Gone viral

My CNNgo piece on Digg

A selection of photos from my “Let the poets cry themselves to sleep” series recently appeared on the CNNgo site.
People started twittering about it, then someone Dugg it and it made it to the front page and then all hell broke loose.
It has been blogged on at least 30 blogs that I know about and probably many more that I don’t.
(I’m getting several Google Alert emails a day about it)

Half of me is flattered and a little ego boosted by the recognition, albeit a vaporous, intangible internet recognition.
The other half is pissed off at the massive infringement of my copyright.

Some of the bloggers have just downloaded all the photos from the CNNgo article plus some others from here and my site.
Thankfully most of them have at least had the courtesy to link to me, but not all of them.
I really don’t mind someone taking one of the photos if they are going to attribute it and link back to me, its all publicity for me, right?
But ALL of the photos, and some extras?? come on! that’s just not cricket!
It is in fact copyright infringement (all the photos on the CNNgo article and all the photos here are clearly marked as © and all rights reserved, is there something about that that people are having a little trouble understanding?)

A friend asked me on twitter how I felt about reblogging/curation culture, having been on the receiving end of it.

It got me thinking.

I recently posted some photos over on Magnesium (an agency I am a member of) which are part of a huge series I have been working on for over 3 years of the sticker art here in Tokyo.
All of those photos are pictures of other peoples work, work that they have put out in the street for all to see, I have come along and “curated” them.
The project is intended at some point to be a book (I’m currently looking for a publisher if anyone is interested), which raises the possibility that I may make a little money out of it at some point.
Making money of other peoples work……..

Hmmm…..that sounds a little like monetised blogs reblogging pictures from other sites that they wish to “curate”

(I know it’s not really the same (he says trying to convince himself) but you see where I’m going with this.)

Which leaves me with a dilemma. How exactly do I feel about all those people stealing curating my photos to promote their own blogs?

It’s an interesting question, not just for me but for all content creators and providers in this insanely interconnected world.

Print newspapers are by many accounts dead men walking, famous magazines are falling by the wayside every day and the guilty party was clearly average-joe’s-blog.com.
I can’t remember the last time I bought a newspaper or magazine out there in the real physical world, can you?
Photographers and photojournalists are finding it increasingly hard to make a living as it seems everyone with a DSLR is now a photographer or citizen journalist.
Large corporations search flickr and use the photos they find arguing that if you put them on flickr then you were giving them away, right?

I know that many photographers are feeling this pinch in their wallets (where it hurts most) and in their minds as they wrestle with the moving goal posts of digital culture.

Where exactly do we go from here?
How exactly we do we find a model which works for everyone, where photographers can still get paid for their work, but people can curate and reblog content?

I’m f%^ked if I know.

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  • Yeah, it’s a tough one. I think it’s important to separate things out in terms of the nature of the wrong and the harm done, otherwise you just end up looking like Metallica trying to sue the pants off spotty teenagers for downloading a few of their songs. At the end of the day, the financial profit that any bloggers are likely to make from reposting your shots is extremely minimal, so the problem is more with the blatant copyright infringement. Maybe they SHOULD have paid XX amount of dollars to use that photo, but realistically that was never going to happen. (If it’s a corporation ripping your stuff off to use in an ad campaign–well, that’s a whole different magnitude of shittiness.)

    A lot of it comes down to respect: you respect my rights, I’ll respect yours. Some record labels now get people to contact bloggers directly when they post a link to a leaked album–they’ll post a nice message asking them to take the link down, and normally it works. There are, of course, some blogs that seem to exist solely to get search engine hits, and I’m sure those are harder to deal with (and might require more severe measures). But as I said on Twitter, some people will do this without realising they’re doing anything wrong–ignorance, rather than malicious intent.

  • Matt

    What I’ve been waiting to see happen for over a decade now is a workable micro payments system for the internet. The free/ad supported web can’t last forever, and nor should it. Unfortunately micro payments aren’t an easy one to get going, for various reasons.

    Of course, micro payments solve the problem of getting money flowing through the network, but they don’t solve the problem of content theft. For that? I’m a fan of another one from the “too hard” basket: DRM.

    The problem with DRM though is that any implementation has to be open, used by everyone (not proprietary, thus locking people to specific systems), and needs to have allowances for fair use. To date almost all DRM has been closed, proprietary, and acted as though fair use didn’t exist.

    So… yeah, I think the solution is two next-to-impossible to get right technologies :)

  • i woke up thinking about this. like you say, “everyone with a DSLR is now a photographer or citizen journalist.” add a plane ticket, and you are a foreign correspondent. whereas before you had to put in years working at a local rag, slowly rise to the top, and then convince an editor that your story was worth approving. now you just go, shoot, post, and wait for the mob to approve. the result? so much chaff waiting to be winnowed. can this process be monetized? should it be monetized? i’m starting to think it shouldn’t.