Friday, May 01, 2009

Ryan Pyle Blog: Losing 12,640 images at US$7 per Image


I know this topic has already made it's way around the blogs, but I'm still disgusted by the ruling. The "A Photo Editor" Blog reported a few weeks back that photographer Chris Usher was in a legal battle with Corbis, who somehow misplaced some 12, 640 negatives. Now, it turns out this Chris won this case in November 2007, and the exact compensation was supposed to be declared at a later date, but it was ruled that Corbis was at fault. Well, the compensation decided was US$7 per image; in other words Chris lost his appeal for greater compensation.

While US$7 per image, or US$88,000 may seem like a lot of money to some folks, it is peanuts for what 12,640 strong images can earn in the right image archive over 10 or 20 years. It's not uncommon to sell a stock image for US$200 to a publication, and then the next month sell it again for US$150 to another publication. So the life span of an image, and the income a photographer can earn from that, is a long long time. Which is one reason why we work so damn hard.

This ruling now basically gives precedence to any further ruling of a similar kind. That basically means that any magazine, newspaper or agency that asks you to hand over your negatives can neglect to care for them and basically get away with it with a slap on the wrist, or US$7 per image - which is peanuts.

I can't tell you how disgusted this ruling makes me feel. Everywhere I turn in the last few months I just see photographers taking a shit kicking.

I've had magazines in the past ask me for my negatives and I've blatantly refused on every occasion; and this kind of case just reinforces my decision. My negatives are my negatives, and if a court of law isn't going to bother protecting a photographers negatives from poor business practice, poor organization and complete disregard, then you should never hand them over - ever.

No one is going to care for your negatives as well as you do, so passing them over to someone else just opens the door for an accident to happen. Hold your negatives dear to your heart, and never let them go unless someone is willing to pry them out of your cold, dead hand. Isn't that the slogan from the National Rifles Association?

Extreme, perhaps. Like I said with my opening, I'm disgusted by this ruling, and it's embarrassing to an agency like Corbis which was created to protect image rights and share in the profit, with photographers, of properly managing the rights to large image archives.

Blackstar have a some great background on the case on their BLOG. Enjoy the read. And, do you know where your negatives are tonight? Bloody nightmare.

Ryan Pyle

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Ryan Pyle