Saturday, April 21, 2018

Copyright: Should You Ever Give It Away?


Wow! That is the shortest blog post I ever wrote! I know I am being a bit flippant but seriously - do not give away your copyright.

You may be asking, "Why would you even suggest the possibility?" Good question. If you are a regular reader of my "general interest" blog - From the Mind of Joe Valencia - you will know that I enjoy working as a volunteer photographer for a variety of organizations. This year I am booked for four (4) events for four (4) different organizations. In the past I have worked for others and there are some I would like to have worked for but, when I read their agreement, decided I could not. One such case happened to me just this week. Those are the organizations that prompted me to write this post.

I am not going to "name names" because they may, at some point, change their policies and that isn't the point of this post. The point is - do not give up the rights to your images without sufficient compensation. This particular organization considers this to be a "work for hire" situation, however, I don't think that would hold up if it were contested. Disclaimer: I am NOT a lawyer and have no formal legal training - the following is an OPINION based upon research I have done. A "contract" must provide benefit for all parties signing it. You do something for them, in return you get something from them. In the case of surrendering your copyright while getting nothing in return does not satisfy that equation. The paragraph below is extracted from a "Service Agreement" I was recently asked to sign.

Property of ABC_XYZ CORP. All drawings, models, designs, formulas, methods, documents, creative works (including photographs, audio-visual and other multi-media materials), tangible and intangible items and work product (collectively, the “Work Product”) prepared for and/or submitted to ABC_XYZ CORP by Vendor in connection with the Services shall belong exclusively to ABC_XYZ CORP and shall be deemed to be works made for hire. Any Work Product or deliverable of the Services is the property of ABC_XYZ CORP and will not be made available by Vendor to any third party. Promptly upon the expiration or termination of the Terms, or upon the request of ABC_XYZ CORP at any time, Vendor shall deliver to ABC_XYZ CORP, in a form specified by ABC_XYZ CORP, all Work Product, documents and tangible items, including samples, provided to Vendor or created by Vendor for use in connection with Services, including, without limitation, all Confidential Information, together with all copies and abstracts thereof.
As you can see, they get all of your work - free of charge - and in return you get a pat on the back. I rejected this agreement and asked them to reconsider - their counter was that I "can post an image they took on social as long as they say it was for ABC_XYZ CORP and we own the rights." Hardly an equitable solution. I was even told by the person I spoke with that I could "show up and shoot, unbeknownst to the organization and then 'gift' all of the images to them." Strictly "unofficially", of course. So, I could help them except no one was allowed to know. Yea. Right! I still wanted to make this work so I offered to sign over all rights, including the ability to use on my social media, in exchange for $1,500.00 per event. This is a reasonable amount considering I was going to be working the event for 6 or more hours, plus the time editing - not to mention giving up my rights. They refused and so I have two weekends available to do other work. Now, before you accuse me of being unreasonable and taking away valuable funds from the program, consider this - according to Charity Navigator, the President/CEO received compensation of nearly $500,000 in 2015 and the Executive Vice President/COO received compensation of more then $2.7 million!

So, in closing, should you give up your copyright? That is something you have to decide but I would caution against it. You've worked very hard to get to where you are in your photographic journey and you need to demand the respect for your work that it deserves. You don't want to allow others to put their name on your work, especially if they don't pay you for it. I don't know how many photographers agree to these terms, maybe I'm the only one, but I cannot imagine there are many.

What do you think? Would you sign the agreement and forfeit your copyright? Would you do it for money? How much? I would love to hear your comments and stories - please post in the comments below.

Until next time - get out and shoot!

Monday, March 5, 2018

Sunset and a Peek-a-Boo Moon


After a particularly rough day at the office I decided to shoot a sunset on the way home. The conditions were okay but I knew I wasn't going to get an incredibly spectacular sky. This shoot wasn't necessarily about getting a great image but rather unwinding and getting rid of a bad day.

When I got to MacLearie Park in Belmar I had about 30 minutes or so until sunset so I took my time finding a composition. I have shot here before but always at the westernmost point so that I can get a sailboat and small tree in the shot. I wanted something different this time so I walked along the water towards the east until I found the tree that is in the first image. I now had a subject but that is a long way from having a composition that I was happy with. I finally settled on the somewhat wide, landscape shot and waited for some color on the horizon.

While waiting, I took out my phone and wandered around - I turned towards the west and got this image of the sky. You can see the edges of the clouds just beginning to get some red and magenta along the edges. I shot this with the camera in Lightroom for Mobile, did some on-location editing and used this as my "I am here, where are you?" social media shot for the night.
I was happy with the first composition but wanted to see if I could isolate the tree a little more so I moved a bit to my left, went from wide angle to a moderate telephoto focal length and shot. I cropped it to a square in post-production and really like the way it came out. This is definitely a tree that is going to get more exposure in the coming weeks and months.

Peek-a-Boo Moon

Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location. – Joe McNally
When the sun was down and I had gotten what I came for I picked up the tripod and headed back to the car. It was a chilly evening but nice so I took the long way. I had not gone far when I decided to take a look at "my" tree from the opposite side - maybe it would be a nice subject for a sunrise one of these days. I turned around and was confronted by the scene shown in the last image. The moon was peaking thru the cloud, I had the lights of the marina and bridge in the distance. I quickly set down the tripod, composed the image and grabbed a few shots before the cloud ate the moon for good.

The quote above is one that I found a while ago and I pull it out every once in a while. I used to pack up my gear when I was done shooting and then head back to my car - it was easier to carry and I could just get in the car and leave. I did this even after I saw this quote! I don't do it any more.... I had an instance where I packed up and an unbelievable composition with near perfect light jumped out at me - I grabbed by bag, set up the camera, pointed it and then muttered a few words that I won't use in polite company. The moment was gone.... I have not packed up before reaching the car ever since.

All photos are copyright Joseph S. Valencia All Rights Reserved They may not be used in any way without express written permission of the photographer. If you wish to use any of the photos you may contact the photographer at