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That Time of the Year (A September Rant)

Tahquamenon Falls Michigan Upper Peninsula Copyright   2004  Andy Richards

Tahquamenon Falls
Michigan Upper Peninsula
Copyright 2004 Andy Richards

I commonly write during September that it is “that time of the year, again.” I know I said I was going to feature some of my “favorite” Fall Foliage images over the next couple weeks, leading up to what – in the Northeast U.S. at least — is probably the climactic first week of October, when I will be out on the “left coast” trying to find a different kind of color.

Photographic images are personal property.

But it is a blog, and so there should probably be some writing around the images – shouldn’t there?

Glade Creek Gristmill Babcock State Park, WV Copyright 2011  Andy Richards

Glade Creek Gristmill
Babcock State Park, WV
Copyright 2011 Andy Richards

It seems like there is something in the air (maybe it’s “back to school,” the excitement of the football season, or some other related reason), and it is apparently “that” time of the year, also. After posting the first 6 of my “favorite” fall foliage images last week, one of my images (not yet posted as a favorite, but appearing in a foliage-based blog last year) was posted on 5 different websites, resulting in 5 DCMA Takedown notices this morning. One successful response is already in, but we will see how the others work. It is becoming more difficult, in my view, to seek and find the ISP hosting service and the correct person to send the notice to. This image hit home for me, as it is one that is “unique.” Not so much because of the subject matter or composition, but because unlike a lot of other Fall foliage images, especially in Vermont, I think I may have been the second person to photograph and publish this scene and the person who discovered it is a special friend and photographer in her own right. Seeing it on other people’s struck a nerve.

Jordan Pond Acadia NP, Maine Copyright 2009  Andy Richards

Jordan Pond
Acadia NP, Maine
Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

So, maybe (or not 🙂 ) It is timely to revisit this subject (for the 3rd or 4th time on my blog and probably the billionth time on photo blogs as a whole). 🙂

Photographic images are personal property.

Photographic images are personal property. From an ownership standpoint, they are not really that different from your wallet, your car, or something you produce and sell. From a reality standpoint, they are galaxies apart. People view them differently. And they are physically different, which does lead to some technical ownership differences. Legally, we refer to images as “intellectual property.” As such, they are in the same category as artwork, books and other writing, and engineered designs and formulas. Photographic images are personal property.

Santa Fe Ski Basin Santa Fe, NM Copyright  2008  Andy Richards

Santa Fe Ski Basin
Santa Fe, NM
Copyright 2008 Andy Richards

Even legally, the “ownership” of intellectual property is not always crystal clear. We have possession of our wallet and title to our car. The photographic image on the other hand, (especially in the digital age) is ephemeral. But instead of “now you see it, now you don’t,” it is more like “now you see it, and then over there you see it again … And again. And again.”

We have developed a mentality that because it is really easy and really available, there must not be anything wrong with it

The digital process has made the movement of images, including copying, much more a reality than it was in prior days. That is not to say that there wasn’t some copying. You could photograph an image or copy it with a color photocopier. Back in the days of the Masters, hand re-painted copies of paintings were not at all unusual. But it generally took an awful lot of talent and effort to do it accurately.

Waterville Mountain Road Bakersfield, Vermont Copyright  2006  Andy Richards

Waterville Mountain Road
Bakersfield, Vermont
Copyright 2006 Andy Richards

Not today. Today, any owner of a decent smart phone, or any kind of computer or tablet, can copy a digitized photographic image with the click of a mouse or rocker button. But what I am amazed about is that we have developed a mentality that because it is really easy and really available, there must not be anything wrong with it.

I do have a philosophical problem with not asking.

One responder noted to me that the image was linked to my site. While I will agree that that is better than taking it and selling it, or taking credit for the image, it is still taking something that belongs to someone else without permission.

Fayette State Park Michigan Upper Peninsula Copyright 2007  Andy Richards

Fayette State Park
Michigan Upper Peninsula
Copyright 2007 Andy Richards

The funny thing about this is maybe I am just shooting myself in my own foot. The image in question, in a couple cases, was linked with a “Lightcentric Photography” hotlink. And I don’t even really have any philosophical problem with allowing others to showcase my work on their site in that manner (attribution and a link to the artist’s site). But I do have a philosophical problem with not asking.

Miner's Beach Munising, Michigan (U.P.) Copyright 2009  Andy Richards

Miner’s Beach
Munising, Michigan (U.P.)
Copyright 2009 Andy Richards

I am not naïve (really, I am not 🙂 ). I know that there are many other instances out there and neither this blog, nor my flurry of DCMA Takedown notices from time to time is even going to make a scratch mark in the overall situation. But I will – because I can — continue to tilt at windmills – for the time being.

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One Response

  1. Andy, it’s happening with all art. Photographs, paintings, drawings, the written word, videos, movies, music. Worst of all are musical live performances. Just look at YouTube. Nobody wants to pay for anything they see, hear or read online. Eventually, it will get to a point that any artist will not be able to work because we’ll all just earn a loss. Even DCMA take notices are fruitless, since the image is already cached on some page and as we know, the internet is forever.

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