Photographers Line Up Against Tech’s Biggest Brands to Say “Enough!”on December 5, 2014 at 5:22 pm
They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it any more.
Artists and photographers who display their work online, that is, only for others to waltz in and take it, make minor alterations, then market the resulting piece as their own. That’s certainly enough to make even the most zen of creative spirits come over all Howard Beale.
The case of Christopher Boffoli, a photographer based in Seattle, exemplifies this rekindled ire over copyright enforcement. Boffoli has so far sued Google, Twitter, and now Pinterest in his quest to protect his work, receiving settlements in the first two cases and with every chance of .
In his case the issue is a failure by Pinterest to comply with the creator’s DMCA takedown requests and the accusation is clear: if you’re not against those who take content without permission, hosting or guiding others to it positions you very much with them.
Boffoli’s case is not unique, except perhaps for his cast-iron will (and wallet) to take on some of the biggest brands in tech.
Every day the work of visual artists, movie makers and musicians is shared across social media without permission, or elevated in Google’s search results via the illegitimate torrents and file-sharing sites that play host. Sydney-based photographer Sheila Smart recounts a case in which a member of the Copyright Infringement Group on Facebook, of which she is a member, had hundreds of images taken by another so-called artist, who reworked them with basic filters in Photoshop then placed the barely altered images on sale and display. Such was the limited nature of the creativity in this case that a reverse search of the “new” work in Google Images found the originals immediately, allowing the creator to file the required DMCA takedown requests.
And back in the big leagues, Daniel Morel successfully sued some major media outlets for $1.2 million last year after his photographs were taken from Twitter without license. This hit media outlets as large as Agence-France Presse and the Washington Post,
The rapid expansion of technology has not only created this confusion over rights, but also seems to have removed a lot of the guilt from stealing. Now that no one is there to stop you, with a few quick clicks content can be appropriated and adapted or shared without thought for the source. In some cases this is a simple mistake, in others a willful infringement of copyright. In all cases it’s illegal and more must be done to educate and enlighten those who partake.
This is especially true of content like movies, which of course cost far more to make than a photograph but carry the same easy access that can take from the pockets of less wealthy creative talents. What everyone must realize is that it’s not the big stars you’re stealing from when you steal a movie but the thousands of creative support workers that make the movie business what it is. We’re talking principles here. Perhaps George Clooney can afford to lose a few bucks, but the vast majority of those impacted by piracy are people like you and me. Most of us are not George Clooney.
And it’s not just money, it’s also about control.
What most visual artists – indeed, all artists – want is what many of us take for granted, the right to do what you want to do with your property. Just because it’s intellectual property in digital form doesn’t make it any less property. The creative process takes a long time, not to mention the blood, sweat and soul that go into crafting something that others will enjoy.
Something that an artist creates is also something that she owns, and over which she should exert full control until those rights are voluntarily sold or waived. If more and more creators continue to stand up and speak out against the infringement they see, we might finally start to see their work given the legal respect it deserves.