Photographer’s Rights Under Attack

With their permission, I am reposting an email I received from American Photographic Artists.  These all exemplify the need for photographers to take the necessary steps to actually become professionals.  Taking pretty pictures is not enough.  No one is going to come along and “do the right thing” because your work is good.  As you can see in the examples below, they will do the opposite.
What strikes me in the examples below is that in each example, photographers are not being perceived as professionals.  Now before any of us point the finger at the “bad” corporations, we need to take a look at why they may have come to perceive photographers as sitting ducks waiting for the next client whose business they can subsidize by funding the cost of a shoot and giving the images away free… or next to it.  That reason lies in our own back yard.  It is because too many of us have failed to actually become professionals.
Being a professional also requires that you know the ropes of the industry.  The legal and ethical issues that can arise with the creation of images and their use.  Knowing what you should charge in various markets, knowing and enforcing copyright law and how to license your images.  Seeing when the expectations and demands of the client are such that it will cause the shoot to fail and how to educate the client on the need to do it right (and also knowing enough to know when a shoot is beyond your capabilities and referring the work to someone more experienced in that area).
It also involves having a respect for your images, knowing their real value to you, to the client, and in some cases the world.  When you fail to understand that and allow others to take advantage of you,  you have compromised your own personal integrity and told yourself that your work is worthless.  That is a point from which you can’t climb back.  It is our own perception of the value of our work that dictates what we get.  Not the corporate giants.  No one has to surrender their rights to profit from an image in the effort to win a contest, nor do they have to agree to allow it to be published for nothing more than having their name appear on the masthead (the magazine staff all appear their as well, ask them if that is what they take home for their paycheck).
Professionals also understand that we have a responsibility to the industry in which we work.  None of us can survive long if the other photographers, the assistants, makeup artists, stylists, art directors, producers, agencies, and, yes, the clients don’t also do well.  If you haven’t done so already, please take the necessary steps to become a real professional.  A good first step would be to join a professional organization and tap into the wealth of support and information that is available through such organizations.
The article is below:
Photographers’ Rights Have Been Under Attack
In the past few weeks, three events have surfaced that serve to illustrate the assault that working and emerging professional photographers are under to surrender their federally-guaranteed rights to earn a living from their images.  APA, the most prestigious national organization for professional photographers, and its national chapter, APA/EP (focused on editorial photographers), are deeply concerned with these ongoing developments.
APA continues to urge independent photographers to resist surrendering rights to their images without fair compensation, while continuing to evolve and adapt to a new digital-media reality.
1. Condé Nast publications’ Vogue Magazine has partnered with the Italian fashion designer, Bottega Veneta, in a photography competition that unnecessarily and unfairly grabs unlimited, non-photo-credited rights, including lucrative publication and advertising rights, to every image submitted to the contest – NOT just winning images, but EVERY IMAGE:  Unfortunately, they are not alone in their strategy.  Hundreds of photo contests every year build vast libraries of free imagery by dangling the promise of exposure and publicity, then insidiously seizing broad usage rights to every image submitted via the fine print of the contests’ terms.
APA endorses the mission of the Artists Bill of Rights organization and strongly believes that while photo contests can play a role within a photographer’s well-planned marketing strategy, the price of admission should not be the complete surrender of copyright to every image submitted.  We should never be so vain, or so desperate, to get published that we forget that the ultimate goal of being published is to be paid.

2. On May 20, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer was quoted as saying, “There’s no such thing as Flickr Pro today because [with so many people taking photographs] there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.”   While she quickly apologized on her Twitter account @marissamayer and claimed the comment was taken out of context, this slip by the CEO of one of America’s largest internet companies brutally highlights the lens with which our profession is viewed by much of corporate America.
APA would like to reiterate that copyright protects the work of ALL creatives – big internet, media, and movie companies, and independent small business owners alike.  Millions of sole proprietors and small creative businesses are able to make their livings, pay their taxes, and send their children to college because federal copyright law grants them the right to charge for the use of their creations if they choose to do so.  And yes, professional photographers are still alive and kicking and bringing you images from Afghanistan, Boston, Sandy Hook, and Fukushima, thank you very much.

3. Finally, as widely reported by NPR and the Chicago Tribune  among others, on May 28 the Chicago Sun-Times laid off their entire professional photo staff of twenty eight people and plans to replace them with freelancers and images shot by reporters.  Among those laid off was Pulitzer Prize winner, John H. White.  In a wired world that is more visual than ever, the Sun-Times has shortsidedly decided that “good enough” is all their readers deserve.
Our friends at National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) have a follow up story of the Sun-Times photographers and supporters picketing the newspaper’s office that you can read HERE.
APA and APA/EP strongly affirm that in this increasingly visual world, professional-quality photojournalism is more important than ever, not less.  Visual and written storytelling are equally important, but distinctly different, skills.  Just as true news-gathering organizations do not write their lead stories from cut-and-paste Twitter feeds, they should not rely on anything less than the best original photojournalism they can afford.
APA and our partners believe that creativity is the cultural soul of our nation.  As such, it deserves to be valued, respected, nurtured, and protected.  Assaults on the right to profit from creative efforts are assaults on our country’s cultural identity.  Despite our free market economy, APA believes we as a nation value our cultural heritage more than pure profit at any cost for corporate America.  We urge photographers, other visual artists, and all creatives to protect their copyrights, earn from them fairly, and continue to create for the benefit of our nation.

Please !

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