“Photo Credits” – The New World Currency?
©2013 Mike Augustin | Game Changer Photography, LLC
I believe I may have discovered a brand-new world currency that may be used for all debts public and private. First, let me give you some background on how I first learned about this new internationally accepted legal tender.
Those of you who know me, or those of you who have seen my name on images that proliferate many websites, Facebook, posters, flyers and other marketing material and products, already identify my work as a sports photographer, as well as other subjects of photography including landscapes, buildings and historical sites. What you may not know is that the majority of my images are used without my express permission and as such, without any compensation to me. This is not a rant about copyright law or permissible use. I will save these topics for another discussion.
This is not to say that there are no good people that play by the rules and have not abused using my images to promote their commercial endeavors. There are several commercial websites, corporations, marketing firms and others who have been kind enough to legally purchase my images to promote their products and events and to those people I say “Thank You”.
Back to the usage of “photo credits” as a new world currency. Recently I discovered a commercial website using several of my sports action photographs to promote and sell their products. This is not unusual in itself as I mentioned earlier, but this site was different in that it was an internationally recognized major corporation that, to be quite frank, should have known better. To find a solution to this flagrant violation of copyright law I made a good-faith effort to work out a mutually amicable usage agreement where the corporation could continue using my images and I would receive fair compensation. This was my first mistake. Playing “nice guy” just does not work when dealing with corporate attorneys and such.
The response from the corporate lawyers was shocking to say the least. First they blamed me for not notifying them sooner of the alleged copyright violation (like I have a copyright violation search strike team at my beck and call) and second they offered to compensate me by updating their future advertising with a “photo credit”. They never addressed removing my identifying copyright watermarks from the images in the first place nor did they address illegally editing and cropping my images for display on their website and other commercial marketing and packaging projects. They also had the audacity to excuse their illegal behavior by claiming to be an “innocent infringer“. This lame excuse was offered because apparently one of the persons in an image allegedly told the corporation marketing muckety-mucks that I would not mind if they used his image for free. To put this into context, that would be like bumping into Roger Federer outside of a Dick’s Sporting Goods and Roger telling you to feel free to go inside and take any racquet with his image on the faceplate and walk out the door without paying. I don’t think you would get very far with that excuse.
This is just one example of being offered “photo credits” for use of my images. In a conservative estimate I would say that I am offered these so-called “photo credits” at least five times a month. There obviously must be some value to these “photo credits” since they are commonly proffered as legal tender in negotiations for usage of my images. I must admit that I do not keep up to date on the current trends in the world currency markets and the financial world. Heck, I think I must have four or five 401(k)s from different companies I have worked for throughout the years lost in 401K land someplace.
This month I tried to do something with my new found legal tender of photo credits. I contacted my mortgage lender and asked if they would be willing to accept the tender of photo credits in lieu of US dollars for my monthly mortgage payment. I was shocked to hear that this major financial institution with a global footprint had no knowledge of using photo credits as legal tender. I even requested that they elevate the issue up to senior management because obviously senior executives for a major financial institution would stay current on all world currencies. I was again shocked when I learned that the decision from executive management was to deny accepting photo credits in lieu of US dollars for my monthly mortgage payment.
I also stopped by a local market to buy milk for my family and I asked the clerk if he accepted photo credits for payment. I knew something was wrong when he gave me that “deer in the headlights” look. Again, I guess my local market was not aware of this new currency called “photo credits”. I am sad to say that it didn’t stop there. I tried using photo credits in lieu of US dollars to pay my electric bill, my DirecTV bill, my water bill, my Internet bill, and even at the Taco Bell drive through window. To my shock and utter dismay I could not get anyone to accept photo credits for payment for goods and services.
Not willing to give up, I tried one more retail company that I was absolutely sure would be familiar with photo credits… I called the same company that I described earlier and asked if I could use one of THEIR OWN photo credits to buy something. I was absolutely STUNNED when they refused to accept payment using their own photo credits!
Begin a glutton for rejection and still not willing to accept defeat, I called a major photo equipment supplier in New York City and placed an order for a brand new telephoto lens that was just over $8000. When the customer service rep asked me what method of payment I wanted to use I told him “photo credits”. I knew there was going to be trouble when there was silence on the line followed by his response of “excuse me sir“. I asked the rep if they were up to speed with the new world currency internationally known as “photo credits”. At first he thought I wanted to use store credits to apply to the order but once we cleared that up I realized that this photo supplier located in the heart of the world financial district in New York City had not been brought up to speed on the usage of photo credits as the new legal tender for all debts public and private.
I was as shocked as you are.
You are probably wondering why I would need a lens that costs over $8000 in the first place. (I am often times told how to do my job). Most of you reading this probably take most of your “pics” by using an iPhone, a point-and-shoot camera, etc. (No, the “P” setting does not mean “Professional”). I have to admit that I have seen some really great shots coming from these devices. But to get those up close shots with ultra-sharpness, focus, white balance (eliminating that awful orange & green tint you see in pics on Facebook) and also great composition and clean backgrounds, using a high-end telephoto lens is mandatory equipment for any professional sports photographer. I mention this because I know some of you reading this may ask why I would want to charge for my images in the first place since it doesn’t cost anything to take photos with a digital camera and we are “buds“. This could be a topic for another rant, but you’ll just have to take my word for it that my cost of doing business is very high when it comes to purchasing the equipment I need to produce the images that people and corporations want to use and then offer to give me “photo credits” for payment.
So going forward please do not be shocked when you contact me asking for permission to use my images and I respectfully decline your offer of photo credits for payment. This is not to say that I will not consider acceptance of photo credits once the world financial markets get up to speed accepting photo credits for all debts public and private.