Copyright in the Digital Age.

Copyright must be credited: Couvrette/Ottawa (613) 238-5104 www.couvrette-photography.on.ca

We recently settled a much publicized case against one of the largest media companies in Canada. Terms of the settlement are legally confidential, but some aspects will become apparent in the coming weeks.

The incident was one of thousands that happen every day in music, photography, writing and art.

Sharing or using an image by a person who earns a living in the photography business when it is copied from their website is not a right and simply not legal. Companies, even those with strict policies against image theft, need to be ever vigilant or face legal costs, financial penalties and the outrage of artists.

Copyright  starts with the creator. The digital age with all its wonders has done substantially  more damage to artists than good. In the photography industry, work is illegally downloaded and used daily, from scenics to food shots and even family and wedding photographs. Aside from affecting income, it can and has defiled the privacy of clients.  We now live in a culture of theft that children have , through no fault of their own , been raised to think of as normal. The economic model of the “sharing culture” is simply not sustainable and does more to dash the hopes of artists than support them.

The dark secret behind the internet is that the majority of artists are victims of a system that makes tech billionaires due to the talent of artists with little or no compensation to the creators. Social media`s content and currency is art published with the hope of exposure…but the catch it that exposure on social media is one of the least powerful marketing tools in the business world.  To add to the dilemma, search engine image results are merely scraped off the websites of artists looking to communicate. In the digital world, user information is the product and then the user is the ad target of this supposedly free medium.Ads per second are actually double what they were on that ancient medium…television. A perfect storm indeed but one that hints of a dystopian future.
 
Instagram, with 100 million users was sold to Facebook for roughly one billion dollars and employed a dozen people while Kodak at its peak employed 150,000. The direction of so called “disruptive technologies” is as apparent in the workforce as it is on artists, or as they tech world likes to call them, “content providers”.

We live in a civilized society because of laws about rights that were hard fought over centuries. They are the cornerstone of  how our economy works. Our action in pursuing  this lawsuit was about the value people believe they can arbitrarily place on an artist`s work. In the age of sharing, that amount  decreases every time an artist allows work to be used without compensation that they alone decide is fair. Sadly the floodgates are open and artists with little power are drowning every second the internet exists. Artists who trade their work for exposure or Facebook likes are the sad debris of the art world.

To be a successful artist, you need three things…talent, business sense and courage.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

http://www.couvrette-photography.on.ca/Terms2.html

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Riverkeeper Gala / Ottawa Event Photography

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Copyright and Social Media

24_sussex_ottawa_photography-950x600(pp_w860_h543)dddCouvrette Studio hit the news nationwide recently over a case involving a major media company that we claim  published our image on its Social Media without authorization. We have been careful to avoid comment on the case and will continue to do so as we respect the Court of Law over the court of Twitter.

It is, however, an excellent opportunity to educate the public on the law as it pertains to my industry. The courts have seen a surge in lawsuits regarding everything from copyright to libel and slander on social media. The average person has little knowledge of their rights and responsibilities, but the hundreds of Lawyers who work in copyright, slander and libel in Ottawa certainly do. How we behave in business, in person and even how we ride our bikes is the result of laws that were debated and litigated throughout history.

Simply put, sharing an image from a social media Friend or Fanpage is perfectly legal…as long as the image was obtained properly. The “correctness” of obtaining that image is the tricky part. Entertainers, artists and yes, photographers may post Facebook resolution images with or without a tag or a logo with the knowledge that you will share them…hence promoting that artist. The buttons below my posts on this blog permit and in fact encourage just that.

The problem lies in numerous other situations and these are just a few….

One is attribution… If a credit existed and you claimed an image as your own…you are wrong.

Another is profit…If you sold that image or posted it to create income…also,  wrong.

A third is moral rights….If you claim you had a “lovechild” due to that snap of you and whatshisname (but you photoshopped him in)…dead wrong.

 

How far the owner of copyright will go is widely varied. We find a dozen cases of infringement a week at our studio without much looking. Yes, we use software that can track an image anywhere and right back to the start of the net. To be honest, 95% of them are not worth pursuing and besides we think it is not only bad karma but just plain silly to track down a high school student who used one of our images on a school project. On the other hand… when our work had been used improperly by hundreds of companies from Awkward Family Photos to major Law Firms and even National Magazines…we pursue them all vigorously.

Our industry, like music, writing, and journalism has been hit by the so called “disruptive tech wave”. That revolution has brought great things but also challenges for which most artists are woefully unprepared . I see posts galore about the theft of images, but this persists because most artists do not have the courage and/or resources to pursue them fully to a court of law. In fact, weak artists contribute to the demise of the industry by settling for less than their work is worth. The attrition rate of new photographers verges on 95% after five years as it now appears that LIKES are not accepted as currency by most landlords and camera stores…

The majority of artists in many fields, sadly focus less on the business basics and that, in effect is the death of any industry. Even a ten year old with a Koolaid stand would not put up with someone stealing their lemons.

Companies work on precedents and set policies based on law. #BooHooHoo is neither a legal defence nor an industry changing action. Legal judgements, on the other hand…change history.

If you think I am joking…try naming your business Micky Mouse Photography.Com and countdown 12 hours until a Lawyer from Disney sends a process server to your doorstep…You might also have fun bringing a pro camera to a Prince concert and posting your work on a blog….as many have learned, not good.

How wild is the wild wild west as regards photography and technology these days…There is a whole site devoted to the hundreds of photographers who have actually stolen other photographers images to promote themselves, incredible as that might seem. As they say…Buyer Beware

http://petapixel.com/2012/06/28/photo-stealers-a-website-dedicated-to-exposing-photography-theft/

The law, however distasteful one might find it on occasion, is key to our entire social system and our economy.

As they say in the legal letters….Govern Yourself Accordingly.

http://www.couvrette-photography.on.ca/Terms2.html

 

 

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The Photography Business 101

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How does a company survive and thrive in a competitive industry? Simple….Quality, Reliability and good old fashioned Customer Service.

We recently photographed the young Lawyer above and noticing her family name…pulled up an image we had shot for her mother over 25 years ago. Since opening Couvrette Studio over 40 years ago we have seen hundreds of photographers come and go. When we started, there were 20 studios in the Centretown core…half, owned by photographers.

We are the only fulltime studio owned by a photographer in the core. Given the changes in the industry…we will be the last.

Thanks to all our wonderful, devoted clients for their patronage over the years. We have been proud to have worked in this great city and this exciting industry during the golden age of photography..and we`re still having fun.

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Ottawa Architectural Photography.

We shoot a range of architecture, from working with real estate agents, magazines, construction firms and property managers. This shoot, for one of Ottawa`s largest real estate owners was a fun challenge primarily because the client wanted all distortion gone from buildings in the core with narrow streets.

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Minister John McCallum Ottawa Business Headshot Portrait

My office manager swears that I stay in the photography business just because of the fascinating conversations I get to have with interesting people. Minister John McCallum and I had a great chat about Immigration and some good laughs about the fact that he is one of the most qualified guys in Cabinet to deal with the economy…For the record…I am a supporter of our Immigration policies…as we came to this country as immigrants in 1655 fleeing religious persecution.
If I have heard the phrase, “I`m not photogenic” once, I have heard it a thousand times. It seems to be increasing in a time when lowest quote jobs are the order of the day…no surprise. Everyone deserves a great portrait. More so if you use it to represent your cause, your party or your company.
As they say…dare to compare.

https://www.google.ca/search?q=john+mccallum+minister&rlz=1C1OPRB_enCA576CA597&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjZ49zxp7TLAhXDm4MKHXFHCwgQ_AUICCgC&biw=1101&bih=566

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Westboro Ottawa Lifestyle Shoot.

We spent an interesting few days this fall shooting some of my fave businesses in Westboro for inclusion in a website and promo brochure for a new condo in the area.

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Business Portraits in Ottawa by Couvrette Studio.

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A business portrait is your organization`s calling card to the world…

There are a dozen ways to show a person at their best from posing, expression and lighting to managing color and printing quality. We started in digital photography in the mid nineties and with 20 years of experience there is little that we have not seen, few problems we have not encountered and few challenges we have not met. Having spent five years as National Spokesperson for the largest digital scanning company in the world…we know how to make your image look great in various media.

The budget invested in a professional portrait always pays dividends whether one is selling products or representing a company or a cause.

Every photographer has a style and a certain set of skills…the image on the right shows ours.

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Spec Shoots…

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Perley Robertson Ottawa Lawyers / Interior Architectural Photography.

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This photography was done for an Ottawa Ad Agency that was creating some new PR materiel for one of the city`s largest law firms…

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