How Do We Keep Our Rights But Share Our Work?

In a followup to yesterdays post Stolen Photograph: A New Look at an Old Problem, which saw a lot of traffic and great discussion, I thought it would be prudent to share a poignant panel discussion I was recently a part of in NYC that addresses this topic head-on. It’s a dichotomy we all likely are dealing with… Simply put, most of us creatives want it both ways. We want a system that maintains our rights to the work we create while at the same time allows us to spread our work as far and wide as the internet and new media will allow.

How can we have it both ways?

This worthwhile panel discussion called Copyright and the New Economy: Issues and Trends Facing Visual Artists, hosted recently in NYC by, explores precisely these challenging topics. A note on the panelists after the jump…

Appearing on this panel is yours truly, Lawrence Lessig, (Harvard Law School Professor & Founder of Creative Commons); Jeff Sedlik (Founder & CEO of the PLUS Coalition); David Carson (U. S. Copyright Office General Counsel); Liz Ordoñez (photographer); and Darrell Perry (former Director of Photography, Wall Street Journal). The panel is moderated by Jay Kinghorn.

Thanks to the ASMP for making this available.

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Yoshi says:

This was epic. We are indeed all in the same boat. Chase, I salute to you.


I think it was Jeff Sedlik in the video who brought up an example of photographers “ruining it for us all” in the industry. In the example, he says the photographer will jack up the price of a piece of work if a client wanted to renew after a successful first-run contract.

I don’t understand how this is anything but being business savvy. It feels akin to actors on a television series. Remember when the cast of Friends demanded millions per episode after their contracts were up and after the established success of the show? Seems only fair that with the success of the use of said work that the creator should share in that success.

Melvin says:

thats great!

Well done Chase for being an independant thinker and posting this. Personally I don’t believe in the concept of IP at all and think it should be scrapped. I’ll not go into the reasons here BUT I do understand many of us have business models that depend on it. The problem is how to make money from our creative production and finding new models that will work. I think that is the issue.

Alison White says:

I would like to know how you would go about protecting somebodies ‘style’.
I am part of a group creating a proposel for a childrens TV show. We are using one of our member style of work in this animation, which is based upon anime, but a completely unique style to her work which she wishes to use in the future for her own personal work (which she would wish to make money from) as well possibly as sell on to others.
Can the TV studio retain the ownership of the look of the piece we create, baring in mind that we are creating the animations for a client (the sound designer).

Steve G says:

seems like this issue is brewing everywhere

fas says:

Simply by collaboration or selling your work.

Ron Dawson says:

I just love the fact Chase that you were the only one on the panel in jeans and sneakers. :)

Clifton says:

This Is a great video! Ill be buying the asmp book to dig deeper in how to protect my work through the process of letting the world view it. Thanks Chase!

Chase you rock.

I have spent at least 3 months wondering if anyone out there was looking at both sides of the situation.

As one of the youngest members to ASMP here in Alaska, my goal is to start this dialogue with photographers in my community. We are unique here in the sense that we are a big state, with a small town kinda feel.
My hope is that through healthy business practices and the exploration and understanding of the tools available to us, we can maintain a livable income as image makers.

On a side note, I still find the ASMP side difficult to navigate, have you heard if they published the text and info from this discussion?

Jared says:

Have you seen this documentary?

This video bummed me out pretty bad. Fortunately, Tineye has not come up with any stolen photographs of mine so I am feeling better today. However, Tineye did not come up with the one stolen photo of mine still posted on the web (with my copyright clearly visible) so it is not, apparently, fool-proof.

David Duncan says:

Interesting video. When posting to facebook, I always size it low res and place our logo in the corner. What I do not like now about FB is that they allow hi-res downloads. That is now another issue or talk we have to have with clients. Our business is split from corporate to family and wedding b/c we are in a small market we shoot everything. With family and weddings the trend is to post images online, with corporate work it is mostly on their company website. Almost every bride we talk with are asking for the copyright to the wedding images, it is a trend that all wedding magazine are talking about. Copyright is an on going battle in any market but we need to educate the consumer more about our copyright and their copyright if they are creating work, most consumers do not care if they give up their copyright.

Per the high-res download, I never upload a shot much bigger than 700-900px wide. So I don’t worry. Are people really uploading the full-size version through the web interface? Doesn’t that take a good while to transfer?

My biggest issue now with Facebook & photo uploads is they screw with the shadows/highlights after you’ve uploaded. This is new since they introduced the lightbox UI. Seems like the kind of thing they’re doing to be helpful to people who upload images that are too dark, but for the photographer set, it’s aggravating to have your work altered. I wouldn’t mind a toggle buried in my settings somewhere to disable that.

Harry says:

Just wondering… How does the creativity increase, if we teach people to use readymade stuff in their so called creative art. It doesn’t encourage anyone to invent any new. World just fills with below average stuff.

Brian George says:

It is sad but very true Harry.

Don says:

Okay, never mind my previous reply hehehe

I just saw your previous blog post.. :-(


Don says:

Hey Chase!

Not sure if you have seen this yet.. “The Stolen Scream”

I feel so bad for this guy…

Mike Wilson says:

Excellent discussion, Chase. Thanks so much for posting this!

Neill Watson says:

A watermark isn’t legally needed, but sadly often required to stop theft. I wrote about this issue on my blog just last month here:

It doesn’t have to be huge and intrusive. I generally use a 10pt-12pt sized text on 720px-960px wide images, with © instead of “copyright” before my name, and place it all vertically on the bottom right of the image.

It’s there, it doesn’t take much space, it doesn’t impede on viewing and appreciating the image. It also reminds people that I’m the creator/owner of the piece, especially if it ever leaves my portfolio to be shared on someone else’s blog.

It really isn’t any different from painters or film photographers signing their (analog) work.

Erik says:

A copyright watermark is never necessary.

Chris Dowsett says:

I have to watch this several times. Its a lot to take in.

Abhi says:

Still confused about some thing regarding Copyrights. When I click a picture and post it online or on Facebook or any social media website, do I specifically need to put up a copyright watermark? Or is it just assumed that the person who posts the picture hold the copyright? What if someone passes it on further?


Chase says:

pickup a copy of asmp business practices for photographers. that book, plus some other biz books by john harrington will outline the complex topic that is copyright in rather complete and understandable terms.

I’m surprised to read that you would recommend anything by John Harrington, who is a doom and gloomist when it comes to discussing changes in this industry.

Chase says:

@anthony: i don’t subscribe to john’s doom and gloom industry outlook, but he’s written some good books about how to conduct yourself in business.

i recommend you employ the business stuff – it’s professional and appropriate – but avoid the negativity and doom and gloom. those can be mutually exclusive.

Abhi says:

Thanks for replying Chase. I will check that out.-Abhi.

Allen says:

Its easy to forget the goal is to sell pictures. It’s easy to confuse this with just not giving work away for free.

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