Sunday, October 25, 2009

Use of a Flickr photo for online guide -- what do you think?

My "selected" photo of Fort Worden State Park

The funny thing is, I'm not that crazy about this photo anyway: I certainly could have done without all of the cars in the foreground!

But nevertheless, this photo somehow got noticed by an online map/guide system called Schmap. And a few weeks ago, I got an email notification that one of my Flickr photos had been chosen as a finalist for inclusion in "the newly released ninth edition of our Schmap Seattle Guide."

The email clearly asked for my permission to eventually use the photo in the guide; the terms were clearly explained. Without much thought, and fully knowing that Schmap was a professional venture, I answered positively.

Well, today I found out that my photo "has been selected for inclusion" in the guide, and it is visible here online, and I can even see here what it looks like on Schmap's iPhone version.

And now I must admit I feel a little funny about the whole thing.

Don't get me wrong: Schmap was totally up-front and did everything right. Despite the slightly inflated language, they never presented their venture as some sort of veiled contest; everything was explicitly laid out in due form, and I did indeed give them permission to use my photo.

But should I have?

The question is not "my photo" as such. My thought is not that "maybe they should have paid me for it" -- I'm far from a professional photographer. But I am wondering if maybe they should have paid someone else for it -- or for something better.

What do you think? With so many photos floating around on Flickr, is this just the wave of the future and no big deal? Or by surrendering my rights to this modest photo, did I somehow contribute to undermining the work of professional photographers?


poppy fields said...

Hey, Schmap used one of my photos for les Baux de Provence and I thought they were very upfront in their way of asking permission, etc...
Congrats, it's a realistic photo for people who want to get an idea about the place.

Jennie said...

A lot of companies are going this way now - finding things online and using them (with or without permission) so they don't have to pay anyone for their work. It's essentially negative crowdsourcing. People think they're being nice or that they're being recognized for their work, and really it's just that companies don't want to lose money on contracts and end up making more profit in the end.

If anyone is going to make money off your work, then it should be you! But I guess a lot of people think nowadays that if it's on the internet, it's free for the taking. People copy and steal photos, blog posts, entire websites, etc. and claim them as their own or sell them for profit. It's quite disgusting.

Anonymous said...

This was perhaps a good lesson for your first published photo. It's flattering and it allows you to claim that you are a published photographer.
Next time you can demand payment!
Nice pic.

Betty C. said...

Sorry, Jenni, but there was no "stealing" involved in this case. As Poppy said, the company is very up-front and above-board, they asked for permission, they made it clear that the only thing I would get out of it was the exposure of my photo, I accepted...

My question is more philosophical -- should we as writers, photographers, or whatever participate in this sort of venture or not?

Maybe the moral high ground is to say "NOT!" but I think things have gone a bit too far down the slippery slope for that.

jennie said...

I'm glad they didn't steal your work, and if you consented, then that's fine. I was mostly referring to huge for-profit corporations like LinkedIn which recently asked members who were professional translators to translate their website into other languages for free. It offended a lot of translators, as you can imagine. And it's that kind of "taking advantage of people that would not happen in the real world, but since it's on the internet, everybody thinks it's ok" attitude that really irritates me.

I would say as long as the rightful author receives credit (and gave permission in the first place) and no one else stands to make profit off the work, then it's ok. But then again, if you keep giving away things for free, then eventually you will never be able to make a living off it. It could devalue your work in the long run. However, if you're just doing it as an amateur and not as a career, maybe the stakes are different there too. I don't know, it's complicated!

Anonymous said...

I rather like the thought of the photos being taken by people not looking to make a buck, but to share photos of places they've been.
Nice shot.

Megan said...

I don't know, I think that as long as they asked and you said yes, it is fine. No reason for them to pay someone if they can get it for free. How would you feel if someone asked to something from your blog in an article about France? Would you want payment or just recognition?

Betty C. said...

Jennie -- I definitely agree with you on the translating bit. I've read (and even written, professionally) a lot about crowdsourced translation. But once again, there is an element of choice there; nobody is forcing anyone to "participate" in these translations.

I agree, it is complicated!

MilkJam said...

that's in my hometown!!!!!!!!! :-)

spacedlaw said...

I have had several pictures included in various Schmap guides (or on the San Pellegrino site).
It's some type of recognition (even if in some cases I wonder too about the quality of the pictures) so, why not?
Yes, ideally, they should have paid a professional to take that picture but would your (and mine) refusing to cooperate have ensured that some photographer does not get bypassed?

Betty C. said...

Yes, spaced, that's more or less what I have decided -- if it wasn't my photo, it would have been someone else's, also for free.

Tinsie said...

I too have been approached by Schmap for one or two of my photos. Personally I think that's fine. Most of my photos aren't artistic, they're just snaps. I happened to be somewhere at a given time, I happened to take a photo, I happened to upload it. If that helps someone down the line, that's great. I always appreciate being able to find pictures of places I'm researching or planning to visit on the internet. Nor would I want to get paid, unless the photographs were being used for a paying service or catalogue.

As for undermining the work of professional photographers, I hardly think anyone would pay a professional to go round every sight and neighbourhood of the world and take pretty photos. People and companies who need good quality photographs (i.e. wedding photos, portraits, book illustrations etc.) will still employ a professional for the job, rather than trawl the www for random people snapping away with a mini camera.

Linda said...

I've had some of my photos used here and there, usually with permission. I find it kind of exciting that they want to use it I guess. I usually just ask for my name to be put there as the photographer. It's a different world now with the Internet.

Laura in Paris said...

I get your point ... they do everything upfront, explain teh rules, etc ... but get free pictures for their guides/sites.
Problem is that people are really pelased to have their pictures included, and they know it, so had you said no, they know that many others say yes! So on line guides will never pay again for a shot - I guess

Anonymous said...

I really like the photo a lot and can see why you have been asked for it. Who knows, maybe somewhere down the road, it may open a door for you - hope so!! The internet and like Laura in Paris says...the world of online business and even stright busness has changed forever.