Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Ignorance is Ignorance.

I read about this story through Gary Crabbe’s blog originally, http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/flickr-as-an-interior-decorator-tool/

Basically the New York Times goofed by not having an editor check the article for ethical and legal concerns before publishing what essentially is a blog post demonstrating copyright ignorance. Here is a quote from the article, “And if you’re wondering about copyright issues (after all, these aren’t my photos), the photos are being used by me for my own, private, noncommercial use. I’m not selling these things and not charging admission to my apartment, so I think I’m in the clear.”

It is one thing to view an image on Flickr or even copy it to your desktop. But when you gloat about framing them and putting them on the wall then yes that is commercial use because believe it or not there are photographers out there that sell prints of their work that usually get displayed in frames on people’s walls. The entire concept for the article is irresponsible “journalism” at best but if the New York Times felt a need to publish this sort of rubbish then they should have at least made a designation that there are specific licenses on Flickr that state what you can and can’t do with images. Certain Creative Commons licenses (CC) for example allow people to freely distribute their work sometimes with or without giving credit to the artist. If that is what the photographers chooses to do with their images then that is their deal, but for the rest of the images that having an all rights served designation then that needs to be respected as well. Who knows why someone with an all rights reserved license would offer a full resolution image on their stream but regardless that doesn’t change the license terms.

If newspapers want to compete in today’s media landscape then they need to stick with what got them their reputation. Relevant, accurate journalism. Once newspapers start getting into reporting opinion rather than facts then they start becoming just like your average blog on the internet like the one you are currently reading. Sometimes facts are reported but you have to take it with a grain of salt because maybe it’s not entirely accurate. Sadly in this case I’m putting more faith in my own opinion than what I just read in the NYT.

Also of further interest look at the comments section of the article and the freelancer’s follow up post which didn’t exactly retract her original statements.

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June 28, 2009 - Posted by | Photo Industry News, rants, Web, Weekly Links | ,

5 Comments »

  1. It was pretty saddening to read the article, and the resulting anger from the photography community was expected (and deserved). But the odd thing is that I’ve heard the idea expressed before by people that should understand the basics of copyright law.

    The sad thing is that I bet many Flickr photographers would be OK with someone printing and framing their work without compensation (not that they should, or have to, but I think many would allow it, simply for the joy of having their work displayed). But there is a big, huge, monstrous difference between asking and taking.

    Comment by Taylor Davidson | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  2. Even with creative commons the confusion is rife. Sooner or later a ‘morality’ of usage needs to grow up around the web that replaces the ‘because we can’ mentality. Hard to get there though.

    Comment by Fred H Schlegel | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  3. I was definitely surprised to see a NYT journalist writing about that in the paper because I assumed that someone at the level should be at the top of their profession and have a working knowledge of these issues. The associate editor / photography lady at the NYT made a statement that clarifies the official position on photography though but that does little to make up for the publishing of the article.

    The real issue is that they have such a mass audience and to write misleading information then it makes everyone think that all images are free for use. Because lets be honest, most people aren’t aware about the concept of licenses. This article could have been a great opportunity to discuss the difference between CC, RM and RF but unfortunately bypassed that discussion all together.

    Comment by Richard Wong | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  4. Completely with you, Richard. And I thought John Harrington hit it spot-on that the “clarification” won’t be nearly as well-read as the original, horribly misleading article.

    John’s post: http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com/2009/06/ny-times-ame-mcnally-we-apologize-over.html

    Comment by Taylor Davidson | June 29, 2009 | Reply

  5. Exactly. I noticed just from the lesser number of comments on the follow-up article that less people read it, and were probably mostly concerned photographers rather than the general public which it should have been speaking to.

    Comment by Richard Wong | June 29, 2009 | Reply


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