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.

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: http://www.aclu.org/free-speech/know-your-rights-photographers

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. http://n.pr/plxOzO

Short Profile on my Border Work

A migrant bathes in the hills of San Diego, CA near the fields that he works.

Thanks to the University of Arizona and it’s team of student journalists who run the Border Beat blog. Special thanks to Tim Glass for taking the time to listen to me go on and on about the border.

Take a look: http://www.borderbeat.net/people/1661-todd-bigelow-an-eye-for-storytelling

DREAMING of a Future

Young boy peers into the U.S. from Mexico.

The final days of the lame duck Congress are upon us and Democrats are scrambling to pass significant legislation before ceding their power to an influx of conservative Republicans. The tax cut debate was settled last night, though many democrats were quick to voice their displeasure with the extension of tax breaks to the wealthy. Nonetheless, that was one piece of legislation President Obama was dead set on pushing through now. The second piece of legislation that has caused partisan debate is the Dream Act.

The law that would grant legal residency to undocumented immigrants who arrived before the age of 16, lived in the U.S. for at least five years, graduated from high school and completed two years of college or honorable military service. Essentially, it’s designed to take the unfair burden off of our next generation of scholars or veterans who, by no fault of their own, were brought to the country illegally as young children and have lived in the shadows despite achieving academic excellence.

Alma, an undocumented immigrant, was brought here as a toddler. The couple waited nervously outside Federal Building for the outcome of a deportation hearing.

Why should children be punished for something they had no role in? A child who was carried across the border illegally at age 5,  raised in a loving family, excelled at school and gave to their community should have the opportunity to be a citizen of this nation of immigrants. Further, our country benefits from these students who have endured hardships and know the meaning of perseverance. They have and will contribute to our country the rest of their lives by becoming teachers, doctors, lawyers, social workers and business owners.

This is not an amnesty. This is an example of humanity. It’s doing what is right in the best interests of all parties involved, including the country as a whole.

As if on cue, the United Nations recognizes tomorrow, December 18th, as International Migrants Day. The 10th anniversary of this day is meant to honor all the immigrants who have contributed to the country. The timing for this day couldn’t be better. I hope Congress pays attention and realizes the best way to honor International Migrants Day is to pass the Dream Act and open the door for the next generation of immigrant success stories. Let’s pave the way for the young kids who had no choice in their legal status to step from the shadows and give back to the only country they call “home.”

The Food on our Plates

In the world of journalism, it’s well understood that timing is a great asset. Time the story right and it will often receive more attention. A poorly timed story will languish in the background of a world of information overload.

With Thanksgiving, the end all holiday for food, upon us the Southern Poverty Law Center released a special report long in the making about women in the food industry. “Injustice on Our Plates: Women in the U.S. Food Industry” takes a look at women toiling in the fields picking grapes and fruit to women across the country working in fields and factories producing food for our consumption. Living on the margins of society and impoverished by most accounts, these women often are victimized in a multitude of ways. From unsolicited sexual advances to unfair labor practices and pay, women in the food industry often suffer out of fear of being outed as an undocumented worker. It’s worth noting that many of the women who I photographed as part of the report are reluctant to complain. Humble and grateful for what they have, it’s not always easy getting the women to open up about abuses.

Migrant woman working Central California field

I spent a bit of time photographing various women in central California who either worked or are currently working in the fields. From the Grapes of Wrath to many other accounts, much has been written about the plight of migrant field workers. But when you see them twisting vines, snapping twigs and yanking oranges, it gives you a new perspective. This is truly tough work. The women, hands offering a contrast of nail polish and hardened dirt, work long hours in tough conditions. And as the SPLC report clearly defines, the wages are low and the workers are destined for a life of poverty.

No matter where you stand on the immigration debate or your political leanings, the next time you pick up some grapes at the store or enjoy a glass of vino at Thanksgiving, just give some silent appreciation for those who picked them.

Give the report a look here. It can be downloaded as a PDF: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/publications/injustice-on-our-plates

One last thing! SPLC is one of the nation’s most diligent non profits working on behalf of those with no voice in society. They have fought the long hard battle for decades dating back to the Civil Rights movement. Please consider donating, even a small amount is helpful. Go here if you can swing a small gift: https://secure.splcenter.org/donations/donate/overview

President Obama Announces Immigration Reform Package

By now there isn’t much new to say about immigration reform. President Obama made his plan for comprehensive reform known today and, to no one’s surprise, Republicans for the most part slammed it. Claiming the reform package which, incidentally, is co sponsored by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, is nothing more than an attempt to legalize the millions of undocumented in the country, the Republican party is once again trying to engage in politics instead of engaging in problem solving. My earlier post about Arizona Senator McCain’s pandering is case and point. Many Republicans who backed similar proposals when Bush was in office are now opposing Obama’s measure. If they voted for it once, why not again? Politics, folks.

A man covers his his heart and recites the Pledge of Allegiance at a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens.

It’s simply time to stop playing to the cameras and do the job our elected officials were hired to do. Govern our country so that we go forward. There is no way to do that without finding a path to citizenship while strengthening security at the border and in the workplace. Enough posturing, just get it done. It’s a good start at true reform, not just a ceremonious “border build up” that on its’ own is ineffective.

As for the Arizona law due to take affect later this month whereby police can ask people for documents, the Obama administration is challenging it legally. The SPLC has issued a travel warning to Arizona for possible human rights violations of citizens. I have a bet with a high priced, respectable NYC lawyer who has dealt with immigration law for years that SB1070, as it’s known, will be struck down as unconstitutional. He claims it won’t. Time will tell, so stay tuned.

Senator McCain and his Pandering on Immigration Reform

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Los Angeles to protest against the new Arizona law, SB 1070, that created strict immigration laws against the undocumented.

Nothing drives me crazier than hypocrisy. Nothing makes me want to run into traffic more than a politician who blatantly flip flops on issues and then blames the “interpretation” or “the media” for “misinterpreting” remarks. Folks, when a politician introduces and/or supports legislation, the bill works it’s way through congress. It’s pretty hard to “misinterpret” the clear wording on a bill.

On this election day, consider the opportunistic king of immigration pandering, Senator John McCain. Here is a man who has served his country in war and in congress. He has my profound respect in that regard. But stand your ground, Senator. Don’t pander to the right wing “tea party” activists simply because your poll numbers are down. Sure, you’re in a reelection campaign, but wouldn’t you rather lose knowing you fought for your beliefs than win knowing you changed your stance to retain your job? Sad…….

Read the LA Times story here. If you’ve paid attention, as I have, over the years to immigration issues, you’re well aware that Senator McCain has fought long and hard on the issue. After all, Arizona is on the US/Mexico border. But you’ll also recall, as the LA Times analysis does, that Senator McCain was pushing for legalization of undocumented immigrants and that building a fence was not sufficient. He called for comprehensive immigration reform in a floor speech five years ago whereby a guest worker program, additional security, and a path to citizenship for the undocumented was unveiled. To hear him now, you’d think he always advocated standing on the border with a assault rifle and nothing else. Sure, he took political heat for it back then and alienated a few staunch Republicans, but that’s politics.

Stand for your beliefs. Don’t pander, Senator. You are well versed on the intricacies of the US/Mexico border. Your state is going in the wrong direction. Be the hero you were in war and turn it around. Do what you advocated doing five years ago and fight for true reform as opposed to fighting for your job.