I watched the Grammy’s last night. Two moments stood out to me. The first one was the moving tribute to recently deceased Glen Fry by his Eagles surviving band members. We know their names and all their iconically beautiful music as well as Don Henley’s history of fighting for his musical rights and copyrights legacy. But what I especially noticed last night is nowhere was there a name of the photographer underneath the beautiful photograph of him encompassing the stage at the end of the performance. Why? Because the majority of photographers do not own the rights to keep their name on their photographs or the royalties made of from them. Even today if you want to sell your items on an app called OfferUp they have a clause that reads: ” …with the OfferUp Service. By submitting or posting User Content (their insulting name for photographer’s intellectual property), you hereby grant to OfferUp a non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, sublicensable right to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, sell, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display the User Content, and your name, company name, location and any other information you submit with the User Content, in connection with the OfferUp Service. (the right to sell your own stuff on their internet line). The use of your name or any other User’s name, likeness, or identity in connection with the OfferUp Service does not imply any endorsement thereof unless explicitly stated otherwise. We also have the right to disclose your identity to any third party who is claiming that any content posted by you constitutes a violation of their intellectual property rights, or of their right to privacy.”
Their predatory Terms and Conditions go on and on and I’m sure most “users” (We the People) have never really read or understood what we are signing over to them or even cared. I chose to begrudgingly continue to sell my tables, chairs and other unneeded belongings that clutter up my life on their website but I will still protect the many documentary photos I took of real people acting out their lives within the view of my camera lens.
When I protested to the company their response was that they would show me how to delete my account if I don’t like it. A sure sign that we as Professional Photographers (one of the few creative arts national awards that have no television audience) have lost the war. The online sites have now become the new slave owners of tomorrow replacing the many newspapers of today.
Which brings me to the second moment that stood out to me. A pie chart photo-graph of a penny with the tiny portion cut out representing the miniscual amount of royalties collected by songwriters and performers for their craft when streaming online. I heard the artists pleading for their musical art to remain a viable professional career for the next generation. NO ONE is listening. Even though the U.S. Copyright Office still seems to be the tiniest and busiest office in our nations’ Library of Congress, the Silicone Valley Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg descendents still bathe in the unholy ill-gotten gains from royalties they have siphoned off the backs of the free world billions of creative artists intellectual property around the world. They are sooo rich that they give away all “their” money that they have collectively created all creative “Users” out of. No wonder Kanye West wants a loan from Mark Zuckerburg. Royalties are for everyone who creates content even those billions of housewives who are just posting a nice picture of a table in the their home they want to sell. And the billionaires should stop stealing them.
Maybe Donald Trump can address this disparity in trade too.