The Business of Photography

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The Business of Photography

Where Do Your PR Photos Go?

It seems large businesses who should know better are just as likely to misuse your photography as smaller ones.
Mark Watson recently sent an email to a few of his friends about how he discovered his photos being used without his permission.
I am reproducing the content of his email, but we have decided to keep the names of the companies involved out of the story to keep our lives simple. Nevertheless, the message is clear for all of us.
Wrote Mark, “Yesterday I was called on to shoot a basic press launch for [a client], at which there was also [a stock library] photographer present.
“The job was basic enough and required some pretty ordinary ‘press images’. I managed to get ‘the shot’ and a few others the client wanted, and they were different to what the stock library photographer captured.
I supplied my photos to the client’s agency (on-site) at the end of the job, ready for an immediate press release.
“The PR agency did a mail out to news contacts, including it appears, to the same stock library. This was quite standard procedure.
“The stock library then uploaded the PR images to its website where it stated the images are for editorial use and to credit Mark Watson / [client] via [stock library].
“On the stock library’s website, you can purchase the photograph. A message comes up saying that any commercial use requires additional clearance, but you can tick a box stating that you understand you do not have rights to the photo, but you would like a price anyway, after which you can add the photo to your cart and buy it.
“So there for sale on the stock library’s website was a photo I shot the same day.
“For clarity, I do not shoot for the stock library – it is not one of my clients – and I did not know they had uploaded my photos.
“The only reason I discovered this was because I was sneakily having a look at what the stock library’s photographer had taken at the event. Boy did I get a surprise!
“Initially I thought, ‘Gee, he must have been shooting only around the corner from me’!
“A number of calls later and the client’s Australian communication manager called me to say she had personally spoken to the stock library.
“She told me that the stock library claimed it is a flaw in their system (bollocks!) and that while the image is listed ‘only for editorial use’, editorial cannot be separated from rights managed and rights free images and so it can be purchased for alternative uses anyway!
“Even though the photos were obtained from a PR agency.
“And even more amusing, the stock library suggested the image was unlikely to sell as the image was not an ‘advertising style’ image, which is true, but really that’s a void comment. What if it were a portrait of Mark Webber or a climber on Cerro Torre?
“The fact is, anybody could have purchased my image from the stock library only hours after it was taken for billboard or any other use without me knowing about it or having given any form of oral or written permission.
“Fortunately, my client has always been very supportive of its photographers and when informed the only way to block sale of the image was to remove it from the stock library’s website, the communications manager’s immediate reply was, “Remove it then”.
The moral of the story: keep an eye out to see where your work may end up! You could be surprised!

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