In April of last year, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art held a two day summit on the topic of “Is Photography Over?“. The panel discussions from the summit featured some pretty notable names from the industry, and generated quite a bit of discussion once they were shared online. In response, Conscientious editor Jörg Colberg made this humorous tongue-in-cheek video introducing a new color coded threat level advisory system as a quick and easy way of staying up to date with how over photography is.
The rise of microstock and the fact that anyone with a camera can sell cheap photos has done a lot to devalue stock photography, but is the same thing happening to the photojournalism industry? Paul Melcher says that the industry is headed in that direction:
Forget the photo agency as an agent of talented photojournalists. The key now is to have a lot of contributors worldwide and hope that one will be at the right place at the right time. With photographers everywhere chances you will get the right image at the right time will increase, like buying a lot of lottery tickets.
In the film age, the cost of film, processing, shipment was too prohibitive. Now, you can receive and store million of images for a buck or two.
[…] Thus, taking a queue from the microstock model, photojournalism is now switching to the volume based model. While profitable for a photo agency, it is devastating for photojournalism and photographers themselves.
The story is the same: as technology makes photography and the distribution of photographs easier to do, the buyers of photographs win and the producers of photographs lose.
If a stranger suddenly grabs your camera and takes a photograph, who owns the copyright to that photograph? Photographer Mirjam Letsch writes,
Walking in an Indian bazaar, my Nikon dangling on my shoulder, this boy quickly clicked five times. I really liked the creative result when I later saw these images! Don’t know who owns the copyright though!
This might seem like a pretty farfetched example, but what about a case where you carefully set up and compose a fine art photograph, then for some reason ask a stranger to press the shutter for you?
A photograph is a mechanical representation of facts. This is unlike a painting, which is a non-mechanical representation of something—be it facts, such as an attempt to paint an outdoor scene or create a portrait of someone, or imagination in the form of how the artist sees the world, such as the Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night painting. Paintings, therefore, are pure expressions of ideas or facts. Photographs, however, are mechanical expressions of facts.
[…] extending copyright protection beyond the mechanical copying of a photograph (i.e., scanning it and sending it to all your friends) is extending copyrights in photographs too far. The expression of a photograph cannot be separated from its factual reproduction of actual events. Attempting to do so leads to absurd results.
Therefore, a bright-line rule should reserve copyright protection in photographs only for the reproduction of those photographs. Copyright protection should not extend to the elements within the photographs themselves—doing so results in copyrighting facts, which is beyond the scope of copyright law.
It’s a pretty length piece, but well worth a read. What’s your opinion on this issue? Should the elements within a photograph be covered by copyright protection?
The debate regarding what makes a photograph “truthful” or not is probably as old as the art of photography itself. By sheer coincidence, there were a couple interesting articles published today on this issue, and written from two different points-of-view. Read more…
Ever wonder why certain people always seem to engage in meaningless Canon vs Nikon vs et al. camera brand debates at every opportunity? A recent study conducted at the University of Illinois has found that the more knowledge and experience you have with a particular brand, the stronger your self-esteem is tied to it. Ars Technica writes,
Those who had high self-brand connections (SBC)—that is, those who follow, research, or simply like a certain brand—were the ones whose self esteem suffered the most when their brands didn’t do well or were criticized. Those with low SBC remained virtually unaffected on a personal level.
The residual effect of this is that those with high SBCs tend to discount negative news about their favorite brands, and sometimes even ignore it altogether in favor of happier thoughts.
So that’s why feathers are so easily ruffled when camera brands are bashed…
503.03 Works not capable of supporting a copyright claim.
Claims to copyright in the following works cannot be registered in the Copyright Office:
503.03(a) Works-not originated by a human author.
In order to be entitled to copyright registration, a work must be the product of human authorship. Works produced by mechanical processes or random selection without any contribution by a human author are not registrable. Thus, a linoleum floor covering featuring a multicolored pebble design which was produced by a mechanical process in unrepeatable, random patterns, is not registrable. Similarly, a work owing its form to the forces of nature and lacking human authorship is not registrable; thus, for example, a piece of driftwood even if polished and mounted is not registrable.
Is a photograph taken by a monkey the product of human authorship? On one hand, the monkey pressed the shutter, but you also can’t argue that a human author didn’t contribute, since they had to have provided the camera in the first place (unless the monkey stole it or something…). TechDirt believes the photos are in the public domain.
Nikon has a support page for people who wonder why the company hasn’t added sensor-shift image stabilization to its DSLRs. The first point is that stabilizing the image before it enters the camera allows the user to see exactly what the sensor “sees” through the viewfinder, and allows the autofocus and metering sensors to take advantage of this stabilized image as well. Secondly, they state that they can optimize the system for each lens to achieve finely tuned stabilization that gains extra stops of light over sensor-based systems.
CNBC ran this short segment a couple days ago in which they invited CNET’s Dan Ackerman to explain the changing landscape in the digital camera industry. He thinks point-and-shoot cameras may soon become extinct due to the rise of camera-equipped phones, but also that DSLRs are the cameras here to stay. A recent study found that phones have replaced digital cameras completely for 44% of consumers, and that number seems bound to rise as the cameras on phones continue to improve.
My guess is that in five years, we’ll see digital camera users divided into three camps: mobile phone, interchangeable lens compact, and DSLR. What’s your prediction?