We Stole Your Pics & We Are Suing You For It

When I saw this on PDN Pulse I just could not believe it.  You need to read the comments to get the full story and there is a rather better piece on it by Olivier Laurent on the BJP blog in which he makes clear just what a slap in the face this is to all photographers – as he writes “in my opinion, this case highlights one major problem affecting the journalism world in particular: a blatant lack of respect for a photographer’s work and copyright.”

Frankly it is unbelievable that what we thought was a respectable and trustworthy organisation should behave in this way. I hope it gets to court and AFP really get taken to the cleaners, since the legal issues appear to be clear cut. But I guess AFP will be paying lawyers huge sums to muddy the waters while apparently happily stealing work from photographers

But it isn’t the only current news about photographers getting a raw deal. Guardian News & Media wrote to freelance photographer contributors on Monday telling them it was reducing rates by 10%, unilaterally breaking a long-standing agreement with the NUJ.  You can read more about the cuts in the BJP. On Tuesday the NUJ London Photographers Branch unanimously passed a motion to adopt a model letter for photographers to send to GNM. More on the story on the Journalism web site.

So far the Guardian‘s response to this letter have been to say that they are sorry that the photographers concerned are unwilling to accept the new rates, and agreeing to delete any of their images that may be held in the paper’s archives.

I’ve never contributed work directly to GNM, although in the past I probably occasionally sent work there, I can’t remember it being used.  I very seldom send work to newspapers now, except by request. Most get thousands of unsolicited submissions every day. Most of these never even get glanced at, with most organisations using text search robots to try to identify images that might be of interest. Many stories in all our press now get illustrated with largely generic stock imagery supplied under bulk contracts from the large agencies. You can send a better picture but the chances of it getting seen by a human are very low and of being used almost zero.

Another current story is over Bauer Media, publishers of some of the leading musical magazines among a wide range of titles, which is trying to grab “all rights” from it’s freelance contributors for Kerrang!, Mojo and Q. Once they’ve paid to publish a picture or article in a single issue they want to be able to do anything they like with it for free, and those who have failed to sign up to this agreement have been told they will no longer be commissioned. If they succeed in imposing the agreement on these publications, Bauer plan to extend it to their other titles.

What can photographers do? Join the union and try to fight the cuts – and stand up generally for the rights of photographers and other journalists. Certainly refuse to supply work to GNM at their new rates. But also to try and support new media and alternative media, even if at the moment they don’t generate income directly. As well as trying to sell images as stock through libraries and occasionally to papers and magazines I also publish regularly on Demotix, and Indymedia as well as here and on my own web sites such as My London Diary. There I can tell the stories the way I want to and get work to an audience and just occasionally it does pay off with work.

One Response to “We Stole Your Pics & We Are Suing You For It”

  1. Excellent illustrated post on the stolen Haiti pictures at The Russian Photos Blog
    which in the comments also adds the information that the pictures are now fully registered at the US Copyright office and that it looks as if Morel has a legally watertight case and can expect to get punitive damages – his lawyers are claiming $150,000 per picture.

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