Because of my work at Safe Creative am I in very close contact with some of the most important copyright lawyers of the world. Therefore I have at least a little bit of understanding about how copyright works in the US and in the EU too.
As I’m curious about what people think they should license or protect their pictures, I’m always asking. Recently I got this answer about licenses, although I was more interested in the DRM issue.
I know that under the copyright law we have now, we keep exclusive patrimonial rights to our work, no moral rights if you apply to anglosaxon law though. In the UE you have both patrimonial and moral rights, but then again in both set of laws, that derivates from a two hundred years old set of concepts in Bern Convention, there have evolved some exceptions being fair use in the anglosaxon copyright and the private copy in the continental law. Similar, but not equal at all.
The truth is that I deeply respect people when they come to decide upon the way they feel have to protect their work. It’s a must because my kind of work, but also truly believe intellectual and copyright laws we do have do not adapt well to the digital era. I think the Bern convention is way to old and a new set of laws that are coherent with the Internet is necessary. Last revision was in 1979 -?- Little Internet we had that time
This said I consider the flickr “transparent .gif protection” as a DRM for it technically denies users that get to see a piece of work to download it in their computer (web browsers do download every image in the computer), and therefore to easily save it on the hard disk. Maybe the worst thing about this kind of DRM is that it gives the illusion of protection but does not protect at all. As you might now, only seeing the coding of the page you get the static url to the image. So if somebody wants really to get your image, they will. And the size is good enough for Internet uses. Also, not looking to the code but making screen captures you also get the image. On the other hand, people that only want to see larger sizes of the images to appreciate the work simply will not be able to do so. And they meant no stealing or anything… just wanted to enjoy your work.
So I believe we have to think on a more general way other than the analog ways of protection. DRMs gives the delusion of having a market of offer and demand in which the offer is the one we photographers give and demand is the people who see pictures. Well, this is simply not true. And I’m talking about a law that will someday emerge from the fact that everyday there’s shortage of attention from users and way too much offer from photographers like us.
To correctly protect the images, setting DRMs will simply not help at all. The real risk for contents and artists is not to be know, not to be accessed, not to be used. If you put barriers for normal users to your work, they’ll simply move to other contents. In my experience you get only 1 unfair use of your work against 99 fair uses that can eventually help you to be considered as an artist.
Now there are the usual statements about being or not paid for the pictures we took. Remember that from the very moment you put your pictures they will be seen and downloaded by browsers for free. But this is fair use or private copy. Consider that the act of putting something online means that the work will someday somehow be used. Well, maybe I see this a little bit different, but the fact is that maybe we should start thinking in a different way about this. Not to be paid by the pictures done, but being paid to make specific pictures. Yes, I know I use CC licences and that I give even the right to make money out of them, but this is simply because I believe I cannot claim myself to be only one involved in my pictures. I have many inspirations from former and today’s photographers, also the places or the models are also beautiful by themselves. “Truth is beauty and beauty truth, all you need to know -Keats”. I really need to return to the public domain what I really believe does not belong to me. Yes, that’s the way I support Creative Commons since 2003. Ever since I started making pictures 23 years ago have been wanting to be able to show and give my work freely. If you can show and give your work you’ll get fans and your work will be there alive for ever. Limiting will inevitably turn your work to be forgoten.
I know this will make hard for some people to make a living out of their photography. But the fact is that now pros are having hard time because many amateurs do really do great stuff and for free! This is not bad, it’s just a model business change.
I think the best way to foster one’s work is to first correctly identify it as good as possible whenever it gets published. To do this, online registries do a great job.
But this is the beginning. Will not try to convince that CC licenses are best suited to the Internet, but instead I state that limiting the size of the pictures just doesn’t help. It gives you a delusion of protection but your pictures might be anywhere, and when used, believe me, they will surely not credit you at all.
Now the key is to be able to attract the consumer attention rather than trying to make them believe in a copyright law not well suited for a digital era that allows duplication of digital contents at low costs.
I’m telling this because I really feel sad whenever I see pictures not allowed to be downloaded. I have the true feeling that this work will somehow someway totally disappear. And maybe we don’t have the right to do so. Or at least I have the need to try to explain what I think and feel about this. I don’t do this for me, but for photographers.
The full copyright rules do protect you fairly enough and using meta-data (exif), or online semantic technology registries to mark your content, will in the future allow you to track your works’ uses in the Internet.
Beauty is to be shared and let lawyers take care of missuses. I prefer to favour the good uses of my pictures, hey, and if some people are maybe making money well, good for them They sure deserve it.
And don’t forget, there are non commercial licenses in Creative Commons too.