Common Cents
"NOBODY" Cares
November 2009

by Mark Loundy

"At my lemonade stand I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote."
— Emo Phillips

Grocery stores put staples like milk and meat at the back of the store to force you to walk past (and be tempted by) displays of the higher priced goods like candy and cereal. You also have to pass (or maybe you even race to) the folks giving out free samples.

We all understand that just because companies promote their new garlic-flavored vitamin water with free samples it doesn't mean that we can simply walk to the drink section and take home a six-pack for free.

So why are more and more potential clients viewing the Internet as a big free sample case of images from which they can take freely?

A professional acquaintance of mine was recently interviewed by a trade publication. The interviewer confided that, " ... as a matter of policy they troll the Internet for images and use them with disregard for copyright. 'Nobody cares' was the attitude." (Italics mine.)

The "nobodies" who don't care are photographers who do not register and protect their online images. The "nobodies" who don't care are photographers who do not vigorously pursue copyright infringement.

This is not a so-called victimless crime. Money is being taken out of the pockets of photographers and put into the pockets of the shareholders and owners of the companies in question.

As a matter of policy? Take me now, Lord.

The Good

• Costco for listening to complaints about its contest language rules. Quoting from a Costco e-mail: "The problem developed when the contest rules were reviewed by Costco's legal counsel earlier this year. Counsel suggested that we add the statement about ownership rights to the rules in order to avoid any rights issues that might arise when a winner is selected. Again, we simply should not have allowed that to be put in place." The e-mail goes on to promise to reword the contest rules next year.

The Bad

Sports Illustrated's new deal with MaxPreps for its "Faces in the Crowd" feature nets the photographer a whopping $40 for use on Sports Illustrated's Web site. Granted it's not print use, but just $40? Surely Time-Warner can afford more than that.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for its work-for-hire contract. Even worse, they pay no more than 10 cents a mile, as little as 2.5 cents a mile and nothing at all if you drive fewer than 100 miles on an assignment.

• Rapport Press for taking extended periods to pay invoices – sometimes more than a year.

Popular Photography for its all-rights-grabbing photo contest. Photo publications should know better. What they know is that they can get away with it.

The Ugly

New Mexico magazine for not only joining the ranks of rights-grabbing photo contests, but for extending those rights to the contest's sponsors.

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.


• Even when clients plead poverty, the recession, etc., they often have bigger budgets than they first admit. PDN's David Walker writes about negotiating even during an economic crisis. The article contains an excellent comeback to clients who claim that other photographers are a lot cheaper. Hint: Confidence in your own talent.

• John Harrington has come out with a second edition of his tome, "Best Business Practices for Photographers." (Disclaimer: I'm the technical editor for the book, which means I've already read the whole thing.)


Negotiating Tips for a Tough Economy

Popular Photography's Photo Contest

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

© Mark Loundy

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

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