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Changes in the area of photo licensing…

October 1, 2019, 12:00 AM

I have a few changes to announce in the area of photo licensing.  First and foremost, Schumin Web Photo Licensing, my in-house photo licensing site, is no more.  I had been running that site for about three years, and while it did a respectable amount of business, I felt that it didn’t justify the amount of resources that it consumed, and it also didn’t justify the amount of time spent to maintain it.  There was also always a bit of an uncomfortable interaction with Pixsy.  The idea was that there was a very real possibility that someone could use my licensing site in an attempt to circumvent a Pixsy case for an unauthorized use of an image, and that could be a sticky situation to get straightened out.  Yes, I had policies stating that use of the licensing site to circumvent Pixsy was not permitted, and that any licenses purchased in an attempt to circumvent Pixsy’s process would be cancelled, but good luck trying to prove that.  All it really did was make the site look prickly to potential users by having to put that in the fine print, even though its inclusion was necessary.  So in the end, the site is gone.

Otherwise, my philosophy for photo licensing is changing based on experience.  Licensing on the front end didn’t do as well as I might have hoped, but pursuing Creative Commons violations has been quite lucrative over the last few years.  I like to say that Pixsy furnished the house when I moved to Montgomery Village back in 2017.  Thus my stance on licensing has evolved from a traditional licensing model towards just letting people use the material under a free license that requires attribution, i.e. Creative Commons, and then aggressively policing compliance through Pixsy and DMCA takedown notices.  In other words, follow the rules, and it’s free.  Don’t follow the rules, and it’s going to cost you.

The Content Licensing page has also been revised to jive with this new stance on licensing.  It now again explicitly states that anything published prior to February 20, 2014 is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.  This was always the case due to the way that Creative Commons works in practice, but after February 2014, it was not stated explicitly.  Additionally, it directs users to my Flickr page to find Creative Commons content posted after February 20, 2014.  Explicitly listing every Creative Commons image on Schumin Web would require going through more than five years’ worth of material to mark stuff, and I can think of a hundred other things that I would rather do besides that.  So Flickr it is, especially since that site has very powerful Creative Commons search tools.

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Yes, about that historic French cemetery…

July 9, 2017, 11:55 PM

Sometimes, you really have to give someone the proverbial “smackdown”.  Such was the case of a recent copyright infringement issue that I had with a death metal band called Barbiturate.  As you may know, I periodically skim the Internet looking for unauthorized usages of my photography, which I then submit to Pixsy, a company that goes after these copyright infringers for royalties, therefore making the illegal usages legal.  I really don’t care when people use my work elsewhere.  I actually find it somewhat flattering.  However, if you are making money (and by that, I mean taking in revenue, regardless of whether you turn a profit) with my photo, you can afford to pay me for that usage (i.e. “F— You, Pay Me“), either by licensing it up front, or by having me chase you down via Pixsy.  Or at the very least, you can ask me for permission, because I do occasionally authorize use of my work for free.  But generally speaking, I don’t work for free, or for some vague notion of “exposure”.  I have a Flickr account and other outlets that give me plenty of exposure, thank you very much.  I don’t need anyone’s help getting exposure for my work.

In the Barbiturate case, I found this photo in Pixsy’s image search:

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So, about that whole “thou shalt not steal” thing…

May 7, 2017, 11:50 AM

Sometimes the level of hypocrisy shown by those in organized religion just makes me stand back in awe.  They preach Christian values, and then don’t follow them in real life.  In this instance, it involves the church that I used to attend from 1992 until 2003, and where I am still technically a member, albeit inactive.  Through a recent interaction, I learned quite a bit more than I expected as far as where things stand with them.

For those who aren’t familiar, I work with a company called Pixsy to recover royalties for cases where my photographs are used without permission.  I routinely search for and submit cases where my photos are used without permission in hopes of recovering license fees for that usage.  Basically, I have no problem with downstream usages of my photos.  But I am a professional who deserves to be paid for those usages in a professional setting.  Basically, if you expect to take in revenue based on materials that contain my work, then you need to pay me for the usage.  My take on it is that if you were going to hire a photographer to do a shoot for you, there’s no question that you would pay them.  But by using photos of mine that I have already created, you’ve essentially hired me as your photographer, and as such, I should be paid.  Using my work for commercial purposes without even so much as asking me is a major no-no as far as I’m concerned.

In this case, I was skimming through the Internet looking for potential infringement cases, I found this:

The ChurchFinder page for Finley Memorial Presbyterian Church

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“Wait, isn’t that…?”

May 12, 2016, 1:01 PM

Imagine my surprise to sit down at my computer this morning to check Facebook, and be greeted by this image from ABC affiliate WJLA:

DAY 15 OF RAIN: ARK NEARLY COMPLETE

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“He offered her the world…”

October 14, 2015, 11:50 PM

I’m always surprised to see how some of my photos are used.  I recently got a membership with Pixsy, which skims the Internet for potentially infringing photo usages, and then allows the user to go after infringing users to get them to pay for their usage.  One photo that surprised me as a frequent candidate for infringements was this one from 2003:

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No more Creative Commons license?

February 20, 2014, 12:00 AM

As of today, The Schumin Web is no longer offered under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license.  The site will now be offered under the traditional “all rights reserved” model, i.e. explicit written permission is required for most downstream usages.  I am doing this for one purpose: to make money.  I went to the Creative Commons model back in November 2005 in order to give my work more exposure through downstream uses, and apparently it’s worked.  I now have a portfolio of over 250 downstream usages, both online and in print.  I now have plenty of exposure.  People know who I am, and know about my work, based on multiple usages from a few high-profile entities.  Therefore, I believe that I have reached the point where I can monetize my photography work and bring in a few extra bucks.  The idea is that if you work for some vague notion of “exposure”, that is all you are ever going to get, and it’s very easy to be taken advantage of that way.  As I field more and more licensing requests from companies, it is clear that there is monetary value in what I produce.

Because of this, there are a few changes in the way that things will operate as far as image licensing goes, as I attempt to reconcile the old Creative Commons license with the new all-rights-reserved model.  First of all, please note: as of today, no new downstream usages of any Schumin Web content are allowed under any form of Creative Commons license.  Please see the new Content Licensing page for information about new downstream usages of Schumin Web content.  All existing downstream content usages that were made using the old Creative Commons license are grandfathered.  Thus, for example, if you used a picture under the Creative Commons license last year, nothing affects that past usage.  However, if you want to use another image today, you need to receive explicit written permission to use that image, even if the image was originally published during the period when the Creative Commons license was in effect.

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If you can’t follow a license as easy as mine…

October 9, 2013, 3:21 PM

I am of the view that information deserves to be free, which is one of the reasons that I make my work available under a Creative Commons license.  For those not familiar, I provide my content under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States license.  In a nutshell, that means that you are welcome to use materials found here for any purpose, including commercially, as long as you provide proper attribution, and share it under the same or similar license as you found it (it’s only fair, after all).  I even wrote a guide on reuse of content found here.  When I converted the site to WordPress, one of the changes that I made was to make the images available for download at full resolution.  That was done specifically to help downstream users get what they need and get creating without assistance from me.  That same conversion, with the image restoraton and such that went along with it, also finally allowed me to provide clean images right out of the box.  Recall that at one point, I put my logo and URL in the corner of the large-size images for photo sets.  Then I stopped doing that in 2005 or so, right around when I introduced the Creative Commons license to the site.  The conversion and image restoration work removed all of the remaining tagged images, making every photo “clean” without any extraneous markings.

I like to think that I’m one of the more permissive and lenient content owners out there.  Unlike many other entities that do not allow downstream use without explicit permission, I do allow downstream use right out of the box, as long as two things are present: attribution (preferably as “Ben Schumin/The Schumin Web”), and a free license.  That’s not that hard to do, and by and large, most people who reuse content found here follow the license.  But it really frosts my cookies when people don’t follow that, and because my license is so easy to meet, I take a very dim view toward noncompliance.

It always amazes me how many people think that because something is on the public Internet, that it’s public domain and can be used with wild abandon.  It’s quite common.  I’ve even had to disabuse my own mother of this notion before.  Rather, just like any other medium, just because it exists does not mean that you have carte blanche to do whatever you want with it.  Most material on the Internet is not, in fact, public domain, and therefore potential downstream users have to play by the content owner’s rules (or you don’t play).  Those rules are up to the content owner.

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One of my photos goes viral… sort of.

October 24, 2012, 11:12 PM

So apparently one of my photos has gone viral.  Remember this photo?

Code Pink demonstration on July 4

I took this photo on July 4, 2006 in front of the White House.  It first appeared on Schumin Web in a Journal entry posted July 5, 2006 about a trip I made to DC on July 4.  It also ran as the Photo Feature later in the same month.

Then a few years later, in 2009, that photo got morphed into this:

IF OBAMA DOESN'T END THE WARS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN, CLOSE GUANTANAMO, AND STOP BOMBING PAKISTAN, WE SWEAR TO FUCKING GOD WE'LL VOTE FOR HIM WITH SLIGHTLY LESS ENTHUSIASM IN 2012."

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Attention, YouTubers: May I suggest…?

April 21, 2007, 1:29 AM

For all of you who post videos on YouTube, may I make a suggestion? If you’re going to be posting videos of yourself demonstrating something, please do one of two things. Please either get someone to do the filming for you, or alternately, please use a tripod or something else to put the camera on.

Why? Because people who are demonstrating something with one hand while filming with the other so often produce videos that will make a person seasick. The videos are so often also out of focus because they’re too close or moving too fast. Such videos make it hard to follow what’s going on, and it takes some of the human element out of a video, since all we see is this disembodied hand.

If I had prepared more thoroughly for this entry, I would have made multiple videos for you of the same basic thing ahead of time to show you what I mean. One where I filmed myself doing something, and the other while having another person film me doing the same task. Then I could have you compare the quality of the two videos.

But you won’t get to see this, because I came to this entry utterly unprepared. So let me pick a few videos out of YouTube to demonstrate what I mean in lieu of filming my own demonstration. My apologies up front if any of these videos that I am about to use were made by someone who is familiar with my work and may eventually read this.

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