Photographers and their copyright

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by 25asa, Jan 21, 2006.

  1. I work in a photolab where we have a digital printer and a copyprint
    machine. It seems the problem of copying professional photos is
    getting worse each year. My question is if photographers are having
    a harder time enforcing their copyright with their customers and
    making ends meet? I see customers blatantly not care they are
    ripping off the photographer of the pictures they just had done, by
    bringing in the disc or proof print to print on our machines.
    Instead of paying the photographer for the work they agreed to do,
    they bring in the proofs and want to make as many copies as they can
    to save a dollar, and ordering very little from the photographer in
    return. When we refuse to sell the photos to the customer, they say
    they will just get them copied at a store they know will let them. I
    mean how in the world can a photographer make a living when
    customers try to rip them off? I see this issue getting worse, not
    better. If a photographer gives the customer a price to sell them
    the full rights of the photos to do whatever with they please, the
    customer complains of the high cost of that compared to Joe
    photographer that is charging this much (but not actually selling
    the rights). I had a customer come to our lab to use our copyprint
    machine. This machine we let people use self serve if they know how
    to use it. She printed 3 copyrighted photos on the machine before we
    realized what she was doing. When another staff member noticed this,
    the girl took off without paying for the photos. We checked the
    machine to see what was printed, and sure enough- pro photos. We saw
    her photographer the next day (we recognized the pics) and the
    photographer was explained to what had happened the day before. The
    photographer took action against her client with a letter to pay the
    extra costs and explaining contract breach infringement. I really
    wonder how a photographer can make money these days when people scam
    them so much without blinking an eye.
  2. I think -- because it's easy to do it, people will do it. Everyone feels entitled to getting a deal, and now that people do things like download music and movies for free (illegally!), they don't feel any qualms about copying photos as well. People honestly don't care about the photographer's life/fees -- all they know is that they already paid several thousand dollars for a photog, and they feel ENTITLED to getting cheap prints if they can do it.

    How to stop it...I don't know. :)
    But as home printers and expertise in photoshop/printing gets better, I assume people will start printing themselves to save $$.

    For me, when I shoot for people, I include a form stating that they DO have the right to copy the pictures. I adjust my prices accordingly to account for this; that way I don't have to worry about it.

  3. I'm not just talking about the wedding type photos that couples pay more then a thousand dollars for, I'm also talking about the school photos or department store pics that they pay very little to have made. If your only making up to $50 on an order, and they wont even pay that (instead making 37 cent 4x6 copies illegally)- what is this world coming to? This is one reason why I'd be very hesitant to do this professionally myself.
  4. Thank you for looking out for the photographers. No doubt the photographer was very pleased to hear from you that a client was making illegal copies from the proofs. And hopefully he will be a client of the lab for many years to come. It does hurt business when you work with dishonest clients. One of the reasons I got out of the wedding and portrait business years ago.
  5. Just today at work a customer was picking up an online order. It was proofs from a disc that the customer claimed she was told she could make copies from. I asked the customer about it and the two of us went to the portrait studio (same store) and I asked the portrait manager about it. Since the employee that the customer was conveniently not working that time, she went off about how she was told she could copy the photos from the disc. After all that she got upset and said she would never again get her photos from the studio and was allowed if desired for a full refund. I kept the copied photos the customer had and did not sell them to her. I have a hard time believing what the customer said because the portrait studio manager firmly said her employees know full well the policy on copying their own photos at labs and would have told the customer that its not allowed.
  6. Each printed proof or image on CD in bold letters at the top and bottom of each proof: "COPYRIGHT STUDIO NEW YORK COPIES PROHIBITED" or "COPYRIGHT UNAUTHORIZED COPIES NOT ALLOWED"
  7. Folks will copy the CD of images to another CD; and all that copyright mumbo jumbo boilerplate printed on the CD is gone. Since few folks watermark; add extra contact info in the files structure or on the images; the images are just brought to copy shops and labs with no clues as to who shot them. Thus the copy shop or photo lab becomes the lightning rod to irrate customers cursing, when image ownership is questioned. Photographers have brought out their own problem, by being lazy whusses and hiding from reprint work. It is a real pain in the rump dealing with all this crap being released and not marked. The customers who bring in grey and ill work come from all walks of life, attorneys, ministers, school principals, the police.<BR><BR>Many old folks just want some images of a neices wedding across the country, they dont even own a computer, the in laws sent them a CD with decently high res pro shot images. Some of these folks have a hell of alot of money, and just want some actual prints from the CD. They would gladly buy prints from the original source, who hides from reprints, but worries about copyrights and suing folks. Is it a pride issue, photographers dont want reprints? <BR><BR>In ancient times, photographers wanted reprints. When I worked for an apprentice, I had to stamp the back of each sample, each proof, each final print. The face area on the back was stamped, so the image if cropped still had the studio's Name, address and phone Number. If one didnt stamp each print, one was fired for being incompetent.<BR><BR>Now the trend is to release un marked decent res images; and whine about copyright.
  8. Photographers should bring some work to local copy shops and labs. Usually folks have a certain style. This awareness of style radically drops local copying, since the authorship becomes known. The far away wedding with high res images poses a problem. Them client might be a 3 decade old customer, an attorney too.<BR><BR>Maybe the wedding reprint business model is dead, and it is a cash cow to hid and then sue. Maybe photographers will morph into lawyers, and make more with suing than the weddings? :)
  9. If you are in the US, you'd better warn your boss. The Professional Photographers of America have "recon" teams that run "stings" for such things, and with PPA lawyers backing them, photographers have already won huge settlements from Wal-Mart and other companies. Your company needs a policy of "If the photo smells 'professional,' turn the customer away" before you get stung big-time.

    As for photographers, it's encumbent upon us to educate customers in the law and the limits of their licenses of usage. Certainly there will still be a good many scofflaws, but not all. That education includes make sure our images are marked for copyright and registered (which can be done in CD batches covering as much as a full year of images).

    Also most of us are realizing that the digital age is forcing portrait and wedding photographers to a new business model more similar to that used by commercial photographers. We simply can't expect to earn a living with small sitting fees and large reprint orders. For the most part, we will have to get up front as much as we ever fully expect to be able to get on that job.

    I have packages that are "kit and kaboodle" sets--all the prints experience shows people ever would have ordered or wanted AND a copy of the finished image on CD. Milk the cow, and don't worry if the kitty steals a few licks afterward.
  10. I had a friend once ask me to use my film scanner to scan one of "his" slides. When I got the slide it had some photographer's name and phone number on it. I refused to scan it without permission from the photographer, and my friend gave me a hard time about it. I also had a friend ask me to do prints of his kid's school photos, which I wouldn't do either. All I can do is try to educate one person at a time. Being that I am a photographer, it's hard for them to argue with me, really, without devaluing what it is that I do for a living.

    Just had a friend receive a postcard of one of his own photos that someone took off the internet and was selling to stores by the hundreds.

    All I can say is, put your name on stuff everywhere you can - slide mounts, CD's, IPTC data, mark your photos on the net, and don't give anyone high res files unless you absolutely have to.
  11. I've seen one lady with a 'signed' release that a copy was OK to make....the photographer had the image printed on Kodak paper that required a 'code' to allow the Kodak copy machine to work. End of tale: she could not make the copy on a Kodak machine, but the Fuji Frontier unit did make a copy.

    People are cheap.
  12. When I shoot non-commercially, I give the client the digital files for copying
    and charge them accordingly. For commercial work, I license the images for
    the specific uses. But we must educate users as the recording industry has
    done and now the video industry is doing.
  13. If you don't want to be ripped off, don't be greedy. If a customer knows she can get a reprint for 37c ask yourself why she would want to pay $10? All this crap about how photographers are ripped off and they never ask themselves if they're asking too much money for what they're offering. Get real. Photoprinters are everywhere and the PPA will do more harm than good if they go around sueing their customers. Much better to just charge a decent price up front and give the customer a high res image to copy with your blessing.
  14. Response to Jimmy Smith. Yes the print may cost 37 cents but have you figured out how valuable your time is when retriving a negative, sending it to the lab, picking it up and then calling the client, once, twice, four times and not show up? Time is the most important factor when operating a business; espeically a portriat/wedding studio when every cent counts. What a photographer should consider is having 2 extra proofs made at the time of processing/printing and add this to the overall cost. Heck, charge $50-$100 or more and still add $10 for the extra print.
  15. You're missing my point. You got to make a living but you got to deal with human nature too. Ticking off your customers is fun for a while but then the word gets out. Better to make a deal you can both live with then you'll be the good guy. Gets you more customers long term.
  16. Jimmy, I am not missing your point. I don't believe in ticking off clients. What the issue here is/are: you are a professional photographer, paid your dues to get to where your are, there are over head that needs to be paid for, and you shouldn't be cheated or be a banker to anyone who hires you - if the client didn't like your fees, style or services then they could have gone to some one else but they didn't. Don't you think the photographer gets tick off when a client is a no show, arrives very late, doesn't pay for an order, complains about a price, wants more pictures taking at a wedding than what was agreed upon. I can go on. Here is something I did years ago and felt totally good about it. I did a wedding, the order was put in, a little over a $1,000, asked 30% down, got it, once the prints came in, contacted the couple several times, weeks went by then months, almost 8 months. I finally contacted them again and they said they be there. I said to myself, "bull *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#*" went to the file cabinet and torn all the prints into small pieces. And you know what? They never came to pick up their pictures. And this is when I decided to get out of the business.
  17. I wish the makers of copiers would introduce something into their firmware that would detect the presence of a digital watermark (a la digimarc), and stop at that until a valid key were keyed in.

    Maybe one could have digital watermarks that were time bound, etc. After so-and-so date, copiers just don't copy 'em etc. Just thinking aloud.

    Of course, someone would hack it over time, but it would be nice. Anyone in the industry listening?

    Neville Bulsara
    Travel and documentary photography
  18. Yeah, right. More of the same. The customers always wrong. Its like the music industry trying to make everyone a criminal if they dont pay ten times for the same music. My old grandma said you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar and I think shes right.
  19. Scott, I see the same thing everday, and much like you I am a little frustated. The photolab (Loblaws) I work for has 4 such machines, of which all are capable of copying and printing whatever you feed to them.

    The machines are manufactured and serviced by Kodak. Called "Kodak Picture Maker"s, the machines offer easy hassle free printing for the consumer, at a relatively cheap cost. Our stores offer the cheapest as far as I know, matching Walmart prices (of all things lol) in Canada. The particular store I work for has the most digital photolab sales in the entire Loblaws chain within Canada. So you can imagine the traffic coming through each day is sometimes overwhelming... and the number of "problem" cases we have to deal with daily, too, is sometimes high.

    I'm assuming you have similar machines, they have become very popular and more and more stores are becoming aware of their "worth"... If not Kodak I would guess your machines are made by Fuji, or else another less-known brand.

    Our Kodak machines, as much as I sometimes hate them, do have a number of security measures going for them that you might consider implementing on your own. Machines that are equipped with a flatbed scanner are designed to recognise watermarks and copyrights, often embedded by professionals in the photograph in very subtle, sometimes unrecognisable ways to the human eye. Somehow though, Kodak has designed these scanners to recognise such marks and alert store clerks. What usually happens is after scanning a copyrighted or watermarked image, the machine will ask rather abruptly for a password, known only by photolab employees. Of course an employee approaches the customer, sees the images being scanned and realises that the machine is asking for a password to override the security features.

    Often, I have to kindly explain to the customer that what they are doing is illegal, and our lab cannot rightfully permit them to continue printing their order without permission from the copyright holder. From the point of a photographer, too, I try to reason with them and explain why there are copyright laws.

    The machines are laced with signs, reading "It is illegal for this machine to reproduce any image that has a copyright"... But people still come with professional prints.

    I think it is a lack of understanding, appreciation of ownership, and any real way of enforcing copyright laws that makes people think they can get away with it... and sadly, for the everday photographer, many of them do get away with it.

    It's like there is no punishment, just a slap on the hand; a warning... and they keep coming back.

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