Well it’s been a while since I had a good old fashioned death threat – so here we go with another post on Copyrights.

I’ve read a great deal on the Internet about the so-called “Culture of Sharing.” In a world full of nice, honest people, that would be great. But sorry, the world I live in isn’t full of nice, honest people.

Recently, I saw another article proposing the abandonment of Copyrights.

The author took it upon himself to tell the world why it would be better off without Copyrights. I can only speak as a photographer, but that would be a bad idea if you want to make a living with your camera. I am STRICTLY talking about giving up Copyrights from the point of view of a photographer.

Without exception, when I have a debate about Copyright with someone, they refer to the standard talking points – “Disney is evil – the RIAA is evil.”

Don’t confuse the audience by giving them a false enemy to attack! This isn’t about Disney or the RIAA. Both may be evil, but that doesn’t give the world the right to use my photography without permission.

Yes I know I can get additional EXPOSURE by letting everyone and anyone use my work. I have to say this is a hot button with me. How many times have you been faced with a client who doesn’t want to pay you and uses the argument – “You’ll get more exposure if you let us use your photo.” To quote the common slang of the day…”DUDE! – I can’t buy a loaf of bread at the Safeway store using my EXPOSURE.” EXPOSURE doesn’t pay the rent.

I am not interested in exposure – I am interested in getting paid for my work – just like everyone else is.

People who spread this myth do tremendous harm to creatives everywhere. Let me say that again. You’re hurting lots of creatives if you spread the myth that all photographers would be better off looking for exposure. Clients pick up on this and use it AGAINST photographers in their negotiations. It’s bad for all of us. It undercuts the market. It sets patterns that are hard to break. It devalues hard work and oh yeah, I’m just getting started. Don’t talk to me about EXPOSURE – I want cash!

This article went on to say releasing your Copyrights won’t hurt you because the people who steal your work and re-distribute it elsewhere will reach an audience you never could. That’s a wild generalization that is probably outright false. It’s a supposition unsupported by fact. My audience grows every day. That is a fact I can prove by looking at my weblog stats, my Twitter followers, my podcast downloads, my print sales, etc. Who’s to say who I will eventually reach or not? With the Internet I can reach the very same people the thieves will reach.

People who make these arguments against holding Copyrights claim that when you release your Copyrights, folks will share your idea in a way where they give you credit and do your marketing for you for free. Pure horse crap. First of all, what guarantee do you have that they will credit you? Are you going to tell me your Creative Commons license protects you? Forget it. There’s no teeth there. CC is merely a license. If the license is violated, then according to the one single case to deal with CC and make it to federal court – the law says that Copyright enforcement is the remedy if the license is violated. But wait – you gave up your Copyrights so you’re screwed.

And thanks – but I am just fine doing my own marketing. I prefer my brand not be tarnished by having my name misspelled or my logo colors incorrectly rendered or my slogan botched or my Trademarks infringed. I don’t need or want anyone else doing my marketing for me and neither does any real professional writer, photographer or show maker for that matter.If you abadon your Copyrights, in the long run you will accomplish two things for sure.

1) You will diminish your ability to earn a living
2) You will diminish all other professional photographers’ ability to earn a living

Every time I read one of these articles, I realize that the crux of most of these anti-Copyright arguments revolve around an attempt to excuse theft.

Thieves can make all the excuses they want, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still criminals. And U.S. law says they are criminals.

The disdain for Copyrights by some in our society comes from a willingness to excuse bad behavior and a misguided notion that music, movies, novels and photographs are all the same thing. They are not. I understand why some people are frustrated by Copyright laws. Especially when someone pays for a CD or a DVD I can see why they might think they have some right to copy or share the work. Of course the people who typically steal my photos haven’t paid a dime to me. They lift them off the Internet and do as they see fit with them so the arguments you hear about music and DVDs and movies don’t apply.

As for the laws – I don’t believe the Copyright laws – or any other laws in the USA – are perfect. But we need them and professional photographers should avail themselves of them until there’s some reasonable alternative.

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