Saturday, May 30, 2009

Selling Yourself Short

The refrain I hear from photographers often, when it comes to images they transfer copyright to is "what are the photos work anyway? They're just {insert justification here}...."

Often, photographers get assigned to cover a party of some sort or another. Then, the excuse is "they're just party pics, who would want them anyway?" Well, let's take a look:

(Continued after the Jump)

So, at about $20 an 8x10, after about 10 prints from a single event, the magazine has recouped the cost of the photographer, and the use of the photos in the magazine is now, essentially, free. And since the magazine - in this case Washington Life - owns the copyright to the photos as per their contract, the photographer is not entitled to a dime of that revenue.

"But it's just a few prints..." you say. Who cares, what does that matter? Well, aside from it being work you created and are entitled to income from (that is until you sold your copyright for a c-note or two), it's just plain wrong, and, it's not limited to prints.

Enter Niche Media. Niche Media publishes a number of magazines: Capitol File, Gotham, and Los Angeles Confidential, among many others. Clicking on those links doesn't take you to the magazine's website, they take you to search results where images from their assignments are being sold/relicensed by Wire Image, again, without the photographer getting paid for those resales. How many sales do you think it will take before the assignment becomes a profit center? One? Two?

NIche Media in their press releases often writes:
"About Niche Media Holdings: Niche Media, a subsidiary of Greenspun Media Group, was founded in 1992 and is the country’s preeminent regional magazine company with the largest network of city-specific luxury publications in the United States. Niche Media consistently delivers the finest editorial content and advertising to a controlled group of influencers with the highest disposable incomes in each city. Niche Media reaches readers who maintain annual household incomes of at least $200,000 and have liquid assets in excess of $1 million, making the pages of these glossies some of the most valuable real estate in Publishing."
Valuable, of course, except to the photographers who don't earn anything from the resale/relicensing of their works. You're a creator of some of "the finest editorial content" yet you don't participate in the fruits of that labor?

When people take your copyright, or require you to transfer all rights in your images to them, they're almost always doing it because those images have value. Just because you can't imagine what the resale/relicensing value is to an image doesn't mean that it doesn't have any.

Think twice before selling yourself short.

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