Licensing: It’s Just Like Going to Ruth Chris Steakhouse

Undocumented Immigrants scramble up the fence dividing the U.S. and Mexico.

A friend of mine and I were laughing the other night when we started talking about the similar requests we get. Corrado does beautiful retouching in Photoshop for high end clients and I shoot images for a variety of publications and eventually license those images to others on an as needed basis. We both receive requests on a regular basis that start with one of the following:

  1. We’re a start up with no budget but we’d like to use your image……..”
  2. We’re a non profit with no budget but we’d like to use your image……”
  3. We’re a small company with no budget but we’d like to use your image….”
  4. We’d like rights in perpetuity, all media, worldwide but we don’t have much of a budget…..

Now, I can’t speak for Corrado, but I figure it’s time to post something about the basics of intellectual property. First, let me start by saying (or, maybe, yelling) that INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY IS REAL PROPERTY WITH REAL VALUE JUST LIKE THE STEAK YOU BOUGHT AT RUTH CHRIS STEAKHOUSE.

Where does my desire to write about this come from? Today I received a message from a film production company that wants to use the image above in a full length, feature film starring Rob Lowe. But, as happens all too often, the email began with ” I am working on a low budget, independent……..I know our director would like to include your image, but we are in a bit of a cost crunch.”

Cost crunch? Low budget? Then why Rob Lowe? Why ask to license the image for worldwide distribution, in perpetuity (a fancy word that means “forever”), in all media (you know, dvd, film, iPad, streaming, websites) as a Full Frame image (yes, it will fill the movie screen) if you are “low budget” and in a “cost crunch.”

I’ll answer that! Because it’s Economics 101 to try to get everything for nothing. It’s a negotiation. And like all negotiations in which YOU are the buyer and I am the seller, I have my price. What’s my price? Glad you asked……….

The value of my images is based on many factors. If you want to license an image, you select from the “menu” of options that is designed specifically to give a fair price for the type of use you plan for the image. This is no different from opening a menu at Ruth Chris and selecting what you want based on what you can afford. Now, PAY ATTENTION, because this is the key part………only select a license that you can afford! Wow, not brain surgery, is it?

Now, let’s look at it from another perspective. If you go to Ruth Chris Steakhouse and you only have $20, then common sense would dictate that you only order a small appetizer and drink water so that you can pay your bill with the $20. Irrational sense would dictate that you order a appetizer, drinks, Filet Mignon, dessert and coffee and ask if you can just pay $20 because you “……have no budget.” If you don’t think that’s fair then (and this is the beauty of living in a free, Democratic country) take your a– to Wendy’s or McDonalds and order a couple burgers and fries.

A few of the factors that determine a license are listed below. The idea is to create a license that breaks down exactly what you need so that you are not paying for extras (you know, like DirecTV or Time Warner Cable where you license the 300 channels even though you watch about 10 of them):

  1. Duration of the license. Using an image in perpetuity is costlier than one-time use.
  2. Geographic location. Securing Worldwide Rights is costlier than North American rights.
  3. Category: Usage that falls under TV/Film is costlier than Editorial usage.
  4. Use within the Category: In other words, within Editorial use, Magazine use is usually costlier than a Newsletter.
  5. What type of media? Consumer magazine, mock up use, trade publication, in house newsletter.
  6. What size will the image be used? A full page use is costlier than an 1/8 page use. A cover image is costlier than a image used on pg 83.
  7. Circulation Size (if printed material). A image used in a printed publication with a 2 million print run is costlier than an image with a 200 print run.

These are basic parameters that are put in place for the art buyer to get specifically what they need. It also protects the copyright holder (me) by keeping control of the work and licensing it for specific use. The prices are industry standard prices, not some arbitrary figure I come up with off the top of my head.

Whatever the situation, just remember that if you can’t afford a particular license, then downgrade until you find what you need. I’d love to eat at fine restaurants every night, but I can’t afford to, so I make my selections based on affordability.


9-11 Site Stats look like Twin Towers

A little strange that the graph showing the views on my blog for Sept 10 (eve of the terrorist attacks) and Sept 11 resemble the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

Blog site stats resemble Twin Towers

Painful Memories

Visitors to the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site next to Ground Zero

Anniversaries, funerals, and memorial services have always given me mixed feelings. I completely understand the need for a nation to gather on a historic day to reflect on lives cut short by hate, but on the purely personal level, memorializing is not something I relish.

It has something to do with asking to feel the turmoil, pain and anxiety again. Reflecting on days of great tragedy become days of great tragedy again, something that makes me want to run and hide on an emotional level. But I have done so all week, reading many reflections, viewing many photos and listening to many recollections on NPR.

It’s necessary to feel the pain again, to feel the anger again, I just don’t like it. A part of me feels like we’re letting the terrorists invade our psyche again. It’s the same feeling that many athletes and boxers understand: Never show the opponent that you are hurt. Don’t let them see your pain. Make them think everything is okay.

I’ll be glad when we can put the anniversary behind us and go back to “normal” lives. Of course, in hindsight, that’s what we tried to do as a nation 10 years ago.

Looking Back: The Aurora News Blog on 9/11

Crowd in Los Angeles clamors for news hours after the terror attacks of 9/11

Below is what I wrote for the Aurora Photos News Blog.

The phone rang, jarring my wife and I from our sleep. Dawn was just creeping under our bedroom shade, but the feeling of dread had already enveloped the room before I grabbed the handset. I had no idea why the phone was ringing, but I did know that the likelihood of the other person bearing good news was nearly nonexistent.

“Turn on the TV” my brother in Rhode Island hollered into the phone. “Quick!”

I hung up and scrambled across the house to turn on the television without waking our five-year-old son. The phone began to ring again. I managed to catch a glimpse of Tower One on fire while grabbing the handset fully expecting to hear my brother’s frantic voice again. But this time it was Martha Bardach, TIME magazine’s West Coast Photo Editor, asking that I get to downtown Los Angeles as soon as possible. No one knew where other attacks might occur, she said, but one rumor had it that a plane was heading for Los Angeles.

I made it to LA and began photographing as people assembled on the streets, talking on their cell phones, looking skyward with a sense of disbelief. The plane, thankfully, never materialized and people started to make their way home only hours after arriving for work. By this time it was being reported that the U.S. had been attacked by terrorists, yet LA had not directly been hit. I ventured across the city to the Federal Building near UCLA and found that the FBI were guarding the facility with assault rifles while listening intently to earpieces. At a nearby newsstand, a growing number of people were gathering. I stopped and began photographing as Angelenos (or were we all Americans at that point, I remember wondering), desperate for news and information, scrambled for position and thrust their money at the clerk in attempts to claim a copy of the LA Time’s extra edition published only hours after the terrorist attacks. “TERROR ATTACK” screamed the headline.

Hours later, I was sent by TIME to document citizens lining up at a Red Cross facility to donate blood for the victims and then onto a large, non denominational prayer service where tears flowed, heads bowed and prayers went out to victims and their families.

I then drove home to my wife and son who were safe and healthy. I cried along with my wife that night, knowing that the world had changed fifteen hours earlier when I reached for the phone.

Friends of Anton Fundraiser

View from another world, a father and son peer through the international boundary into the United States from Tijuana, Mexico.

Please find time to contribute if you can. If money is tight and you have a wonderful print, please consider donating it. Money raised from the print sales will go to educating Anton’s three young children.

For those of you who don’t know, Anton Hammerl was a South African photojournalist killed in Libya. His disappearance led to over a month of misinformation from Libyan forces loyal to the regime that provided a glimmer of hope to his family that he would be found alive. He wasn’t. He was apparently shot and left for dead in the desert. Sadly, his remains have not been recovered.

I didn’t know Anton. But he died pursuing a desire to inform the world with his photos. For that I have eternal respect and have donated the image above. I’m but a small, small cog and there are many big names from the photojournalism community who have contributed beautiful prints for auction. Please visit the site and read about Anton. If you can handle it, read the time line on the For the Press page. If you want a beautiful print from some famous photographers, this is a great opportunity to get one while helping a colleague’s family.

Please visit the site by clicking on the link or on the image above.


Security and the Right to Photograph

Added security of those entering the country. ©Todd Bigelow

Rather good timing for this refresher from the ACLU. Many of my students at Cal State University, Northridge and UCLA ask questions about where they can legally take photographs. My standard response is that if you are photographing from a public location and shooting images easily seen from such a location, then you’re good.

One result of 9/11 being explored by media during the week long lead-up to the 10 year anniversary is the added security in our society. Few will argue that added security is a good thing, but photographers and law enforcement have had many run ins over the decade since the terrorist attacks that clearly show a pattern of increasing harassment of photographers working within their constitutional right (you know, the 1st Amendment and all).

Give this link a look over. It’s a worthy refresher on the right to photograph in public:

When you’re done with that, give NPR a listen as they have a frightening report about surveillance in the Mall of America that illustrates a drastic change in surveillance of Americans following 9/11.