The rights of Intellectual Property

In an information driven technological world, and with an economy that is in the tank everyone wants something for nothing. Or it’s just greed. Whatever the case maybe, I’m going to clear up the issues of copyright. First, we must define, and according to the U.S. copyright office,“Copyright is a form of protection grounded in the U.S. Constitution and granted by law for original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression. Copyright covers both published and unpublished works.” and what copyright protects is “Copyright, a form of intellectual property law, protects original works of authorship including literary, dramatic, musical, and artistic works, such as poetry, novels, movies, songs, computer software, and architecture. Copyright does not protect facts, ideas, systems, or methods of operation, although it may protect the way these things are expressed.”

Now, let me be very clear, it is wrong to believe that any other use of any intellectual property should be allowed without either payment or a renegotiating of a licensing agreement. It is wrong for any and all artists to just freely give up their creative work so that they may be published. That is the preverbal carrot and leads down the steep path to hell and also cheapens everyone else’s work. All artists have the right to give their stuff away, but they should do so, understanding that by doing so, you are effecting your fellow artists. That too is wrong.

Speaking of wrong, it is wrong and it trips my amigdala into a fit of rage when someone even hints that I’m cutting my nose off despite my face. Or that I’m being naive. An example of this would be any work commissioned as work-for-hire, which is defined as, ” … the situations in which a creator of a work does not retain the rights to that work. By default, and artist or designer owns the copyright to his or her work.” This is wrong as well. I’m not being naive, I’m just doing what I believe is fair and right, we don’t need to make our already starving artists that much poorer. 

I could go on and on about how this is wrong, but let’s now look at the opposing side of this issue. As an artist you create a piece of work, sell it, and include the ownership rights in the sale. Now, say an event happens in history, or for some other reason the value of your creative work just went up. Now, you no longer are allowed to sell that piece or art, you don’t own it. Too bad for you. The person who paid you the few dollars for the piece could now sell it for the current rate and make a profit. What a good investment, again, on all the work you did. Oh wait, there’s more. Maybe they decide to copy all of your work and turn around and sell it off to people, making a profit off of what you created. Thereby further devaluing the work. Since you don’t hold the copyright, the owners, do not need to associate your name with the work either. Again, too bad for you. You have no rights to your intellectual property or how it’s being used.

Here’s another rights grab. That horrible website everyone loves, Myspace or Facebook, yeah, I bet you didn’t read the fine print when you signed up. Any content you publish on those sites you are giving the companies who own that the ok to freely use and distribute your creative work without payment. That’s wrong too. You sign up for free, so you don’t even get a penny, yet you give up so much. 

I could go on and on, about this by the mere thought of anyone even thinking that copyright isn’t that big of a deal. Or that well it’s going to evolve in our new technology and that’s ok. Talk to me when there are no creators or inventors of anything new or beautiful because they will, in the end, not own it. I guess our technology won’t develop much further either due to the fact no one will want to work for those conditions, and the neo-luddites will have their way. Plus, the world wont have as much beauty in it, due to the fact that no one will be creating that beauty.

Is that the direction our world is heading? if so, count me out. I’ll make my images for myself then.


In closing, here’s a recent letter I sent to a potential client and I believe the content of what I’m discussing is fair and ethically right. 

I still very much would like to provide my services for the (THE CLIENT) and I would be willing to work out an agreement based on middle grounds on the terms outlined for usage rights. Please understand though, A photograph is worth a thousand words, and as such, a photograph holds value over time. A question often asked is, “if I’ve paid for the photographs to be taken, aren’t they mine?” Copyright, by federal law, is held as intellectual property by the photographer. Usage is extended for a predetermined time to the client. This time is agreed upon prior to the job, usually a year, although my estimate is for two years because (THE CLIENT) events happen in that cycle of time. If the photo(s) are still being used by the client after the alloted time, a usage fee will apply. For example, if I was hired to photograph images of a hotel, the hotel may use those images at their discretion as allowed within the usage agreement for the alloted time. This may (or may not based upon initial agreement) include web, print and marketing ventures. Your agreement covers web and print collateral marketing materials. Per the agreement as it stands now,(THE CLIENT) is not allowed to freely distribute or sell the images. When the alloted time is used up, the hotel must stop using those images until another agreement is reached. I cannot expect to stay at a hotel longer than my agreement with the management; as a hotel room holds value, so also do the photographs. Please understand how an image is an asset and holds value over time and if I just hand that over then I could lose out on future income. This is how I stay in business. 


With that said, the terms of usage are negotiable, if you believe 2 years is not enough time, then I’d be willing to extend the terms to 5 years. I also believe that in those 5 years with how quickly our world is changing those images will become outdated. In addition, I would also be willing to extend the usage rights for the multimedia piece without an end deadline, so that could stay on your website for as long as you want, yet you wouldn’t be able to sell it. Although we could also discuss arrangements for a DVD if you are so interested. Like I mentioned on the phone, if you feel that you must own the copyright and have me relinquish all rights to the images, then the fee associated with a copyright buyout is equal to 25% of the total invoice.

Again, I believe I have a lot to offer (THE CLIENT) and I very much would like to reach an amicable agreement for both parties. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

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Posted on April 22, 2009, in Rant. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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