Friday, August 22, 2008

Copyright thievery by well known publications...

If you are a person and you take a picture or shoot a video clip, you are by default called an "artist and copyright holder" when it comes to copyright.

Believe it or not, you as an "artist" retain all rights to that picture you just took or the video you just filmed. There are few exceptions where this may not be the case. The only one I can think of is, if you were contracted for hire as a camera person and it clearly is defined that the ownership and copyright belongs the employer or production company that hired the artist.

Along come the video sites. You know, the YouTube's of the world. There are more and more of them everyday. It seems to be the "hot thing" for just about every news company, publication and magazine out there. They want you to submit your work for their benefit. And is some cases only for their benefit and definitely not yours.

If you actually read the "Terms of Use" at most of these sites, they pretty much state that you give them the right to show your wares without much issue. YouTube clearly states that they have the right to "stream" your wares using various methods and also disseminate your wares using various methods. But they do understand who owns the copyright - you. They merely ask for the right to stream in many places. This is great for you as your wares may show up on various websites, links and so forth. But when all is said and done, they are smart enough to never directly profit off of you or your wares in a blatant manner. What does this mean? As an example, you will not find YouTube (Google) taking one of your videos or photographs, modifying it, and selling it for profit.

However, there are some companies out there that believe they have that right. And believe it or not, you actually forcefully agree to it. And most likely you aren't even aware of it. One example comes to mind and is the reason that this is being written.

Fast forward to National Geographic. National Geographic started a new site area called "Everyday Explorers". It is basically a YouTube like place for you to show your wares that have to do with topics that National Geographic typically covers. They actually have it broken down into four (4) video categories; Favorite Places, Green Tips, Weather and Wildlife and Pets. Neat.

I figured, what the heck, NG is well known. So why not share my wares with their audience. Why not show some of my really neat lightning footage and photographs with a demographic that is well defined. And that is about where it ends.



I proceeded to upload a couple of vids that I also have on YouTube that have to do with some really neat lightning stuff. I uploaded these in mp4 format, just as their site claimed that was a recognized format. Nice small compact files. But the site rejected them and claimed they could not be processed. Hmmm. They worked on YouTube. They worked on Revver... But Vimeo also had the same problem. Maybe their converter software isn't the latest and greatest? Maybe my codecs are too new? In any case, it stopped me dead and gave me time to actually do a little more reading on their site. One thing stuck in my mind however the whole time. I recall getting an error when I first tried to submit. It was unrelated, but did get my attention. It made me check a check box that made me agree to their "Terms of Use". It asks this every time you upload.

I proceeded to click on the tiny little text link titled "Terms of Use" to see just what those terms state. Sometimes, there is a clearer explanation on how to upload, formats etc... within such terms. No such luck, no tech stuff. But something else caught my eye;

It was under Section II item number 5 on their terms:

II. Intellectual Property Issues

5. By uploading material, posting comments, or providing other content to the Site ("User Content"), you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you, in any medium now existing or subsequently developed, in editorial, commercial, promotional, and trade uses in connection with NG Products. An NG Product is defined as "a product of National Geographic, a corporate subsidiary, affiliate, joint venturer, or licensee of National Geographic, in any language, which is associated with a National Geographic trademark and over which National Geographic has "Editorial Control." For the purposes of this Agreement, "Editorial Control" means the right to review, consult regarding, formulate standards for, or to exercise a veto over the appearance, text, use, or promotion of the NG Product. You also agree that National Geographic may make User Content available to users of the Site who may display and redistribute it in the same way that National Geographic makes all other Content available.

Read this carefully! It is a blatant hijacking of your rights!

It is my belief and opinion that this is a blatant hijack of your copyright! I am not an attorney, but I can read. When someone writes "you grant National Geographic (which includes its subsidiaries and licensees) the following rights: a royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual license to display, distribute, reproduce, and create derivatives of the User Content, in whole or in part, without further review or participation from you," you basically give up all rights! This is blatant robbery, hijacking, theft or whatever you want to call it.

As of today, I have written to NG about this as well as warned some fellow artists that may or may not have been aware of this. I am most curious as to their response. Will they change their tune? Will they try to start a legal battle? Will they continue on their unscrupulous path? Once I get a response, I will let you know the outcome. Stay tuned.


Monday, August 18, 2008

It was a Wednesday, not a Friday the 13th.

It was definitely not a Friday the 13th when this little, and I use the term "little" loosely, storm passed through my backyard. So to speak. This thing literally came out of nowhere in just a short time as monsoons typically do.

But this was one of the easiest times I have ever had in regards to capturing lighting in the form of hi-res still shots. So, now I wonder, is the 13th really a bad luck thing, or as some cultures believe, it may just be real good luck.

This storm passed through in about 50 minutes, or just short of an hour. The shots are in sequence, unmodified or touched up. Dramatic to say the least. Some of you will pick up on the fact of why I had to quit when I did. Just observe the last few shots. Yes, the strikes were getting a bit close, and very loud. Enjoy.



For those of you that are wondering just how to shoot lightning like this, here are some quick notes:
1. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
2. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
3. Use a tripod.
4. Use a camera that has a manual mode.
5. Set the shutter speed to "bulb" (keeps the shutter open for as long as you wish)
6. Set the F-stop to 8.0
7. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
8. Use manual focus!
9. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
10. Set the focus to infinity. (Don't over crank or you will get macro on most lenses, which will in turn give you out of focus, rotten, miserable, garbagey shots - not that this ever happened to me. ;))
11. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity!
12. Use a remote trigger so that you don't shake the camera.
13. Make sure you are a safe distance from the activity, and by activity I mean specifically lightning! Wow, 13 steps. Coincidence?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Same story, different channel, different angle...



As a follow-up to yesterday's blog, the tragic story about the teen driving crash while under the influence was covered by yet another news reporter that I got to meet. This time it is Tucson's local channel Fox 11 & channel KVOA4 (NBC).

Now some may be asking, "why promote yourself like this?" - Well, in all reality, that is not the intent. The real intent in this case is to get a message out. It just so happened that as a stock shooter, I happened on the right place at the right time. And there is a lesson to be learned and a question to be answered:

Fellow artists are always pondering the question; "What makes good stock footage?" or; "what can I shoot that hasn't been shot before?", and finally "what will sell?" - I personally stopped asking these questions a while ago and simply just shoot.

The simplest reason is, you never know what you will get. The other concept is, we can not determine what sells and what doesn't. And is it always about selling?

I think not! In this case, my intent was to film a drive up a mountain, maybe do a time lapse with it and then enjoy an afternoon with the kids in the campground while putting some marshmallows over a fire.

Well, things don't always work out the way one might think, and sometimes you get sucked into an ordeal you never would have thought about in a million years.

The important thing to learn from this experience is to always have the camera at your side and be ready to shoot because opportunity may only present itself once in a life time. That is what stock photography and stock videography is all about.

And finally, if an opportunity such as this arises, do it for the public to help send a PSA out. Who knows, something like this may at some point actually save a life. And that is what this videographer really hopes for.

Shooting stock leads to other events, sometimes.

Yesterday while my family and I were simply heading for an annual fest in a mountain campground, I figured, what the heck, I'll shoot some stock while there. Maybe get some time lapse footage of the drive up the mountain? Get some nice wildlife? Great idea. The point is, when you shoot stock, there is always an opportunity to get real stuff. However, in yesterday's journey, I got a lot more than I bargained for.

About halfway up the mountain we hit a roadblock. So did hundreds of others. The reason? The local Sheriff's department closed the road due to an accident that happened at 4:00am. It involved drinking, driving and teens. Yes, unfortunately there were fatalities. In any case, we got word from the Sheriff's dept. that the road would soon open (it was now about 11:30-ish in the late morning). Then an officer noticed that I had a camera running and asked if it would be O.K. with me if I would film the wreckage as it came down the mountain on the tow truck. They explained that there had not been any local media at the scene and that it would be good footage to get for the sole purpose of sending a message to the public. "Show the end result of drinking, driving and being an inexperienced teen driver." - They recommended that I also contact the media afterwards as they may be interested in such footage.

Now I am thinking to myself, what an opportunity! I have the Sheriff on my side, making sure I am updated by the minute and given clearance and room to film this tow truck along with all the other commotion. Can't beat that! In my mind I am thinking, this is one of those moments where I have valuable footage for sale today that the media wants! Cool.

Of course, after shooting all the footage, and then having gone to the fest, I told my family that we had better head on back so that I can render this stuff and see what I have and contact the media as well. So we headed back down the mountain, past the accident site, which just gave us an eerie reminder. Luckily at one of the pullouts I spotted a local TV truck with dish and all. I pulled over and approached the nice lady reporter and cameraman and asked if they would be interested in this footage. Needless to say, they were. We exchanged numbers, information and deadlines. Now the clock was ticking....

I had until 8:30 pm (mind you this is a Sunday), to get this footage over to the station. It would be aired on the 10:00 pm news. Well, the rest is history. I didn't sell the footage, but "donated if" for several reasons:


  1. There is a very important public message involved - I consider it a personal message to all teens.
  2. I do not want to profiteer off of other people's tragedies.
  3. I figured the worst that can happen is that I make a new friend with a local reporter.
  4. I got a bonus - the local news station gave me credit on the air by putting my website on any footage that came from me.

Now that's an opportunity you can't pay for.

So, I suppose there is a moral to the story. One can't always expect to get hard cold cash for everything you do (or shoot). But if you give a little, you most likely will get a lot back. Think about it, where else can you get more exposure than on the news and on top of that, in essence for free?

So please watch this news report. The intent is not to flaunt my footage, but to send a message to teens. So if you have a teen driver in the family, make sure they watch this too.


Thank you to Linda Garrett and all the KGUN9 (Tucson, AZ) staff for allowing me to help them get the message out. Video News segment courtesy KGUN9 Tucson, AZ

There was an error in this gadget