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Matinee: 'The Copyright Zone Guys: 2014 Update' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

28 June 2014

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the thirty-ninth in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Copyright Zone Guys: 2014 Update.

This hour-and-a-quarter presentation at B&H in June covers a lot of ground. The Copyright Zone Guys -- attorney Edward Greenberg and photographer Jack Reznicki -- do talk until they're "blue in the face," as advertised. But that's because it's a deep subject.

You may, for example, have been amused by Amazon's patent on what's generally conceded to be a common studio setup. But in Casting Light on The Amazon Patent on Lighting the pair suggest what Amazon might have been thinking:

Its motivation appears to be in service of its relatively new role as a "client" who retains photographers at minimal cost to shoot work for it. The patent helps control that "shooting environment" in which the hired photographer(s) must work.

Then they offer photographers some practical advice:

Note that the Amazon patent requires adherence to numerous specifications. One would likely not infringe on this patent unless all or virtually all of the specs (set forth on page 7 of the patent) were actually used.

It's that kind of real-world perspective on the legal maze that makes it intriguing if not exactly a pleasure to listen to Greenberg and Reznicki.

In this presentation they cover a few issues currently in the news: an anti-piracy group that ripped off a photo to use in their own ad, a rapper suing for being ripped off themselves ripped off a photo, Craigslist ads for photographers to take photos without pay (you know, for your portfolio), a photographer who won't pay but will be happy to let people who provide services tell others about it, an unauthorized use of a photo of Judge Judy, releases signed by people who don't have the authority to sign one (particularly at weddings)....

Just for starters.

Then the pair discuss a few cases in depth, including a Getty Images photo of a woman used in a pejorative context who successfully sued Getty and the final user because her release did not permit that use.

They fearlessly walk you through the basic math the courts use to calculate awards for willful copyright infringement.

"The court is not stupid," Reznicki tells the audience. Copyright infringement is always a federal matter and in federal courts, as far as judges go, "you are not getting a moron," Greenberg said.

Getting your paperwork right to start with is a big leg up on the whole process of defending your rights, they emphasize.

Walmart, for example, is suing the Walton family photographer for ownership and possession of all the images he shot of the deceased founder. If the photographer's paperwork had clearly established what rights were retained, this wouldn't be an issue, they point out.

You have rights despite the "standard' behavior or "our policy" arguments of your clients. This is a common tactic when it comes to payment terms, as Reznicki says. We fully subscribe to his approach, incidentally. Companies that don't pay you in 30 days or think they are not subject to interest on late payments subscribe to the common delusion that the rules are different for them. And they are always the clients with money, not the ones struggling who could use a break, they note.

Then there's the endorsements illustrated with stock photos of people. We'd call that approach less than honest on the face of it.

The latter part of the presentation is highlighted by the one situation in which you really do need to register your work with the U.S. Copyright Office and the top excuses clients use to avoid paying you (and why they work).

For extra credit, there's an even longer presentation from last year that covers the basics of copyright law.

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