June 14th, 2016

Getty Files Copyright Suit over Stolen Photo Scheme on Facebook

A post, allegedly from Walter A. Kowalczuk, to a private Facebook group where members traded illegally in stolen images. (Image taken from court papers.)

A post, allegedly from Walter A. Kowalczuk, to a private Facebook group where members allegedly traded in stolen images. (Image taken from court papers.)

Getty Images has filed copyright infringement and other claims against an Ohio man who allegedly downloaded as many as 3,400 high resolution images from Getty’s servers without authorization, and then sold them illegally to unidentified buyers through a private Facebook group.

Getty says in its claim against Walter A. Kowalczuk, filed June 8 in US District Court in Cleveland, that he and other members of the group allegedly bought and sold images using euphemisms for the sources of those images, such as “Spaghetti” for Getty and “Apples” for Associated Press. Getty says one of its licensing partners reported the Facebook group activity in March.

That licensing partner provided copies of posts to the group that were made by Kowalczuk, Getty says in court papers. One post said, “Spaghetti and Apples served all day at the lowest prices around.” In another post, shown above, Kowalczuk allegedly offered the images for as little as 75 cents. Getty alleges that Kowalczuk made “dozens of posts” between late 2015 and spring 2016, inviting group members to contact him by private message to make purchasing arrangements.

According to the lawsuit, an employee of Photo File, which is a Getty distribution partner, contacted Kowalczuk in March about purchasing six images. (Photo File and Getty both license a photograph of a Chicago Blackhawks hockey player that Kowalczuk had offered for sale.) Kowalczuk allegedly told the Photo File employee that the source of the images was Getty, and “gave specific instructions for ordering the images, directing that each image be identified by the catalog number assigned by Getty Images,” according to court papers.

The Photo File employee complied with the instructions to purchase the images, and Kowalczuk sent a link to the images, which he had uploaded to a file transfer website.

Getty subsequently purchased 29 other images from Kowalczuk on three different occasions—March 29, April 1, and April 29—and each time, the process was the same. Kowalczuk gave instructions, Getty identified the images it wanted to purchase by its own catalog numbers, then Kowlaczuk  allegedly delivered them through a file transfer website.

Getty says Kowalczuk had downloaded the images illegally from its website using using login credentials of two unidentified Getty customers. In both cases, the customers “confirmed that Kowalczuk was neither an employee…nor authorized to use its login credentials,” Getty says. It is unclear how Kowalczuk obtained the passwords.

Most of the images that Kowalczuk downloaded and offered for sale “consisted of sports imagery,” including images from NHL, MLB, NBA and NFL games, according to Getty. The stock photo agency alleges that Kowalczuk sold the images to sports memorabilia companies. Getty is trying to identify those buyers so it can name them as additional defendants in the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Getty is seeking damages from Kowalczuk for willful copyright infringement, contributory infringement (i.e., aiding and abetting copyright infringement by those he illegally sold images to), computer fraud, and Digital Millennium Copyright Act violations.

Kowalczuk has not yet filed a response to Getty’s claims, and efforts to locate him for comment were not immediately successful.

March 17th, 2016

Why Instagram Is Changing (Spoiler Alert: Money)

Photographers have reacted harshly to Instagram’s decision to uproot chronological posting in favor of an algorithmically sorted feed.

We don’t yet know how Instagram will look and feel in this new algorithmic era, but it’s pretty clear why Instagram is making the switch. It’s much less about giving you content you want to see (the stated reason) and much more about making Instagram the social network equivalent of a toll keeper. In short, it’s about money.

Take Facebook (please). The mammoth social network used to treat all content equally, serving up posts on a chronological basis without discrimination. If you followed an individual, media outlet or brand and they posted an update, it would populate into your feed, sorted by the time it was published.

Today, Facebook timelines are heavily managedeven manipulated–by the company. By deciding who sees what, when, Facebook can essentially hold status updates hostage, demanding ransom in the form of “boosting” a post for a fee or paying to take an ad. Brands and media outlets (not to mention non-profits) have seen their content hidden from followers, prompting them to either pay up or face declining visibility.

Given its ownership, we should expect Instagram to do the same. If you rely on Instagram to reach followers, especially for commercial purposes, you may need to add a line item to your marketing budget for Instagram advertising.

Of course, social media outlets aren’t obligated to serve as free mouth pieces for commercial enterprises or popular individuals. They need to make money just like the rest of us and while Instagram’s decision, like Facebook’s before it, reeks of a bait-and-switch, that’s life in the social networking age. (Although if you want a more pessimistic, downright worrying view of online manipulation, do read this.) Plus, there’s always Twitter. For now.

So what’s a photographer to do? Eric Kim suggests a return to blogging:

Eventually nobody will use Instagram (another social media app will come around. Or perhaps all Instagram users will flee to Snapchat). But once Snapchat becomes more like Facebook, people will flee to some other new service that doesn’t exist yet.

The only way to have any lasting impact as a photographer is the old school method: make prints, share them with friends, and print your own books (zines, print on demand books, or self publish yourself).

Take a hybrid approach: love both atoms and bytes. Don’t make it all one or another; shoot both film and digital, write emails and hand written letters, walk and drive your car, send your friends text messages but also meet them “in real life”…

The last point I want to make is the most interactive and flexible way to do “social media” is own your own blog….

I’m so grateful that I’ve had this blog for the last few years; it has helped open up so many possibilities, given me a voice, given me control over my content, and has given me a livelihood. I used to be suckered into thinking that Facebook was the future; now I realize it is just another social media app (just how MySpace was). I regret spending so much time on social media in general; I wish I spent more time blogging.

A world with more blogging? Yes please.

 

November 16th, 2015

New Services Helps You Automate Photo Posting on Social Media

screenshotOne of the key challenges in growing a social media presence is keeping various social media outlets fed with content. A variety of services, like Buffer and HootSuite, are available to automate Facebook and Twitter posts, but a new service dubbed PhotoBuffer promises to tackle a variety of photo-friendly social sites.

With PhotoBuffer, you can upload a single image and automatically schedule a posting to Facebook (profile and pages); Twitter, 500px, Flickr and Tumblr (no Instagram yet).

The service is broken out into tiers. A free tier allows you to queue up to 10 posts to PhotoBuffer with a file limit of 10MB per image. Facebook posting isn’t available in the free tier and a PhotoBuffer message will be attached to images you share.

To remove the branding and expand your buffer to 20 images at 15MB in size, you’ll have to pay about $5/month (pricing is listed in Euros at the moment). A $10/month tier provides Facebook support, up to 30 photos in your queue and a 20MB file size limit. Step up to $20/month and your buffer grows to 50 photos with a 35MB file size limit and the ability to add your own custom text on the bottom of each share. Finally, a $40/month tier allows for an unlimited photo queue, 50MB file size limit and customized messages with each share.

There’s no contact info to speak of on the PhotoBuffer site and no terms of service yet, though when we reached out through an online chat on the service, we were told one is coming soon and will be geared around a simple theme: “the photos are yours and we will use them only to post them on your photo account.”

Given the recent contretemps with InstaAgent, photographers may want to wait a bit until PhotoBuffer has its legal ducks in a row. Still, it sounds interesting.

Via: Hacker News

Read More:

Using This Instagram App? Delete It

How Photographers With Huge Followings Grew Their Social Networks

This Is the Most Liked Photo on Instagram

April 8th, 2015

Pat Pope Says He Regrets Open Letter to Band, Urges Creators To “Stop Working for Free”

In what he says will be his final word on the matter, photographer Pat Pope says he regrets his public criticism of the alt rock band Garbage, but is sticking to his position that photographers shouldn’t give their work away.

Pope wrote an open letter to the band last week criticizing their management company for asking to use one of his images for free in a book project the band are working on. Garbage responded with an open letter of their own, telling Pope that the cost of self-publishing the book led them to ask photographers for free images. They also criticized Pope for making their request public.

In Pope’s “final word,” which he published on Facebook, he calls the open letter he wrote a “mistake.” He implies that “the negative comments and abuse hurled at me on the internet” make him regret the move. However, Pope doesn’t back down from the principles that inspired the letter, and he replies to some of the statements the band made in their response to his letter.

“I receive hundreds of these request a year [for free images],” Pope writes, explaining his reasoning, “as does every other photographer I know. This is the new normal, writing down a budget in which you’ll get the photographic content for free by making the photographer give it to you.”

He criticized Garbage again for their abuse of “the power relationship.” The band “paid someone at their management company to send me a pro-forma request for free usage of my work. When you receive a request like that, the power relationship is that a gigantic branded entity with huge reach and backing is asking a lone freelancer to accept that the value of their work is zero.”

Pope later claims that he’s “no ‘internet warrior,'” before urging that “all of us in the creative community have to Stop Working For Free [Pope’s emphasis].” Despite saying he regrets writing his own open letter, he urges others to do the same. “Let’s get this practice [of asking for free content] out in the open.”

Related: Photographer Openly Ridicules Band’s Request For Free Images
Band Defends Their Decision to Ask Photographer for Free Images

February 28th, 2014

Facebook’s Teru Kuwayama on How To Use Social Media for Documentary Storytelling

Long before he went to work for Facebook as the social media giant’s liaison to the photo community, photographer Teru Kuwuyama saw social media as a tool for photographers “to eliminate the gatekeepers and the editors, and to be our own operators,” he told a standing-room-only crowd at the Aperture Gallery in New York on Tuesday.  Old media models formed in “an analogue era” no longer exist, but he said many photographers who have been “adaptable” to social platforms are using them to reach and engage audiences.

Kuwayama spoke along with Lev Manovich of the Software Studies Initiative at “Documentary, Expanded: Interventions in Social Media,” a panel moderated by photographer Susan Meiselas, executive director and board member of the Magnum Foundation, which organized the talk as part of its Photography, Expanded program. Photography, Expanded held its first conference, in collaboration with the Open Society Foundations Documentary Photography Project, in April 2013, Meiselas said, to encourage photographers to expand their storytelling beyond the still image at a time when “we all felt the ground shifting beneath our feet” due to a shortage of assignments and production budgets from traditional media. Kuwayama shared work by photographers who are using Instagram to connect with audiences — though not, in most cases, to make money with their images.

He began by showing his own social-media-based project, Basetrack. After having worked in Afghanistan as an embedded photojournalist, Kuwayama won a James S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford, where he came up with a plan to gather a small group of embedded photographers who would post images and information about a Marine battalion in Afghanistan for their families back home. Launched in 2010, Basetrack was “basically a tricked out blog,” he said, with a map and a countdown clock to the end of the Marines’ deployment, but equally important was the Basetrack Facebook page, which “became a rallying point for the community.” Basetrack was never intended to reach more than about 1,000 viewers. “Who cares about this 20-year-old Marine who was 8 when this war started? It was clear it was his mom, his sister,” Kuwayama explained.
(more…)

September 5th, 2013

Facebook Makes Alarming Changes to Terms, ASMP Breaks Down the Changes

Facebook has altered their terms of service to make it possible for companies that pay the social media network to utilize Facebook users’ content and likeness without compensation or permission. The changes are sure to alienate Facebook’s users in the creative community, who make a living from licensing their work and content.

Among the changes is this gem:

“You give us permission to use your name, and profile picture, content, and information in connection with commercial, sponsored, or related that content (such as a brand you like) served or enhanced by us. This means, for example, that you permit a business or other entity to pay us to display your name and/or profile picture with your content or information, without any compensation to you. If you have selected a specific audience for your content or information, we will respect your choice when we use it.”

ASMP created a handy Q&A about the new terms of use that helps break down the changes and what they mean for photographers.

This comes on the heels of the ASMP-led criticism of Instagram that was recently issued.

We have to wonder, at what point will a social network take the step to actually compensate the users that make it tick and protect them from unauthorized exploitation and surveillance? Seems to us like a network that figured out how to do that would find a community very quickly.

Related: Photography Trade Organizations Take Aim at Instagram Terms
AFP, Washington Post Violated Daniel Morel’s Copyrights, Judge Rules
Morel Case Highlights Copyright Risks of Social Networks

June 20th, 2013

Instagram Demonstrates Powerful Video Stabilization – on a Smartphone

shaky-videoProfessional photographers don’t often turn to a smartphone to shoot video. But in the new video offering announced by Instagram today is technology that could eventually be a great addition to the toolkit.

A new video option for the photo sharing site can literally take jumpy, hand-held video and turn it into something watchable. Technology like that could someday be used to help rescue video footage that might otherwise be given up for loss because of a shaky hand.

Here’s a clip of the announcement about the new technology, taken from today’s live stream of the Instagram press event.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rB5WrX3NLBU

To watch the replay of the live streaming of the whole Facebook/Instagram event, beginning to end, go this Live Stream page.

–Erik Sherman

October 8th, 2012

Facebook Copyright Takedown: Justice or Injustice?

An alleged copyright infringer appears to have gotten his just desserts from Facebook, which has summarily removed his Facebook fan page. But the story highlights the lack of transparency in Facebook’s policy regarding its handling of infringement claims.

Bill Tikos, the founder of the design and culture trend spotting site The Cool Hunter,  has complained on his Web site that his Facebook fan page was taken down for an alleged copyright infringement. A FB page and 788,000 fans “nurtured meticulously over the past five years–was gone,” Tikos wrote. “No explanation, flimsy warnings, no instructions on what to do next. None of our numerous attempts to rectify the situation and resurrect the page have worked.”

Cool Hunter–not to be confused with Cool Hunting, another trend-spotting site that remains in good standing with FB–says Facebook has refused to provide any detail about the alleged infringement. The dust-up was first reported last week by The Next Web, an online tech publication.

“We have no idea what we were infringing on. Which image/s or posts, specifically, have caused this?” Tikos wrote on the Cool Hunter Web site.

From there he goes on to say that he knows of two images posted on Cool Hunter without credit–both of them images found elsewhere on Facebook without credit, Tikos says. And then he digs himself in a little deeper:

“The other reason that could have caused the closure of our FB page is that we sometimes use images even when we do not know who has taken the picture,” he wrote. He goes on to say that everyone else–FB, Tumblr, Pinterest, and “millions of people and organizations share images – theirs and someone else’s – freely every day.” Tikos says he wants to give copyright holders credit if he can find them; his web site (and Facebook page, before it was taken down)  invite copyright owners to get in touch if they see their images on either site without credit.

As it turns out, others have had their Facebook fan pages removed without recourse or due process, The Huffington Post reported last year. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, internet service providers (such as Facebook) can protect themselves from liability for infringement by their users if they act quickly to take down infringing content.

Last year, Facebook told one site owner that it didn’t have time to judge disputes over copyright take-down requests, according to The Huffington Post report. FB said it was up to the site owner to contact the person who submitted the take-down notice–and get that person to withdraw the complaint. After The Huffington Post reported on the lack of due process given to those who lost their FB pages as a result of allegedly fraudulent DMCA complaints, Facebook issued a statement saying “Abuse of DMCA and other intellectual property notice procedures is a challenge for every major Internet service and we take it seriously.”

So are Tikos and Cool Hunter just victims of Facebook’s legal expediency?  Did Facebook overreact, as Tikos suggests, to a couple of alleged infringements without giving him due process, and a chance resolve the complaints?

The Next Web investigated, and reports that it got a statement from Facebook that said: “This [Cool Hunter] account has been disabled due to repeat copyright infringement under our terms and the account has been removed from the site accordingly. Additionally, we have thoroughly reviewed all related reports and have determined that we took the correct action in this case.”

OK, but in the name of transparency, how hard would it be for Facebook to post the evidence for everyone to see?

September 28th, 2012

On Sustainable Business Models, and Comparing Apples to Oranges

The American Society of Media Photographers’ program, “Sustainable Business Models: Issues & Trends Facing Visual Artists,” held September 27 in New York City, can be viewed online via ASMP’s video library. Speakers and panelists provided useful context and insights into the current marketplace for photography, as well as thoughts on how professional freelancers might adapt their marketing and licensing in today’s economy. A warning, however: Along with provocative insights, the afternoon panel also included the predictable, banal observation that photojournalists have no role to play now that “everyone has a cellphone,” and statistics on how many images are uploaded to Facebook or Instagram each day or each hour or each minute. If you’re like me, you find these comments irritating. Because the first comment is untrue, and the second is irrelevant to any discussion of the professional photography business.

Yes, news editors trolled Instagram to get images of the aftermath of the Empire State Building shooting, but those image sales had no impact on the market for photos by professional news photographers: If amateur cellphone users hadn’t been on the scene, we simply wouldn’t have had any images of the carnage. Yes, a zillion snapshots of cats, babies and plates of food are shared on social media every day. What bearing does that have on what a professional photographer offers to clients or their audience? (more…)

March 21st, 2012

Ellen Degeneres Not Amused By Photog’s Billboard Stunt

An artist's rendering of the billboard Madalyn Ruggiero attempted to put up for six weeks in West Hollywood.

Artist's rendering of the billboard Madalyn Ruggiero attempted to put up for six weeks in West Hollywood.

Television personality and talk show host Ellen Degeneres—and her show’s lawyers—were not amused by an Ohio freelance photographer’s recent publicity stunt, and their legal action has cost the photographer thousands of dollars.

Photographer Madalyn Ruggiero created a small business by putting costumes on her dog, Denali, photographing him, then selling greeting cards bearing the images. Buoyed by the success of her cards and Denali’s 27,000+ Facebook fans, Ruggiero bought billboard space in West Hollywood in an attempt to get Ellen Degeneres to put Denali on her TV talk show. “Ellen,” the billboard read, “Denali the dog wants to meet you!”

Just days after the billboard went up on February 13, the show’s lawyers ordered the billboard company to take it down because, they argued, it traded on Degeneres’s name and likeness (Ruggiero dressed Denali up to look like Degeneres for the billboard).

Ruggiero says that the billboard company’s lawyers sought and received approval from Warner Brothers, which owns and produces Degeneres’ show, prior to putting up the billboard. The ad should have been displayed for six weeks but was up for only a few days.

“I was shocked and confused why my harmless billboard was removed,” Ruggiero says. “When I spoke with the billboard company they were very cold and told me nothing.”

The LA Times, Today Show and MSNBC have all published stories about Ruggiero’s run-in with Degeneres’ lawyers.

“I meant no harm with my billboard,” Ruggiero explains. “I am disappointed and confused. Denali is getting old and I thought trying to get Denali on Ellen’s would be fun. I always thought she was a huge dog lover, but I was mistaken.”

Now Ruggiero is out thousands of dollars for a publicity stunt gone awry. Should Ruggiero have known better? Maybe. Should we be surprised that Degeneres responded with legal threats rather than a sense of humor? Probably not.