Common Cents

Neighbor to Neighbor
October 2008

by Mark Loundy

"Your neighbor's vision is as true for him as your own vision is true for you."
– Miguel de Unamuno

I was looking for my kids the other day and found them at Tom's, my neighbor across the street. Tom is a bit like Wilson from the old "Home Improvement" show. He rides a recumbent bicycle and knows about nearly everything. As soon as I walked in, Tom handed me a bowl of homemade vanilla-almond ice cream.

A few days earlier Copyright Action posted a breathless article about how Photoshop Express, Adobe's online image editing and storage application, makes images that you upload to the service freely available to all of the other individuals and businesses who have registered with the site.

When Tom handed me the ice cream, he was not taking business away from Baskin-Robbins. Neither is the Photoshop Express sharing feature taking sales away from professional photographers.

What Tom and the users of Photoshop Express have in common is that they are sharing with their neighbors.

The fact is that people want to share images with both their real-world and virtual friends and neighbors. People communicate and use images in their personal lives in ways that they could not do before the Internet. This sharing is almost entirely outside of the photo licensing industry. It is not a lost market, because there is nearly zero dollar value to such use.

The Photoshop Express terms of service are far from ideal. But the service is clearly not intended for professional photographers. The image tools are aimed at consumers and there are far better online image storage and management sites out there.

Oh yeah, my neighbor Tom also makes boomerangs.


• Michael Phelps may have been good in the Olympics, but there's no Good here this month.


• The company offering $80 cash money for an event photographer to shoot images at a Washington, D.C., area nightclub and turn the images around within 24 hours with the company's logo on them.

• East End Management, reps for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, for the agreement that they're foisting on photographers that demands free Web usage from the photographer's work.


• You can pretty much write off just about every photo contest. National Geographic just came up with another with their World In Focus contest that creates a potential revenue stream for them without cutting the photographer in for a percentage.

• The Gathering of the Vibes, a Grateful Dead-inspired music festival in Bridgeport, Conn., for their copyright grabbing photo "release." A newspaper covering the event would actually have to get written permission from the organizers to use their own images in their own paper.

• Harris Publications for a contract that is so bad and so disrespectful to photographers as independent businesspeople that any photographers who sign it should be ashamed of themselves.

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.


More lessons from Liz Ordoñez (August 2008 Common Cents:)

"1. Register all your images with the LOC in a timely and consistent manner.

2. Have your contract reviewed by a copyright lawyer to address the loopholes. (Expressly prohibit use by anyone other than party named on your agreement. Expressly exclude co-op ads, marketing & promotions, etc.)

3. Be prepared to respond in a professional manner and hold accountable every party using your property without authorization. This includes:

Establishing in advance business policies on how to manage each occurrence. Not waiting for infringement to occur to establish a relationship with a Copyright attorney.

Using only an attorney who specializes in copyright law.

Accepting this process as a standard business policy, like collecting State taxes."

• In last month's column, I lauded Imbibe magazine with a "Good" for agreeing to indemnify the photographer in addition to requiring that he indemnify them. The remark about Imbibe drinking "their own Kool-Aid" is mine — not the photographer's.


Copyright Action

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Editorial Photographers

Editorial Photographers Yahoo! Group (Message Archives)

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

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© Mark Loundy

Mark Loundy is a visual journalist, writer and media consultant based in San Jose, California.