De La Soul Is Back

3 Feet High And Rising

This morning I was pleased to see that De La Soul had resolved the legal issues with their old label, and had regained control over their music.

3 Feet High And Rising has always been one of my favorite hip-hop LPs since I first heard it on a girlfriend’s cassette circa 1989. I have De La Soul music on CD and vinyl, so I have been listening to it all these years, but I’m glad they finally got their own music back, and are able to release it on the various streaming platforms like Apple Music.

Rachel Brodsky, Uproxx reports:

Legendary hip-hop trio De La Soul — Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo — have been locked in a battle with Tommy Boy Music for years to regain control of their masters. Now, according to Talib Kweli, it’s mission accomplished for The Plugs.

“After years of being taken advantage by the recording industry in the worst possible ways, De La Soul now owns all the rights to their masters and is in full control of the amazing music they have created,” Kweli wrote in an Instagram post over the weekend, writing that Maseo had confirmed the news. “Let’s salute Plugs 1, 2 and 3 for sticking to their guns and showing us that we can all beat the system if we come together as a community. Let’s hear it for black ownership of black art! Congratulations fellas.”

The news may not come as a huge surprise, since just two months ago, Reservoir Media acquired the Tommy Boy for close to $100 million. They also gained ownership of Tommy Boy’s catalog, which includes six De La Soul albums: 3 Feet High And Rising (1989), De La Soul Is Dead (1991), and Buhloone Mindstate (1993), Stakes Is High (1996), Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (2000), and AOI: Bionix (2001). A spokesperson for Reservoir also confirmed that the new label ownership would mean that De La Soul’s catalog would at last come to streaming platforms. “We have already reached out to De La Soul and will work together to the bring the catalog and the music back to the fans,” a Reservoir rep told Variety.

(click here to continue reading De La Soul Have Finally Gained Control Of Their Masters, According To Talib Kweli.)

Play De Record

Rolling Stone had some back story on one of the impedements:

De La Soul vs. The Turtles (1991)

“Transmitting Live From Mars,” by De La Soul (1989) vs. “You Showed Me,” by the Turtles (written by Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark) (1969)

The Case: The hip-hop collective De La Soul built their masterpiece 3 Feet High and Rising from a vast library of samples spanning genres, languages and decades. At a time when sampling was relatively new (and relatively lawless), not all of the snippets received the proper clearance. Among these was a 12-second segment from the Turtles’ 1969 song “You Showed Me,” used on the interlude skit “Transmitting Live From Mars.” Former Turtles Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman leveled a $2.5 million lawsuit at Prince Paul and company in 1991. “Sampling is just a longer term for theft,” Volman told the L.A. Times. “Anybody who can honesty say sampling is some sort of creativity has never done anything creative.” Ironically, the song was written by none of the Turtles, but instead by Roger McGuinn and Gene Clark of the Byrds.

The Verdict: The case was settled out of court, with Volman and Kaylan netting a sum reportedly as high as $1.7 million. De La Soul claim they never paid that much.

Why It Matters: Rap artists believed this ruling set a dangerous precedent that would bankrupt them due to licensing or legal fees and would ultimately destroy hip-hop. The case precipitated a steady decline in sampling as labels grappled with the financial and logistical headaches of ensuring all artists were properly paid and credited. Heavily sampled albums like 3 Feet High would likely be impossible to make today.

(click here to continue reading Songs on Trial: 12 Landmark Music Copyright Cases – Rolling Stone.)

DNA Chicago Uses My Photo of Casa Aztlan Mural Without Crediting Me

Casa Aztlan
Casa Aztlan

I realize that I did not paint Ray Patlan’s Casa Aztlan mural, but I did photograph it, and now DNA Chicago and other entities are using my photograph on their website without crediting me. The author of this article is Stephanie Lulay, who I’m sure will rectify the situation, eventually. I imagine this is just an oversight, and not malicious.

For instance, in reporting the news that Ray Patlan’s mural has been painted over, but now the original muralist is willing to come back and re-paint his work:

PILSEN — After an iconic mural was painted over in Pilsen earlier this month, the developer responsible for the change has promised to bring back the mural’s original artist to re-create it.

Workers painted over the mural that adorned the former Casa Aztlan community center facade at 1831 S. Racine Ave., a storied artwork created by artist Ray Patlan and Pilsen students more than 45 years ago. The incident sparked outrage in the neighborhood known for its public art and murals.

(click here to continue reading After Casa Aztlan Mural Painted Over, Artist Will Return To Re-create It – Pilsen – DNAinfo Chicago.)

DNA Chicago uses this photo, credited to Pilsen Allian, and Facebook/Ricardo Gamboa:

DNA Chicago uses my photo without crediting me

Notice the area in red: if you make the photos bigger, you will see a white chair in front of an area being repainted.

During the time I took this photo, and uploaded to Flickr (with Creative Commons license, albeit, “Some Rights Reserved”) I did not use a watermark. Incidents like this one are so common, I started signing all my photos.

One reason this copyright infringement sticks in my craw is that DNAInfo is owned by wealthy businessman Joe Ricketts, founder of TD Ameritrade, owner of the Chicago Cubs, and a noted Donald Trump supporter. If the Ricketts can afford the luxury of owning a major league sports team, you’d think they could be a little more careful with copyright.

No Corporate Welfare for The Ricketts
No Corporate Welfare for The Ricketts

Bonus: a couple more photos of the mural. I’m happy Ray Patlan is coming back to recreate this iconic artwork.

Che Guevara - Detail at Casa Aztlan Community Center
Che Guevara – Detail at Casa Aztlan Community Center

Detail at Casa Aztlan Community Center
Detail at Casa Aztlan Community Center

Apple, in Seeming Jab at Spotify, Proposes Simpler Songwriting Royalties

The Music Kept Playing
The Music Kept Playing

More skirmishes in the continuing battle between corporate behemoths…

Apple, in a government filing on Friday, proposed simplifying the highly complex way that songwriting royalties are paid when it comes to on-demand streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and Tidal.

According to Apple’s proposal, made with the Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of federal judges who oversee rates in the United States, streaming services should pay 9.1 cents in songwriting royalties for every 100 times a song is played. This formula would replace the long passages of federal rules for streaming rates, which often leave musicians bewildered about just how the money flows in streaming music.

Apple’s filing was made as part of a proceeding by the Copyright Royalty Board to set statutory rates for downloads and interactive streaming services from 2018 to 2022. Spotify, Google, Pandora, Amazon and the Recording Industry Association of America were all expected to file their proposals by Friday, but the panel has not yet made the filings public.

Although the bulk of Apple’s proposal with the Copyright Royalty Board is confined to three brief paragraphs, it would have wide implications if it were adopted. Songwriting rates paid by interactive streaming services like Spotify are now governed by a byzantine system that includes a division between what are known as mechanical and performance royalties for the same songs. Apple’s proposal would cover all songwriting royalties with the same rate. (Royalties for recordings are accounted separately.)

What Apple does not say in its filing, however, is that the statutory rates it proposes would not apply to its own services. When the company introduced Apple Music last year, it struck direct deals with music publishers at rates that are slightly higher than usual.

(click here to continue reading Apple, in Seeming Jab at Spotify, Proposes Simpler Songwriting Royalties – The New York Times.)

Phil Entering Around Again Records
Phil Entering Around Again Records

Streaming services like Spotify, Pandora et al, do seem to rely upon underpaying artists, or figuring out schemes to avoid payment at all. If musicians cannot make a living creating music, there won’t be any, other than vanity projects, and top 40 bullshit. But then I’m a curmudgeon who still purchases all my music in hard-copy and don’t subscribe to any of these services.

Did Led Zeppelin steal a riff for Stairway to Heaven

Led Zeppelin poster
 Led Zeppelin’s latest trial is going before a federal court.

The common ground between “Stairway to Heaven” and “Taurus” largely comes down to a 10-second musical theme that appears 45 seconds into “Taurus,” an instrumental from the band’s 1968 debut album, which is similar to the opening acoustic guitar pattern on “Stairway.” That song was released three years before “Stairway to Heaven” surfaced on Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album, commonly referred to as “Led Zeppelin IV.”

Zeppelin surviving members Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones and their legal team are expected to argue that the similarity is nothing more than coincidence between musicians working in a field rooted in commonly used and re-used musical ideas. Or they may attempt to cite earlier precursors to both songs from the public domain, which could render moot the Wolfe estate’s copyright claim.

“It’s a tough one to call,” says singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, whose 1960s band Fairport Convention helped pioneer the merger of traditional British folk music with the amplified energy of rock ’n’ roll that Led Zeppelin took to its apotheosis in the 1970s.

“They were on the same bill together before [Zeppelin guitarist] Jimmy Page wrote ‘Stairway,’ there’s that,” Thompson said, referring to the Wolfe estate’s claiming that because the two bands played shows together in the late 1960s, and that Spirit often included “Taurus” in those shows, Zeppelin’s members at least had the opportunity to have heard the song.

“On the other hand,” Thompson said, “it’s not an uncommon riff, and the melody not that unusual.”

Guitarist Laurence Juber, who used to play with Paul McCartney’s band Wings, noted that the opening progression can be heard in a 16th century sonata for guitar, violin and strings by Italian composer Giovanni Battista Granata.

“The reality is that to have a descending bass line with an A minor chord on top of it is a common musical device.”

Because of the statute of limitations, the Wolfe estate is only able to seek revenue produced by “Stairway” since 2011, or the three years before the latest remastered version was released in 2014. But going forward, any percentage of monies coming out of sales or airplay of the song could add up to a significant windfall for the estate of Wolfe, who drowned in Hawaii in 1997 while rescuing his son from a strong undertow.


(click here to continue reading Did Led Zeppelin steal a riff for ‘Stairway to Heaven’? A court will decide – LA Times.)

I am a fan of Led Zeppelin, enough so that I’ve purchased all their albums on multiple formats, or editions. That said, for a long time, I usually skip Stairway to Heaven – I’ve just heard it way too many times.

Zeppelin and Jimmy Page have borrowed heavily from previous artists, people like Willie Dixon, Memphis Minnie, etc. Did they borrow a bit of Spirit’s Taurus? The decending riff does sound similar, but it is not unique. In fact, the sonata for guitar by Granata, below, does sound quite similar too, and it’s from the 16th century.

Extremely similar to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”; the arpeggio can be heard at 0:32 in this 17th Century Composition titled “Sonata di Chittarra, e Violino, con il suo Basso Continuo” by Giovanni Battista Granata.

Guitar performance by Stephen Stubbs.

Or this Davy Graham guitar from 1959’s “Cry Me A River”

Guitarist Davy Graham playing Cry Me A River, as captured in a 1959 BBC documentary directed by Ken Russell on the rise in popularity of the guitar in Britain.

And why did Randy Spirit not file a lawsuit while alive? Once he died, then his family’s estate went after Led Zeppelin. 

I guess we’ll see.

Why Politicians Keep Using Songs Without Artists’ Permission

Music Monday continues with the never-ending struggle of Republicans to drape themselves with the coolness of liberal-leaning rock musicians, and failing to secure permission first…

Don't Say I Never Warned You
Don’t Say I Never Warned You

Technically speaking, copyright laws allow political candidates to use just about any song they want, as long as they’re played at a stadium, arena or other venue that already has a public-performance license through a songwriters’ association such as ASCAP or BMI. However, the law contains plenty of gray area. If a candidate refuses to stop using a song in this scenario, an artist may be able to protect his “right of publicity” – Springsteen’s voice blaring over a loudspeaker is part of his image, and he has a right to protect his own image. “It’s untested in the political realm,” says Lawrence Iser, an intellectual-property lawyer who has represented the Beatles, Michael Jackson and many others. “Even if Donald Trump has the ASCAP right to use a Neil Young song, does Neil have the right to nevertheless go after him on right of publicity? I say he does.”

Iser represented David Byrne when the ex-Talking Head successfully sued Florida Republican Charlie Crist for using “Road to Nowhere” in a video to attack opponent Marco Rubio during a 2010 U.S. Senate campaign. He also helped Jackson Browne win a suit against John McCain in 2008 when the Republican presidential candidate played “Running on Empty” in an ad bashing Barack Obama on gas conservation.

(click here to continue reading Why Politicians Keep Using Songs Without Artists’ Permission | Rolling Stone.)

Google Shutting Google News in Spain

Ride Smarter
Ride Smarter on the Google Train.

I wonder how this new development will play out. Will the traffic plummet for Spanish publications? Or will it not matter? And how exactly does Google News move past this trend of European countries1 demanding Google pay for fair use inclusion? Does this relate to blogging Fair Use?

Google Inc. said Wednesday it will shut its Google News service in Spain because a new law will require the company to pay publishers for displaying any portion of their work.

In a blog post, Google said it also will remove Spanish publishers from the service.

The legislation, which takes effect in January, requires Spanish publishers to charge services like Google News for showing excerpts or snippets from their publications, Google said.

“As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable,” Richard Gingras, head of Google News, wrote in a blog. He said the service will close Dec. 16.

(click here to continue reading Google Shutting Google News in Spain – WSJ.)

From Google’s Europe Blog:

[Google News is] a service that hundreds of millions of users love and trust, including many here in Spain. It’s free to use and includes everything from the world’s biggest newspapers to small, local publications and bloggers. Publishers can choose whether or not they want their articles to appear in Google News — and the vast majority choose to be included for very good reason. Google News creates real value for these publications by driving people to their websites, which in turn helps generate advertising revenues.

But sadly, as a result of a new Spanish law, we’ll shortly have to close Google News in Spain. Let me explain why. This new legislation requires every Spanish publication to charge services like Google News for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications, whether they want to or not. As Google News itself makes no money (we do not show any advertising on the site) this new approach is simply not sustainable. So it’s with real sadness that on 16 December (before the new law comes into effect in January) we’ll remove Spanish publishers from Google News, and close Google News in Spain.

For centuries publishers were limited in how widely they could distribute the printed page. The Internet changed all that — creating tremendous opportunities but also real challenges for publishers as competition both for readers’ attention and for advertising Euros increased. We’re committed to helping the news industry meet that challenge and look forward to continuing to work with our thousands of partners globally, as well as in Spain, to help them increase their online readership and revenues.

(click here to continue reading Google Europe Blog.)

Daily News
Daily News

Germany already has some data on how well it works, we’ll soon see if politicians are getting angry phone calls from media websites:

A German law now requires Google to secure the rights to publish any content other than links to articles and headlines. Google refused to pay for those rights, but gave publishers a choice: offer them free or face the removal of snippets and thumbnails from its services like Google News.

German media giant Axel Springer , a Google critic, demanded payment from Google for a time this fall. But Axel granted Google a free license when traffic from Google News and Google’s search engine plunged.

“I imagine the news outlets for which the law was designed will start to miss the traffic that Google sent their way,” said Colin Sebastian, an analyst at R.W. Baird.

I’ve long used Google News as a primary jumping off point to read news sites, for what it’s worth…

  1. and Rupert Murdoch companies []

Disgust With Yahoo’s Use of Flickr Photos Without Compensation Of Artists Or Even Permission

Every Story Has A Moral
Every Story Has A Moral.

I’m surprised by the tone-deaf procedure here. Yahoo is pissing off a lot of their content providers. Part of the problem though is that not everyone understands the nuances of Creative Commons.

But she’s not happy about a recent move by Yahoo Inc., Flickr’s owner, to make canvas prints from the photos she and others post to the site, sell them for up to $49 apiece and keep all of the profits.

“It ticked me off that somebody else is selling them when I was giving them away,” said Ms. West, a retired writer in Boxborough, Mass., who goes by “Muffet” on Flickr.

Ms. West is among millions of contributors to the Creative Commons, an online repository of images and writings that their creators allow others to reuse and repurpose, free, under certain conditions. Artists can specify, for example, whether their works can be used for commercial purposes and ensure they receive credit in any derivative work.

(click here to continue reading Fight Over Yahoo’s Use of Flickr Photos – WSJ.)

Yahoo should add getting explicit permission from the artist to this new policy. Yahoo should also share some of the revenue with the artists, even if it was a small amount. If they did those two things, I’d be more supportive. 

There Is Nothing Really To Turn Off
There Is Nothing Really To Turn Off.

For me, this is why I almost always upload photos with a watermark, and resize my photos so they are less than one MB in size. I doubt very much if my low-res jpeg files would be acceptable enough quality when printed, but I’ve never tried, so I could be wrong. 

I also agree with Nelson Lourenço 1,000,000 percent: I don’t mind my photo being used to illustrate blog posts or even news articles, in fact I like it, provided proper credit is given; however, selling prints of my work without sharing the proceeds sounds like exploitation to me. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.

Yahoo’s plan to sell the images appears “a little shortsighted,” said Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who left the company in 2008. “It’s hard to imagine the revenue from selling the prints will cover the cost of lost goodwill.”

The Wall Street Journal contacted 14 photographers with Creative Commons-licensed works on Flickr. Eight said they didn’t object to Yahoo’s move and are happy to get additional exposure for their work. “Any amateur photographer would love to have his or her photos hanging on walls around the world,” Andreas Overland, a Flickr user in Oslo, Norway, said in an email.

Six others objected to the company profiting from their works.

“When I accepted the Creative Commons license, I understood that my images could be used for things like showing up in articles or other works where they could be showed to public,” Nelson Lourenço, a photographer in Lisbon, Portugal, said in an email. Yahoo “selling my work and getting the full money out of it came as a surprise,” he said.

(click here to continue reading Fight Over Yahoo’s Use of Flickr Photos – WSJ.)

It isn’t that hard to change your Creative Commons license but again, you’ll have to first do a little research into what the terms mean, as Yahoo doesn’t explain the differences well enough for casual photographers.

Site of the Doctors' Commons
Site of the Doctors’ Commons

Update, of course Thomas Hawk beat me it, writing:

I think it’s important that each photographer fully understand how the license that they are using with their photos online works. It is first and foremost the photographer’s responsibility to understand licensing. Creative Commons is a wonderful and liberal way to share your photos. It’s not for everyone though. You choose how your photos are licensed on Flickr though. By default Flickr licenses images “all rights reserved,” the most restrictive license available. So only photographers who have gone in and changed their license to a more liberal license would be affected by this.

I license my images Creative Commons Non-Commercial. This is one of several variations of the Creative Commons license. This means that people can use my images for personal use or non-profit organizations can use them, but folks like Yahoo/Flickr and others can’t sell them commercially without my permission.

If you are going to license your photos Creative Commons with no restriction, then you ought to be prepared for this type of use. If it’s not Flickr selling them, anyone else can, legally. If you are uncomfortable with this idea, then you should not use Creative Commons without any sort of restriction. If you like the idea of Creative Commons but are uncomfortable with commercial use without being compensated, then consider changing your license to Creative Commons Non-Commercial like I license mine.

I think a lot of people though don’t consider the full implications of the license that they choose and like Stewart I wonder if the revenue is worth potential lost goodwill in this case. Some people will inevitably be put off when they see that the community (and Flickr is as much a community as a company) that is hosting their photos for them is now selling them without sharing the profit or asking for permission. Reminding people to read the fine print of their photo license that they chose without really considering it thoughtfully might not be the best answer to that complaint. People on Flickr LOVE to complain about anything and everything.

(click here to continue reading Thomas Hawk Digital Connection » Blog Archive » The Controversy Around Flickr Selling Creative Commons Licensed Photos.)

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

This Way To Prosperity
This Way To Prosperity

If you recall, for a while I blogged the requests I received to use my art without compensation. I’ve been lax in documenting them lately, but make no mistake, not a month doesn’t go by without someone requesting something, sans payment.

Obviously, this is a frequent problem. Tim Kreider begins his rant on the subject thus:

NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.

A familiar figure in one’s 20s is the club owner or event promoter who explains to your band that they won’t be paying you in money, man, because you’re getting paid in the far more valuable currency of exposure. This same figure reappears over the years, like the devil, in different guises — with shorter hair, a better suit — as the editor of a Web site or magazine, dismissing the issue of payment as an irrelevant quibble and impressing upon you how many hits they get per day, how many eyeballs, what great exposure it’ll offer. “Artist Dies of Exposure” goes the rueful joke.

(click here to continue reading Slaves of the Internet, Unite! –

For A Drop of Blood, It Could Be Bought
For A Drop of Blood, It Could Be Bought

Mr. Kreider continues:

I’ve been trying to understand the mentality that leads people who wouldn’t ask a stranger to give them a keychain or a Twizzler to ask me to write them a thousand words for nothing. I have to admit my empathetic imagination is failing me here. I suppose people who aren’t artists assume that being one must be fun since, after all, we do choose to do it despite the fact that no one pays us. They figure we must be flattered to have someone ask us to do our little thing we already do.

I will freely admit that writing beats baling hay or going door-to-door for a living, but it’s still shockingly unenjoyable work. I spent 20 years and wrote thousands of pages learning the trivial craft of putting sentences together. My parents blew tens of thousands of 1980s dollars on tuition at a prestigious institution to train me for this job. They also put my sister the pulmonologist through medical school, and as far as I know nobody ever asks her to perform a quick lobectomy — doesn’t have to be anything fancy, maybe just in her spare time, whatever she can do would be great — because it’ll help get her name out there.

 and then concludes with a more succinct version of the refusal than one I linked to a couple years ago:

Here, for public use, is my very own template for a response to people who offer to let me write something for them for nothing:

Thanks very much for your compliments on my [writing/illustration/whatever thing you do]. I’m flattered by your invitation to [do whatever it is they want you to do for nothing]. But [thing you do] is work, it takes time, it’s how I make my living, and in this economy I can’t afford to do it for free. I’m sorry to decline, but thanks again, sincerely, for your kind words about my work.

Feel free to amend as necessary. This I’m willing to give away.

No You Cannot Use My Photo for Free Part 89

 A/k/a Black Card Magazine wants free Photos.

Chicago Dog
Chicago Dog

I’ve gotten lazy about blogging the periodic requests to use my photos in a commercial setting without compensation. I have no concern with websites or blogs using my photos, even quasi-commercial sites like Chicagoist, Curbed Chicago, or the like, as long as these usages don’t require payment to view. In my reasoning, I get benefit from such exposure, not to mention I read most of these sites anyway, or could. However, printed use is different: the targeted audience has to pay a fee to read the magazine or book, thus I should get a slice of the pie. Does this make sense?

There have been several such inquiries since I last mentioned the subject, such as yesterday, when I received this email, marked URGENT.

I work as a writer for Black Card magazine. We are doing a feature on America’s Best Street Foods and we want to feature The Wiener’s Circle in Chicago.

They don’t have any images of their hot dogs, but I found the one on your flickr page. Was wondering if you might be willing to let us publish it in exchange for a photo credit in the article and a free copy of the magazine?

We are on an urgent deadline.


My first reaction was irritation at the forced urgency. Why do I have to rush to respond? I’m not the one who waited until the last minute to secure photographic rights for a story assigned months ago. An admission: I’m that guy on the highway who slows down when drivers tailgate me. Especially if I’m driving by myself, I’ll block irritating drivers from passing me for twenty minutes (alternatively slowing down and speeding up, as traffic changes) or longer. Unless you have a flashing siren on your vehicle, I doubt sincerely your time is any more valuable than mine, and no, I won’t get out of your way if you are rude. Of course, if Illinois caves in, and allows concealed handguns to be carried, I may alter my behavior. Probably not though. I hate being told to hurry up. I have enough deadlines of my own without incorporating yours as well.

Secondly, Black Card Magazine is a trade publication solely for the upper echelon – for instance, American Express’s Centurion Card, which requires cardholders willing to pay an annual fee of $2,500 just to have the card, plus a $7,500 application fee. Not for the peons, in other words. American Express had an operating income of $33,800,000,000 last year, I think they could afford to pay photographers if they chose to.

Wieners Circle Rages at the Dying of the Light
Wieners Circle Rages at the Dying of the Light

So I replied that I would be happy to allow one-time usage of my photograph for the fee of $800. I’m not holding my breath for a response (it’s been 24 hours).

the Wieners Family Crest
the Wieners Family Crest

Mmm Crunchy Chicago Dogs
Mmm Crunchy Chicago Dogs

No You Cannot Use My Photo for Free Part 88

Gate - Buckingham Palace
Gate – Buckingham Palace

While on vacation, I received this email: 

Hi Seth, As with many, I am captivated by the quality of your work!

I am a professor writing an ebook on “Chasing Wisdom” and would like your permission to use your work entitled “Gate – Buckingham Palace” as a photograph in my book.

I propose the following credit line: Photograph used by permission. Copyrighted by Seth Anderson.

Of course, please propose a credit line of your preference if you so choose.

Thank you

 I responded:

Thank you for your consideration. My normal rate is $800 (US) for a one-time usage fee. If this is something you would consider, please send me a purchase order, and I’ll invoice you and send you the image.

Please consider that I am self-employed, and responsible for all my own costs (health insurance, electricity, and so on), and thus am not interested in working without compensation.

I’ve written more on that topic a few times, including here:


An ebook often has lower costs associated with its creation, perhaps I would consider a lower fee as well, but we shall see if I get a response. Ideally, I would take the time to create a form letter from these various requests, but I never seem to get around to it. 

Parenthetically, the referenced photo is ok, but I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites. I’m sure there are many, many similar photos of the Buckingham Palace Gate taken every day.


Part 85

Part 86

Part 87 



Thank you very much for your reply. Unfortunately, there is not budget for such permissions. I’ll look for another source.


The Atlantic credits my photo to someone else

I have a Google alert for the Haymarket Riot, so noticed that the Atlantic blogged about it. Unfortunately, for some reason, some one else was credited for use of my photo.…

If you look at the photo, it still has my copyright embedded in the EXIF data, and there is my signature! I wonder if this guy has used my photo elsewhere too?

I contacted both the author, Emily Badger and Yoni Goldstein. Let’s see how long it takes to correct the record.

Here is the original photo…

Police Dispersing the Crowd at Haymarket Riot 125

No You Cannot Use My Photo for Free Part 85

Asking me to give you my photo for free is not about the money, really, it is about the respect that currency is afforded. If you are asking me for my photograph for free, you are not respecting my art. Not always, but usually, free goods and services are considered of lesser value than goods and services you pay for.

Imagine a world renowned chef going to his corner grocery store – not a chain grocery store, but a small independently operated grocery store, or even better, a booth at a Farmer’s Market – and asking for free produce.

The chef says, “I’m planning on creating a prix fixe event at my restaurant, and sell reservations for $150 each, plus tip and beverage, tax and so on. There will be 13 dishes served in all, and I’d like to feature your delicious organically grown carrots in one or two of them. I won’t pay you a dime, but on the menu, I’ll mention where the carrots were grown, if I have room.” 

Would you accept this deal? Would this pay for your growing costs? Your water? Your soil? Your time pulling weeds? For renting a booth at the Farmer’s Market? For your crop growing expertise? Granted the chef has put his own labor into the menu, and he could get flavorless carrots from Costco instead of using your carrots, but would mentioning your name be enough compensation? Would you get business from the guests who went to the restaurant and happened to notice your name in small print?

I say no, and would politely tell the chef to grow his own damn carrots.

Back to the topic on my mind, a couple of months ago, I got a request for usage of this photo:

 Borscht - Russian Tea Time

Borscht – Russian Tea Time – not sure how this goes with hockey, maybe some Russian connection?

The email read…

I would like to feature one of your Flickr photos in my new hockey book. I’m very impressed with the quality and spirit of your photos – they would look great in print!

About me: I am an established sports writer from Toronto. This will be my eighth hockey project. My others include [REDACTED list of 7 books]. My next book, [REDACTED], will focus on NHL team history and fan culture. It will be in stores in the fall of 2012.

In order to use your image, I will need confirmation that the photo was taken by you. In exchange for permission to use your photo, I will of course formally credit you in the book and can also recommend your work on Flickr, your blog, Linkedin, etc. Please just let me know exactly how you’d like your credit to appear (usual format: Name/Flickr).

Please let me know as soon as possible, as my deadline for your approval is in the next couple of weeks. If you are willing to grant permission and release for your photo, I would need you to please provide an original high-resolution version of the photo along with notification of your permission to reproduce and publish the image.

I am happy to provide more details, so please don’t hesitate to email me with any questions.

I responded:

Yes, I took the photo (at a Russian Tea Room in Chicago). My normal rates for inclusion in a book is $800 (US), plus a copy of the finished work. At this stage, working for free does not interest me, as I have to eat, pay health insurance, pay for my photo equipment and so on.

If you are interested in using my photo in your book, please send a formal request to my business partner at the following address:

and I’ll send you a purchase order, followed by a high resolution version of the image.

I never heard back from Mr. Hockey, I guess free was the only price he was looking for. And to be honest, this probably isn’t the best photo of borscht out there…

part 86

part 87


No You Cannot Use My Photograph For Free Part 87

Another entry into the continuing series of I’m not giving you something for nothing. The previous entry has more back story if you missed it. Today’s requestor was more upfront with what he wanted, and that there was no money available, even though he’s being paid to create the book. For the record, I am not offended on being asked to use my photos, it is some sort of low level honor.

Here is the email, with personal information removed. I’m not trying to embarrass the requestor, usually, just document it.

My name is [REDACTED] and i am a writer and comedian (please check out [REDACTED}, google me,or check out my work for [REDACTED high profile blog].
I have a humor book coming out through my publisher, [REDACTED], which will feature funny/cute pictures of kittens and cats. Would you potentially be interested in having one of your photos in the book? Unfortunately, there is no pay. But you will receive photo credit (but will have to remove watrermark), a free copy of the book, and a very fun book to share with your family and friends. If you’d like to see what the book will be similar to, visit Amazon and search for [REDACTED funny title], or [REDACTED] –the prequels to this book featuring pictures dogs and kids.

Of course, it’s not guaranteed that a photo will be used, but i really liked your photos (especially cat in fridge ) and think you’d probably get in.
If you’re interested, please email me directly at [REDACTED email]. I will also need to you to eventually send me an attached hi-res photo as well.

I is in your fridge, eating your food
I is in your fridge, eating your food – the photo in question. And yes, my cat jumped up in the refrigerator as we were about to start putting the groceries away. He hasn’t done it since, however.

I responded, trying to be a little funny:

No thank you, I’ve decided I like to eat more than I like to see my name in a photo credit. For some reason, my bank will not accept photo credit as legal tender.

Thanks anyway, and good luck.

Cheerio, Seth Anderson

The requestor cheerfully responded:

I completely understand :). thanks for getting back to me.

Not all requestors are snotty…

Note, this interaction occurred prior to me reading this form letter.

Reasons Why Photographers Cannot Work for Free

Photographers Circle - Haymarket 125
Photographers Circle – Haymarket 125

At the end of yesterday’s post, No – You Cannot Use My Photographs for Free, part 86, I mused aloud about creating a form letter for rejecting future requestors. Noah Vaughn, a Flickr and Twitter pal, kindly left a comment pointing to an open letter posted by Photoprofessionals, which I’m thinking could be adapted to for my usage requirements…

As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.

Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.

Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.

(click here to continue reading Professional Photographers | Reasons Why Photographers Cannot Work for Free.)



I especially like point 7:

Getting “Credit” Doesn’t Mean Much

Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.

There are two major problems with this.

First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.

Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.

In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.

Photographer at Work - Tri X 400

Photographer at Work – Tri X 400

and point 8:

“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”

When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.

We know that is not true.

We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”

Photographing the Photographer part 1840
Photographing the Photographer part 1840

and point 5 expands what I tried to tell Requestor Number 86, and says what needs to be said more forcefully:

We Have Real Budget Constraints

With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.

The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.

Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.

Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.

In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.

And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.

So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.

I may not make my sole living from photography, but I do make some money from it, and all the money and more is invested in the art. I know my attorney charges me for each and every thing possible, for photocopying forms, for sending letters in the mail, and so on, and I gladly pay. There are lots of small expenses that add up – health insurance, internet fees, L & P fees, you get the idea.

No – You Cannot Use My Photographs for Free, part 86

I am going to start documenting all the requests I get from people wanting to use my photographs for free, and their responses. This is a fairly regular occurrence – usually a dozen1or so times a year – every year – I’ll get an email, mostly via Flickr. Nearly always the request starts with the same basic initial thought: “I’m so and so, and I’m working on a book or some other project, and I want to have your photograph, for free, even though I plan on selling the finished project. I’ll give you a photo credit though.”

Yesterday I got this request:

I am currently working with several photographers, manipulating their images digitally to create artistic representations for a deck of cards that I am creating & publishing. I would very much love to use this image of yours in my deck. Would you please consider granting me permission to use the image? Full credit will be given to each photographer who’s work I feature in the deck, and this deck will be sold and distributed globally to card-readers, students and collectors.

If you’d like to see the progress of the deck so far, you can do so on my Facebook Page: [REDACTED]2

Anchor Baby

Anchor Baby – the photo in question

I responded:

if you are planning on selling your deck, we’ll need to work out some sort of compensation arrangement, or royalty agreement. I’ve gone as low as $800 (U.S.) in the past.

Should I send you an invoice?

I actually have gone much lower – especially if the project is good or interesting, or the requestor is polite. Occasionally I have even given away one time usage of my photograph for free, but I don’t do that often. If this is a commercial endeavor, I should be compensated for all the time I took to snap the photograph, manipulate the photograph in my digital darkroom, upload to the web, etc. not to mention my equipment, computer, software, camera, lens, and so on. Again, not to be a jerk, but if you think your work is worthy enough to sell, well then, so should mine be worthy enough. I may not make my living as a professional photographer, but I’m not independently wealthy. I like having coins in my pocket.

The requester responded, rather snottily:

None of the other photographers are asking for royalties. Credit and getting their name attached to this global project was all that was required.

No, sorry, i am not willing to pay. I have other options, many other photographs, many other photographers who want recognition… 🙂

Well, isn’t that peachy.

I couldn’t help myself, and emailed back:

Hard to pay my landlord with photo credits, thanks for understanding.

Ideally, by documenting this reoccurring request, I’ll hone my responses so they are a little wittier. I really should create a form letter that I could work off of.

  1.  which is where I figured out that this is request number 89. It probably isn’t, but if I’ve been a member of Flickr for 8 years, well you do the math []
  2. if you really want to know, I’ll tell you privately []