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The case that opens today according to NPPA:

In a case that could set precedent in online copyright legislation and impact photographers around the world, oral arguments are scheduled to begin Friday in a New York City courtroom in freelance photojournalist Daniel Morel’s claim against Agence France-Presse.

Morel is suing AFP for using, without his permission, his photographs from the January 2010 devastating earthquake in Haiti which Morel posted on TwitPic and Twitter shortly after the disaster struck.

AFP took Morel’s pictures without the photographer’s permission (they thought the photos belonged to somebody else). They then made a lot of money from selling the pictures on. Not exactly a case for the moral maze, right?

Who should then pop up on the BJP website to criticize Morel , none other than JF Leroy, organizer of the yearly Festival of Shanty Town Photography, otherwise known as Visa Pour L’Image.

“Anyone who puts images on Flickr or on Twitter, and then sees them being used, well too bad for him… a photographer should never put his images on a social networking site. If you put your image on Twitter or Flickr and find that it’s been stolen by someone else, well… tough. You can’t ask me to defend you. What I’d like is for all photographers reading this is that they stop putting images on such sites.”

For some reason Leroy missed a website off the list: his own.

The  images at the bottom of this post have  all been taken from the front page of the Visa Pour L’Image . As you can see they are not in any way credited when displayed on the site. At the end of the film that the photos are taken from a number of photographers are mentioned, but again there is no mention of copyright.  Infact whilst the websites that Leroy says you shouldn’t be placing your images DO have explicit policy on copyright I can find no such clearly labeled policy on the Visa Pour L’Image website (of course it could be buried somewhere). You would expect to find such protection under ‘credits’, but it’s simply not there.

No-one has picked up on  the absurdity of Leroy’s position better than Jeremy Nicholl (The Russian Photos Blog), who wrote a cracking post back in June:

If social media sites were really places where any visitor was welcome to plunder whatever they found photographers would indeed be best advised to stay clear. But that simply is not the case. Most social media sites – including those mentioned by Leroy – have terms designed to prevent the third party use of contributors’ material. One could argue that the terms are not well enforced, but that’s very different from claiming the terms don’t exist, or that they mean the opposite of what they clearly state.

Leroy’s rationale – that a certain group of people should avoid particular places because something bad might happen to them if they venture there – turns the world upside down and shifts blame for the crime from the perpetrator to the victim. In 2010 in the real world outside the web few would dare come out with such nonsense. Don’t agree? Then try this on for size:

“Any girl who goes to these clubs, and then gets assaulted, well too bad for her… a girl should never go to a nightclub. If you go to one and get raped, well… tough. You can’t ask me to defend you. What I’d like is for all women reading this is that they stop going to such places.”

Leroy is siding himself with an industry that loves photographs, because you can still make money from them, but it’s also an industry that has no time for individual photographers because:

  1. They don’t really need them anymore, certainly not to deal with on an individual basis.
  2. They are a pain in the arse when they protest at being screwed over (a la Morel). This gets in the way of making money.

The double standards are mind mashing. If AFP, Getty and JF Leroy are implying its OK to take someone’s images and sell them on, then photography, apart from commissioned shoots, has absolutely no value, because nobody needs to pay for it, except the photographer who self-funds the work.

Actually what they are really implying is that it’s only OK to take someone’s images and sell them for a profit if you are:

  1. An already established news org or photo agency
  2. You are big enough to afford lawyers who can counter-sue into oblivion the likes of Morel

I’m hoping that some of the photographers featured on the Visa Pour L’image website will get in touch and assert their rights.  I’d think twice before sending this response:

‘If you allow JF Leroy to use your image on his website and then see it being used, too bad for you.  A photographer should never put their images on Visa Pour L’Image. If you gave your image to Leroy and it’s been stolen, well tough. Don’t ask me to feel sorry for you, just stop handing over your images to someone who cares more about the agencies that fund their Festival of Shanty Town Photography than the photographers themselves.’


UPDATE:

Please note duckrabbit has taken down the uncredited pictures that it grabbed from the front page of the Visa Pour l’Image (where they are uncredited).

The reason that we grabbed them is outlined above. We feel that Mr Leroy’s response more than justifies our actions.

duckrabbit is a production company formed by radio producer/journalist Benjamin Chesterton and photographer David White.We specialize in digital storytelling.

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