It’s amazing how perfect the narrative of this story is; Americans love suing, and who not better to be the plaintiff than one of our country’s biggest corporations? Walmart, a company that builds breeding grounds for American stereotypes (and supermarkets), is filing a lawsuit against the wife of a now-deceased photographer. What’s the dispute? They want the rights to photographs taken by the late husband and his father of the Walton family themselves.
There’s been news circulating around of a new patent Amazon’s recently secured itself with, and it sounds a bit ridiculous when you take a look at the headlines coming out. For those who don’t know, Amazon basically patented a type of photography where one light is shining straight at the subject, along with light completely filling the background; in other words, seamless white background photography.
The patent was granted back in March, but news of this made the rounds just yesterday, angering many voices in the online photography community. The good news, however, is that there might not be that much cause for concern in the first place.
Two days ago, controversy was bred after a clash over social media between photographer Rohan Anderson and the pop-punk band Red Jumpsuit Apparatus; the band began a crusade of defamation against Rohan after being called out for posting his picture up without permission or credit. In return, Rohan sparked a wave of protest from the online community by posting the entire story online, and publicity for The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus expectedly took a plunge.
Now that the story’s been gaining widespread coverage over the online photography and music community, the tour manager for the band Three Days Grace decided to weigh in on the topic.
Back in 2011, Nikon filed a lawsuit against Sigma for patent infringement involving lenses with stabilization technology (VR in Nikonspeak and OS in Sigma lingo). The Tokyo district court recently announced its final judgements, and they conclude with Sigma ordered to pay Nikon a total sum of 14.5 million dollars (which is 1.5 billion yen).
With how fast social media is growing, there’s an equal amount of increase in copyright conflicts as well; photography comes into the picture. In this day and age, it’s insanely easy to remove whatever watermarks you want from a photo, post it on a publication as your own work, and reap the benefits of whoever originally took the photo in the first place. Hey, it’s easy money, isn’t it? Especially if the photographer’s not some well known big-shot with clients working under their name and about 16,000 followers on their Instagram account. Most likely, they’ll barely notice that their photo was even found and posted by someone out there like that.
Fortunately, one good thing about the photography world is that no matter how well known one is, a photographer with a loyal following will always have people looking out for them. Kathy Shea Mormino is one of them, and she just found herself in some serious East-versus-West Coast style beef with a magazine publication over use of her work (Except without the rap battles. But that would have been awesome.) It started off as a simple matter of notifying the publisher and making a cease and desist. Then, for some bizarre reason, the magazine decided to respond in one of the most unprofessional ways you’ll ever see an online publication behave. Thanks to the guys over at Adweek for the information on the story.
Copyright infringement is one of those problems that never seems to go away. It doesn’t seem to matter how well we educate our clients or the general public. Unfortunately, there will always be people–photographers included– who just don’t seem to get it. Clients think that purchasing a photo grants them eternal, all-encompassing rights to whatever they choose to do with our work, wherever they choose to do it. People have it in their heads that just because a photo shows up in a Google Images search, that this somehow makes it open season for use on their websites, newsletters, blogs, and Facebook posts
As photographers, we know that we need to protect our work from all of these varying degrees of infringement. Unfortunately, too many photographers don’t take the relatively easy steps to adequately protect themselves from the unauthorized use of their hard work.
UPDATE: apparently some one at The Kernel noticed the buzz the video was generating. So it is now set to private, which means it is not viewable anymore.
With videos being so common, we’ve seen our share of how papers who infringe copyrights handle the situation. If the paper is smart they will (grant a bit but) accept an invoice and be done with it.
If they are extremely deaf or have no understanding of how the nets work nowadays, they will make a video ranting about the photographer, then change 60 pounds into 15 kilos worth of pennies and go and hand them to the photographer.