image of mine they still can. I do think that the language “All Rights Reserved” is a little more clear than “Creative Commons” though. The other issue is that my images might not get as much exposure as they would with a Creative Commons license, especially in blog posts, etc. I considered that but came to the conclusion that by me posting images to Google+ and Flickr (who do not force you to relinquish your rights to the images), the built-in sharing that occurs from those sites will give me enough exposure.
Where I Go From Here
Now that I’ve made the decision to use All Rights Reserved with my images where do I go from here? Well, first off, I’m not foolish enough to believe that just because I stamp “All Rights Reserved” on my images that there won’t be any future unauthorized use of them, especially since I’m posting images on the web. But at least if someone does misuse my image I have some level of recourse. In addition to switching to All Rights Reserved I plan on adding a couple of steps to my workflow:
- I will start registering my images with the copyright office, something I haven’t done to this point. I’m researching the process and will probably do a post/video detailing how to do it so stay tuned…
- I will also review the size of the images that I upload to make sure that they are big enough to get a decent view of on a screen but not good enough to generate any kind of quality print.
- I will be more aware of the policies of the sites I use to share my images. The sharing sites provide a way to get my images out to a fairly wide audience but there are differences in each site’s terms. Based on my research so far it seems as though Flickr and Google+ do not reduce my rights or take ownership of images I post, while Facebook “might” (more research required here).
I will also NOT be doing one key thing:
- I do not plan on putting any type of watermarks on my images. I think they detract from the image and for them to be effective they need to cover the entire image, which kind of defeats the whole point of posting an image in the first place. To watermark or not is a big debate in the online photographer community and many photographers use tastefully placed watermarks but I’ve decided to post my images watermark free.
I know that the direction I am headed goes against the grain to some extent but I think that my reasons are sound. I believe that many photographers are adopting the Creative Commons licensing structure without knowing all of the potential pros and cons. I know I didn’t really do as much due diligence as I should have before adopting the Creative Commons model originally. Everyone is different and depending on what you are trying to achieve both Creative Commons or “All Rights Reserved” are valid options. Stay tuned for a followup and update to this. I will let you know how things are going and share with you any resources I discover that might help you make an informed decision about whether or not to use Creative Commons licensing or “All Rights Reserved” with your photographs.
As photographers in the digital age many of us are torn between getting our images noticed in an ever increasing pool of images, or protecting our images to prevent any potential unauthorized use. I’ve tended towards the former by publishing many of my images on sites such as Google + and Flickr while attaching a creative commons license that allows non-commercial use with attribution. Up until last week I hadn’t come upon a situation that caused me any extra thought on the matter.
Last Friday I was cruising through my Flickr stream and noticed that a random image from my 2012 project 365 had received an inordinate amount of views (about 400, which is more than 2x the total before that). I dug a bit more into the stats and saw that all the views were coming from this page, which was a bit surprising. Looking at the article it seems that every image they use is from Flickr. If you scroll down to # 4 on the list you will see Sandy Springs Georgia, which happens to be the part of town that my office is located. The image of mine that they used is of the “King and Queen” buildings, which look like giant chess pieces. Here’s the image:
The image is nothing special, just something I captured on my way home from work one Summer day in my quest to keep the project 365 going.
Here’s where I have a question. If you scroll down the page on Flickr with my image you will see that is licensed under Creative Commons attribution, non-commercial. My question is if the use of my image in a Kiplinger online article qualifies as “non-commercial”? My initial thought is that the use of my image is in violation of the copyright I attached to it because it is on a commercial site. If that’s the case, do I have a rightful claim for unauthorized use?
It’s an interesting situation, and the first time I’ve encountered it with my own images. My initial inclination is to do nothing. The image has no real redeeming value from an artistic standpoint and it’s not like the Kiplinger article is going to be something that goes viral. But, If I were so inclined, could I contact Kiplinger and demand compensation?
What are your thoughts on this? Do I have a case or not? I’m interested in hearing your thoughs.
Edition #36 of the Photo Share & Discussion was last night and after a short delay due to Flickr acting up, we had a good show. Here’s the video:
Christy did a great job running through the images on Flickr since my account was all gunched up. Apparently I got “picked” to beta their new interface, which failed miserably. I figured it out this morning by searching the Flickr help forum. Apparently, if you switch the language to something other than English you get the “old” layout back. So, for the time being, as long I view my page/photostream in Spanish I’m fine.
We had some good images to review and we talked about how proficient Christy seems to be in using Photoshop. I finished up with a couple of links:
Here’s one about a NY City street photographer who is finally getting some well-deserved recognition at the age of 89.
I’ve spent some time in the last few days taking another look at the images we captured on our trip to Death Valley in October 2011. Originally, I wasn’t too impressed with most of the shots but after a couple of years, and more time/experience in processing images, I’m finding some “new” diamonds in the rough. One of those diamonds is a number of images from our time at Zabriske Point, one of the most iconic areas in Death Valley. Zabriske Point is a beautiful area with lots of textured badlands surrounding the famous rock. We got up to Zabriske Point before sunrise one day and waited for the Sun to come up over the mountains. As the Sun rose the rock and valley below lit up with all kinds of great color. I captured the end of the “blue hour” on Zabriske Point in this image but there were a few other images from that morning that I think I will post over the next few months. One of those is of a small section of badlands that surround the rock outcropping:
I used the “kit” Canon EF-S 55-250mm zoom lens (a pretty darn good lens, btw) to capture the late sunrise sun casting some nice shadows in the rock. The original color file looked ok but the colors were a little washed out (probably due to the angle of the sun). Basedon that I thought it looked like a better subject for a black and white conversion. I used Silver Efex Pro to convert the color image. I chose a relatively high contrast image and added a bit of structure to bring out the texture of the rock. Seeing the result in B&W made me wish I had my Rolleicord with me on that trip. I think a “real” B&W image shot on film would look fantastic. I guess that’s a great excuse to go back!
There are a number of other images from that trip (which also included some time in Zion) that I will be taking another look at and probably posting over the next month or two.
Here’s the video from tonight’s photo share and discussion, number 35 in the series:
We had a good show tonight with some solid discussion about the merits of slowing down and taking you time before pressing the shutter button. John, Frank and Christy shared some nice images and I tossed in a few of my own.
Here’s the links we shared during the hangout.
http://www.streetviewphotography.net/b-ph-str/ This is a nice article on how to photograph strangers, which is something that I have struggled with in my own photography. The article offers tips on how to approach people as well as capture their image without them noticing.
http://www.adammarelliphoto.com/ Frank suggested we check out this site for some insight into how to improve our image composition. Adam seems like a very accomplished photographer so I will be interested to read more.
http://www.bjp-online.com/ Another site Frank suggested is worth reading. I’ve only poked around on it for a little bit but it seems to a worthwhile read.
http://theartofphotography.tv/ A podcast that Frank suggested we check out, which I plan on doing.
http://petapixel.com/2013/07/11/film-photography-technique-tips-for-the-digital-photographer/ Are you a hardcore digital shooter who is interested in exploring the world of analog photography? If so, I heartily encourage you to jump right in and give it a try! Film photography is a great complement to digital. If you are looking for some initial information this article will get you headed in the right direction.