I feel like I've alienated these people...

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by epp_b, Sep 24, 2009.

  1. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I'll try to keep this long story short...

    Much earlier this year in January, I went to a local outdoor winter event put on by the town in which I live (about 4,000 population) to do some shooting. I was there for about four hours (the whole event) and got some great shots -- winter lighting when the sun is always low is fantastic when it's sunny, even midday!

    A few weeks later, one of the town staff members asked me (via email) if they could have digital copies of the photos for advertising use. I was pretty hesitant about just giving the photos to them. Work got busy for both of us and the conversation sort of petered out into nothing.

    Before I go any further, I should make a full disclosure:

    1. I'm am mostly a hobbyist, but I don't see a reason why I should give away my photos for nothing for commercial usage (amateur sports officials who officiate little-leagues on evenings and weekends are paid, for example).

    2. My dad is the manager of the department for which this staff member works (he is her employer). I am trying my best to keep family ties completely out of this.


    Long story short, someone else at the town office saved a link to my website and somehow understood that to entitle them to full use of the photos (I wish I was joking, but I'm absolutely serious). However, I didn't know of this until a few weeks ago when someone from a provincially-published magazine contacted the town expressing interest in a photo to use along with story about winter events in the province.

    This particular staff member is the polar opposite of tech-savvy, so she sent the him 100px-wide thumbnails. This led to him asking for higher resolution copies that he could actually see properly, so she referred him to me. I sent him some larger, watermarked samples, he's happy with them and he's going to contact me after he's decided on the photo he wants to license for the article. So that's all good.

    Here's where things got kind of ugly: another magazine (also a provincial magazine, but a government publication) contacted them about a week later for the same thing (photo to go along with an article). Unfortunately, when I emailed the samples to the first magazine, I also CC'd the email to the town employee. She sent these samples to the second magazine with the understanding that she had full permission to do so. She only informed me of this yesterday, almost a week after it actually happened, and the magazine has already gone out for print. I contacted the editor for this magazine, who told me that they always get photos provided by the communities about which they write and that they simply do not pay for photos, but that wasn't not too late to pull and/or replace the photo. This magazine is distributed bi-annually with the most popular newspaper in the province (circulation is about 160,000 per magazine run). A byline, which they are providing, is nice to have in such circulation, but is some small text in the middle of a magazine which is in the middle of a large newspaper really worth anything? I'm not sure.

    Whatever the case, the town was willing to pay for the photo, since the magazine was not, but my gut feeling told me that the town was not really the right entity to be paying me (it's a magazine article, not an ad for the town) and that it would just end in tears this way. My dad emphasized to me that the town was willing to pay, so I rejected my gut feeling and came up with $125, based on some figures I came up with using fee calculators on a number of stock photo sites (the closest thing I could compare to) for the usage of this photo and the circulation of this magazine. I thought this was fairly reasonable (ie.: Getty was giving numbers from $300-$500), especially considering that this is actually "custom" stock of local people participating in their event. The town didn't agree. To be fair, it wasn't really the their burden to pay either.

    So, now we're both feeling kind of miffed. I'm hearing things like...
    (and I'm greatly paraphrasing here to focus on the core of the issues)

    "I don't want to deal with his pictures anymore if it's going to be this complicated every time (when, really, she brought this complication upon herself; all she needed to do was refer the magazine editor to me and it would have been the end of her involvement), I'll just take my own pictures"

    "I think my co-worker's mom has some pictures of this event anyway"

    "He shouldn't be charging any money unless he's a professional"

    .....................

    What I have now come to understand is that these people don't value the artistic quality of a photo if they are prepared to send some of their P&S snaps (I'm not baselessly judging, I've seen their pictures). We're also all Mennonites in this town, so it's easier to get money out of a rock than it is to get it out of us (me included :lol:)

    So, several miscommunications and misunderstandings later... I just decided, "screw it". I already wasted more time and effort than it was worth, so I just sent the photo to the magazine. The alternative was that they'd use a crappy snapshot by someone else or feature a different town entirely (and make the town staff even less pleased).

    I get the sense that they are kind of turned off to dealing with me now because of all this. I have already apologized for the confusion (even though I didn't actually cause any of it... customer is always right, and so on). I would really like to try and mend this situation with the town by apologizing for asking them to pay when it wasn't their position to do so and also explaining that all they ever need to do is simply refer people to me when asked for my photos for publication.

    I'm thinking I may just say, for $100 (because I'm never going to get more out of them than what can be calculated for a reasonable hourly rate), here are all the photos from the event, do whatever you want with them, all I want is a byline whenever they're published.

    OR, I could give them all of the photos, but resampled and watermarked, so that they can remember to refer people to me when asked for the photos.


    Sorry for writing War and Peace and then some.

    .....................

    Arggh... I just want to get back to actually shooting and stop dealing with this crap :(
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2009
  2. FrankLamont

    FrankLamont TPF Noob!

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    You do not need to apologise.

    First, make it clear to the town staff that it is not within their rights at all to circulate images and pass them on to other places if they have not got your permission.

    Professional or not, you have every right to ask to be paid, and $125 is more than a fair sum (in most areas, that is).

    In future, make sure this doesn't happen. Tell them to direct all inquires to you alone. True, the town shouldn't really pay for it, since it's not by them, but then again, you should have been in full control of the situation in the first place.

    You can say that 'in this case, I will not charge, but in future, the town/council/etc does not have permission to... blah blah, in future, please reference all inquiries to me or the photographer...' etc

    I suppose there isn't much to do now, but make it clear, tell them about rights and prepare for the future.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Just to complicate matters a little more ;)...
    If you take money for your photos, you probably need to have a business license and you should have to pay income tax (or at least report the income on your income tax forms).
     
  4. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Income tax only applies above a certain bracket. I believe it's somewhere around $8,000. Business license, though, hmm...

    I agree and I realize that I don't need to, but the last thing I should do right now is go on the offensive and say, "well, all the complication is your fault". I think apologizing would be a step in the right direction to making sure I have future opportunities here, even if it's just for references.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Are you sure about that? or are you thinking of GST?

    AFAIK, on your tax forms there is a line for 'other income' which is where you put your income from a non-incorporated company. That gets added directly to your total income...I don't think there is a threshold number.

    Of course, when you own a company you can write off business expenses which will bring your 'taxable income' down.
     
  6. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    No, it's what my tax accountant tells me. Remitting GST is applicable if your gross income is $30,000 or greater.

    Ah, that may be true. I guess I'll check next spring.
     
  7. chakalakasp

    chakalakasp TPF Noob!

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    1. Always always always register your copyrights. Doing so would have cost you $35 for your entire life's work.

    2. When these things happen, contact an intellectual property attorney. Do so now. There are a lot of things that you are entirely uninformed about, and an IP attorney will guide you through your options. Your offers for settlement are ridiculously low, to say the least, which is quite kind of you -- but the fact that they're being rejected would (at least to me) be enough to motivate me to call in the attorney.
     
  8. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Do you actually think that's going to make any difference to people who literally think that having a link to my website constitutes some sort of entitlement or permission to use my photos?

    These people do not understand copyright, nor do they care. It's not that they're nefarious, just naive. Registering will make no difference.


    I realize that you're trying to help, but this over-American attitude is only going to make things sour. There is more to life than sucking every penny out of everyone for every single little thing that might be some sort of infraction. If they aren't alienated yet, taking any sort of legal action will alienate them for sure.

    I like this peaceful, friendly place and I intend for it to be my home for a long time. Taking an offensive against the town is a really bad idea.

    I think what I'm going to do is give them a collection of samples of these photos (resized and watermarked) for the purpose of reference and remind them that they need only forward future inquiries to me.
     
  9. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Quote,"These people do not understand copyright, nor do they care. It's not that they're nefarious, just naive. Registering will make no difference."

    Actually, that's where you are wrong: a photo that has an actual, registered copyright is the first,and most critical step toward some serious leverage against those who will willingly use copyrighted material.

    I would not worry about alienating people who will willingly steal you photos, and send them out to publications. I think you have been stiffed out of about $700 worth of useage fees.
     
  10. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think his point was that they didn't know that they were stealing.

    The first step should be letting them know that it's wrong. I think that in this case, that probably would have been enough.
     
  11. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Not to start this discussion again, but it's "copyright infringement", not "theft" or "stealing" ;)
     
  12. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    All those terms mean exactly the same thing legally.

    I don't think Canadiens have the same necessity of registering copyrights as Americans do to file an infringement action.

    If you put your pictures online, people will take liberties with them.
     

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i feel like i'm being alienated by people?