by Brian Solis
Lane Hartwell and me during BarCampBlock
Here’s the short story.
The Richter Scales released a very clever video that parodies the return of the bubble using images from Web 2.0 events, blogs, etc., set to the tune of “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” by Billy Joel.
The video made the rounds across the blogosphere receiving hundreds of thousands of views and scoring laughs and referrals along the way.
Hey, it’s funny.
But, not one of the images were sourced or credited, a problem that is all too recurring in Social Media.
One of Lane Hartwell’s pictures was used in the video and she decided to do something about it.
She stood up for not just herself, but photographers in general. And, I applaud her for taking it on.
Who is Lane Hartwell you ask?
She just happens to be one of the most amazing professional photographers in the San Francisco Bay Area who captures art, culture and tech with unbelievable depth, passion, and soul. Seriously, her lens brings out the essence of what lies underneath what you and I see and take for granted of everyday. And, she’s asked over and over again to stop stealing her work.
So, moving on.
Hartwell then contacted the singing group and was greeted by a “cavalier attitude” and a response, that I believe is the root of many of the problems we see these days, that they had the right to use the pictures that they find on the Web as fair use.
After speaking with several random people about this, the general assessment was that people do believe that they can yank photos that they find online because it’s publicly available.
She hired Terry Gross, an intellectual property lawyer with San Francisco firm Gross & Belsky, to represent her.
They contacted the group again and also filed a copyright claim with YouTube.
The video was removed.
The Richter Scales responded that they will revise the video and include credits.
Sadly, she also switched her incredible albums on flickr to private. She explained her reasons for doing so, ” “My images are being stolen and used in ways that I am not comfortable with on an almost weekly basis, sometimes several times in a week. I have blogged about it, talked about it here on my stream, and yet people still feel that my creative property is theirs to take and do with as they please.”
There’s been an interesting mix of responses to the video getting pulled as well as Lane’s stance on photo theft. Some of the responses are very surprising to say the least.
Mashable calls Hartwell a bubble burster and a party pooper, but also takes the time to acknowledge her frustration and why photographers are going to great lengths to protect their pictures, “But what about the expensive artform and profession of photography? Those of us who aren’t photographers by trade have a distinct tendency to not regard it as a profession that entails the amount of dedication, cost and artistry that it actually does.”
Robert Scoble called for people to steal his content, with or without a credit, “Me? I’m the opposite of Lane. I WANT YOU to steal my content. In fact, next year I’m going to do stuff to make all my content available via Creative Commons license so you can use it wherever and whenever, including my video shows. I’d like a credit, yes, but don’t demand it.”
Thomas Hawk, also one of may favorite photographers, offered an artistic perspective to say why he takes the opposite position, while also supporting Lane, “My response to this unauthorized use of my imagery? Who gives a shit? I certainly don’t.”
Scott Beale, who I’m also a fan of, called attention to Hartwell’s position by sharing his own experience, “As many of you know, I’ve had my fair share of problems of people using my photos without attribution or worse for commercial use without first making arrangements with me.”
Brian Oberkirch offered suggestions to help photographers, “Honor Creative Commons licensing. Call out people who don’t. They will give you shit about it. That’s ok. It’s a learning moment. Really walk the walk. CC your own stuff. Point out the attributions of folks whose work you use. Explain. When you reserve all rights, that’s cool, too. Just explain.”
But if you want to get an unfiltered, raw reaction to the discussion, read the comments section of any one of the above posts. It will drive you to respond. It’s nothing short of fucking mind blowing.
Where do I stand?
First. I don’t know or pretend to know the law to stand for or against anyone with any sort of credibility or grounds. I don’t know if Fair Use applies here or not – and simply by reading the comments here, there, and everywhere, it seems that even the lawyers don’t agree.
I’m merely a photographer as well. While I mostly shoot for bub.blicio.us, my pictures have also run in other venues such as Wired, Infoworld, Valleywag, Blogger and Podcaster, among many, many other blogs and magazines. Each has been very professional and have always offered credit. And I appreciate it.
I do host my pictures on flickr. And, I do have each marked under Creative Commons, basically allowing everyone to use them freely, in exchange for a credit. Some get it right, many more get it wrong, and even more run my pictures without credit at all. Sometimes I reach out for correction, most of the time I just let it go. I just can’t chase everyone down.
I have thought about making it more clear on flickr on how to use the pictures, and most likely will soon. Scott Beale does a good job of this.
I’m not a professional photographer however. I don’t make my living by taking and selling pictures. I’m flattered when people do use my photos and my payment is in the form of satisfaction of seeing my stuff shared.
For me, photography is a very, very expensive hobby. And if you’re a professional, then purchasing and maintaining equipment is nothing short of the equivalent of a down payment on a home. Yes, it’s that expensive.
And it’s not just about the money or the equipment. Lane Hartwell, as well as Scott Beale, Thomas Hawk, Robert Scoble, and many others, are artists. Their pictures are inspirational and motivate me to experiment and explore new possibilities. But, art is valuable and artists are irreplaceable.
Lane has every right to request credit and stand up for what she feels is right. The protection of her work can not be minimized. Especially when people haven’t take her requests and pleas seriously along the way.
If you don’t like it, then don’t use her photos or those of anyone else who request credit.
To finish with Lane’s own words, “I’m not a charity…. This is my living.”
Here’s a little homage to Lane comprised of pictures I’ve taken over the last year:
Dylan Tweney of Wired
Joanne Wan of GigaOM
Update: Matthew Ingram offers a strong counter to Wired. It is also host to intriguing legal discussions in the comments section that bring light to the subject in ways that I don’t pretend to know . It’s worth a read and there is also a guest appearance from Michael Arrington wearing his legal hat.
Update 2: Arrington weighs in at TechCrunch.
Update 3: Lane Hartwell releases her official response.