September 16, 2006 · Lessig
Allen Sandquist is a photographer. He has a Flickr account. His photos are posted on the Flickr account under a CC Attribution-NonCommercial license. More than 8 months ago, he posted this very cool photo on his site:
The image generated a bunch of great comments.
Two weeks ago, Allen posted a comment about this picture:
That was published in AutoWeek on July 24, 2006. As you’ll notice, the second is a derivative of the first.
Allen wrote AutoWeek the following:
Hello Mr. Ross,
I’m a freelance photographer in Henderson, Nevada. A couple of nights ago, I was searching the web and found that a photograph that I had taken, was used by AutoWeek in the July 24, 2006 issue (“This Week’s Sign The Automotive Apocalypse Is Nigh”, see attached pictures). I was never contacted for permission to publish this picture and was not given credit as the photographer. I usually charge $250-$500 for commercially used images. I believe $250.00 would be sufficient for this example.
I am a fan of AutoWeek as my barber subscribes to the magazine. The articles are informative and the pictures are great.
AutoWeek’s Mir. Ross responded:
Mr. Sandquist, this image was obtained through the savethe76ball.com uncredited and in public domain. Our customary payment for this type of shot is $50.
A friend of Allen then tried to intervene by writing to AutoWeek. Mr. Ross again replied to Allen:
At this point I am advised that I must see a Copy Right Registration for the photo in question before any payment can be considered.
Ok, so where’s Jack Valenti when you need him?
First, as the author of “savethe76ball.com” confirmed to Allen in an email, “they didn’t get your pic off our site!”
Second, there is an almost zero chance this photo is “in the public domain.” The only possible photos of the “76 ball” that could be in the public domain (at least without a public domain dedication) are those taken before 1978. I take it few 76 stations were selling gas at $2.19/gallion before 1977.
Finally, as a photo editor at AutoWeek certainly knows, Allen’s copyright in this image does not depend upon his registering the work with the copyright office. His copyright is automatic. So the idea that AutoWeek would say in effect “we’ll pay you $50 for a photo after you spend $45 to register it” is to add insult to injury.
Mr. Ross needs some educating at least about decency, and perhaps about copyright law (though I suspect he knows well enough that what he did here was wrong). The license Allen published his photo under says (1) don’t use this for commercial purposes without asking me, and (2) give me credit. AutoWeek did neither. Perhaps others would like to help Mr. Ross understand why that’s just wrong. He’s at kross at crain dot com.