Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's my tomato

So Gourmet Live, a rather lovely Conde Nast website, risen from the ashes of Gourmet, writes to ask me for permission to use a photograph of mine, of an heirloom tomato, as their featured Image of the Day. There it is, up there. In return I would get a link to 66 Square Feet. Fine, I thought, I'd love to. Nice site, rubbing shoulders with good things. Will do.

Oh, but there's the question of the release form I must sign. So I read it.

Here it is (underlining is mine). Read the first paragraph:

As we discussed, GourmetLive would like to publish your photograph(s) of      .  This letter will confirm your agreement that we may publish the photograph(s), and that any publication or republication by GourmetLive or anyone authorized by GourmetLive of the article or other material with which the photograph(s) are published, in any media now in existence or hereafter developed, may include the photograph(s).  The photograph(s) may also be used in the advertising and promotion of GourmetLive and its information products and services.  GourmetLive may retouch, crop, or otherwise alter the photograph(s) for publication, in its discretion.

You represent and warrant that you created the photograph(s) and/or that you are authorized to allow us to use the photograph(s) as provided herein, and that our publication of the photograph(s) will not infringe any third party’s copyright or other rights.  No contrary or inconsistent terms, conditions, restrictions, or other provisions in delivery memos, invoices, letters or other documents will be binding on GourmetLive unless expressly agreed to in writing by GourmetLive.

We understand that this grant of permission is non-exclusive, that you may authorize others to use the photograph(s), and that no fee will be due for the use of the photograph(s).

So that our files are complete, please sign and return the copy of this letter that is enclosed.  Thank you for your consideration.


So I wrote back saying I can swallow this all but may we make one small change and add that the photographer shall be given credit for any possible future use of this image?

The response, from the friendly-sounding Allison Poindexter:

Unfortunately we can not allow changes to the agreement. This is the same agreement that every blogger has to sign when they are featured on the blog. Let me know if we can still feature the image, otherwise, thank you so much for you interest. 

So, it appears that bloggers get their own agreement, and sign their photos over, for free, for any hypothetical future use, sans credit. Because they are...just bloggers? What if you are blogger who is a photographer? Actually, does that matter? No. The principle does.

And it wasn't my interest. You guys approached me.

So I thought a bit. Pros, cons, exposure. Then I realized, Wait! I 'm behaving as though I am being blackmailed. Because the truth is that bloggers - and increasingly all entities working on their own - are scared of making a noise about this. Because then the big website won't like them. Or link to them, or ask them to write a story for them. So they say nothing, wag their tails, and lick the bone tossed at them.


Where do you draw the line?

So I wrote back:

Much as I love Gourmet Live, under the circumstances I can't sign my image over to you for any and every use (as implied in your release), with no compensation or credit given in such use. I earn my living by my images and words. So do many others. When images are signed over for nothing, for your gain and free use, they become worthless.

If it were only for a one time use on your website I would have no issue with it. But the release you require is unreasonable and exploitative. I say that objectively, no ill will intended. I trust you understand.

I consider Gourmet a class act. It would be worth your while to re-visit the wording of that release, and not issue a one-size-fits all. It doesn't reflect well on you.

Small concessions. Respect for good work. Integrity. Give a little, take a little.

I was willing to share that tomato. But I realize that it is, in fact, mine.



Thank you for everyone's input (and encouragement). I may take this farther - not with Gourmet Live but the issue itself. If anyone has been approached via their blogs or Flickr, or Facebook, etc., for photo usage by publications, please get in touch; whether the terms were for free (no terms!), for a link or whether payment was offered. I'd like to start taking notes, and names
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