Apparently I've developed a bit of a reputation - and not necessarily the right kind. Fellow blogger and rider Cass Gilbert commented on a shoot recently that he enjoyed reading my occasional rants. Erm, excuse me? Oh, he must've meant this one. Or maybe this one. And, er, this one (which is probably my favourite because it contains a video clip of someone else out-ranting yours truly, for a change).
Ah. Oh. Oops.
Well, I'm glad that it's entertaining. But here's the thing: photography as a viable business has never been more threatened. I've covered some of the reasons for this state of affairs plenty of times before, but here's the short version: too many photographers with little or no understanding of copyright and licensing issues, all competing for exposure in a market increasingly populated by clued-up image buyers who exploit that ignorance.
It's worth repeating: copyright is a worldwide legal convention that allows photographers - whether amateur or pro - to control how, where and when their work is used. It's yours, automatically. You don't have to - and nor should you - relinquish the rights to your images in return for nothing. But that won't stop some unscrupulous organisations from trying.
No, it's not because they generously want to give you a rosy glow of satisfaction from seeing your work used. It's because they can make money out of it. And by persuading you to hand over the rights to your images, they don't have to give a penny of that money back to you.
There are signs, though, that the tide may be turning. Pro-Imaging, a mailing list group for pros, has launched a campaign aimed at naming and shaming rights-grabbing photo competitions. There's a wealth of other useful information on the site too, including a very good explanation of why you should steer clear of these contests.
Current worst offender on the rights-grabbing comp front is a setup I've written about before. The rules of this competition are so mind-bendingly biased agasint the photographer that I'm staggered anyone bothers to enter, but judging by the competition site's front page there are plenty of people willing to hand over their intellectual property in exchange for, well, nothing at all. Go figure.
Second site to attempt to shift the balance back in favour of photographers is a new spin-off of pro photographer group EPUK. Copyright Action is a site that aims to collect all the information photographers need about copyright and licensing in one place. There's information about how copyright works, a forum to report instances of copyright abuse or rights-grabbing, an FAQs section and, well, just about everything you're likely to need to know.
Copyright and licensing issues aren't exactly sexy, but it's never been more important to be clued up. Because if you aren't, and your images ever make it off your hard drive out into the real world, you're at risk of being ripped off. Pro or amateur, it makes no difference - someone out there wants the rights to your images, and they don't want to pay you anything at all for them.
Here endeth today's rant...