Artist and Entrepreur Advice

Even if you don't care about copyright, you should still stake a claim on the work that you create.

This post comes on the heals of a Facebook post that a good friend shared this morning. According to this post, the famed publication National Geographic has some shady dealings when it comes to ethics. I'm not writing this to bash NatGeo as I, like so many others, have been a long time fan of the publication. However, this article and information definitely offended me as a content creator. What offended me more was that according to the lawyer they were unwilling to make an apology. Assuming this went down as it reads, it would have been much cooler had they had the courage to say they were wrong. By not offering an apology and doing the right thing it kind of sends a message that they don't care about the people who make the publication great in the first place. 

It's disturbing, as this type of thing is happening everyday in some way, shape, and form. If those that create high quality content aren't paid for their work, then the whole system falls apart. Yes, as a publication, you can do things on the cheap, but why would you want to when your images are what set you apart?

I don't know the situation of how the creator of these photographs handled his claim to content, but if you are creating photographs and videos that you want credit or payment for, you need to make sure you stake your claim.

If you are an artist then what is your policy?

Chances are, you want your photographs and videos shared. If you do NOT by chance want them shared, want to be paid for usage, or simply credited then you need to be proactive about it. What is your policy on image usage, sharing, or syndication? Have you taken the time to create a policy and post it on your website, in your metadata, or next to your youTube video? If not then it is something you might should consider. Here are a few good practices.

1. Use your Metadata...

Do you take the time to embed your name, description, keywords, copyright information into your photographs that you publish and share on the web? If not, then it's a good practice to get into. Although it doesn't prevent anyone from unlawfully using the image, and it is time consuming as well, embedding this information with your photographs is a deterrent and much more.

2. Contact Information...

Embedding your contact information gives honest users a website or web page they can go to in order to contact you to ask permission. If this information isn't present in your photographs then then you aren't truly able to claim it is yours, or that you have a policy for usage in the first place. If you don't want a website, blog, etc... to use an image you are posting into the streams of thousands of people, then this is the first step you should be taking.

3. SEO

If you have a blog or website it is essential that you describe your images and use keywords in order to fully optimize each page on your website. Image metadata compliments written posts, so by not including this information you aren't making the most of your time to post images in the first place.

4. Watermarks

This is quite the debate recently, and the artist in me says "don't do it", because it is distracting. The entrepreneur in me says "definitely do it" because otherwise nobody in the entire world will know who created the image when it's used in random places all over the internet. There is a valid argument on both sides of this debate, however our experience is that watermarking has equalled paid assignments on several occasions. In fact just this week we received an email from a bride with two photographs she pulled from somewhere online saying that she had found these, loved them, and is very interested in hiring us for her wedding. 
So, while there may be reasons not to watermark photographs, when you think about it, major brands pay a lot of money to put their logo on photographs like ours all the time. There is value in watermarks, but I clearly understand there are times when they just don't fit.

I truly hope that the issue this artist has with National Geographic is resolved, and he is both compensated and apologized to. Otherwise, now each time I see the publication, I will remember that they may be taking advantage of somebody who is working hard to create something worthy of the cover. 

I love when my photographs and videos are shared personally, but when a company is profiting from the use of our images, and paying a CEO and board members large sums of money, it is only right that they pay artists, and credit them for their work. The artists are what make the publication great in the first place, not the other way around. 

What is your take on copyright as it pertains to photography and video? Do you want your photographs and videos shared? Do you take the extra steps to claim your images? Do you watermark and why? Start or join the conversation.

Charles Maring is a photographer and filmmaker at Maring Visuals, and a co-host / creator of the Together In Style talk show.