can of worms: copyright infringement

Yes, we've been here before... but I've been burnt a few times. Friend and fellow photographer Tammy and I (and countless others) have experienced first-hand the frustration of having people use photographs for purposes other than what is clearly defined in the terms of their licenses. As yet, she has not had to entered a courtroom but I unfortunately have.

Laws are intended to protect people from any one of a number of things. Often, it is civil and not criminal cases that result in laws being revamped to close loopholes. I seriously thought that the most ridiculous thing I've ever read for a product warning was, "Do not iron garments while wearing," until Jamaica. (Sorry, M - I had to lol) But then again, who would ever have thought that people serving coffee would put a warning on cups about coffee being hot?

Backtrack a bit. I met a couple of forensic photographers at a PPOC event a couple of years ago. Their job was to take professional pictures specifically for the purpose of private individuals and corporations in support of various types of litigation. Though they specialized in insurance claims, they had also been contacted by police units, private investigators, lawyers, and other (presumably) legitimate folks in the legal field to provide photographic evidence for the purpose of being used in court. They had some pretty wild stories to share - husbands v. wives, insurance fraud, you name it. Their job was to go and take pictures to be used in a courtroom when the a) the police had not taken photographs or b) there was no criminal activity requiring police involvement.

Canadian copyright laws are pretty extensive, but to sum up, a photographer has moral copyright for all eternity, but the client who pays for photos owns copyright unless otherwise stated by the photographer. Hence, the reason most photogs I know clearly state they retain all copyright and prohibit use of their photos for anything but personal use. This usually is supposed to be interpreted as making prints for hanging on walls but unfortunately, there are those who interpret 'personal use' to include making tacky photo gifts and re-editing, and recently I came across an incident where a photographer's image had been used in court proceedings as evidence in a civil suit.

This is an interesting situation. Obviously, using your professional photographs for a court hearing would fall safely under the umbrella of 'personal use' and technically, one would have to assume that the photo was a paper print, but obviously it wouldn't be hung on a wall. But what if the photo was being misrepresented? For example, I take baby pictures when babies are crying. I also take pictures of kids when they aren't totally dressed. I also remove bruises and scratches. In certain circumstances I've even removed objects or people from pictures for aesthetic purposes.

In all these instances, the photos could be used out of context and therefore, I am personally not comfortable with my images being used as evidence without some sort of certification on my part that the photograph is being used in proper context, especially in family court where sadly husbands and wives will stoop to incredible depths trying to get the upper hand in custody cases. A picture is supposedly worth 1000 words, but what if false allegations are being supported with photographs that I took? Is the crying baby neglected? Are the naked kid pictures pornographic? Were the bruises taken out of the picture covering evidence of domestic violence? What if a person or object I removed was a critical piece of evidence?

One person suggested that if there was any question as to the validity of the images, the photographer could be subpoenaed. Yes, of course they could, but how often does Average Joe get that kind of latitude from the legal system? North Americans have been watching Law & Order and celebrity cases for so many years that we seem to think no stone will be left unturned, but in reality few parents have the clout or the financial backing for such an extensive investigation and would likely face a judge accusing them of wasting the court's time before being allowed to subpoena the photographer.

The bottom line for me is, I personally would not want an image that I had taken being used in court without me knowing for what so that I could certify (or clarify) the nature and context of the photograph. I would personally prefer that the person wishing to use the photograph ask for permission. This would not be something I would charge for, but certainly, I think it's within my rights as the owner of copyright to control how and when and why my work is used. Of course, at this point in time, it's not clearly defined in my copyright notice or terms of licensing. Perhaps it's time to get coffee-cup savvy about the issue.


myLOVE: gathering nuts

When I'm busy, the first thing to fall by the wayside is always the housework, and so before school starts I guess I'll need to spend a couple of days playing catch-up - dusting, doing the weird bits of laundry (like the table cloth for the picnic table) that kept getting passed over for the regular wash, raking up the apples we've been so lazy about in the yard this summer, and pulling out the stove to get the piles of sand that have surely collected there over the last 12 or so weeks.

It's taken 8 months, but looking back it's abundantly clear I made the right choice to drastically slow things down this past January. The lighter schedule freed up the time I needed to endure an unforeseen family crisis, time I might not have had if I'd kept moving at the frantic pace I had become so accustomed to. I wasn't any less busy this summer, but I was certainly busy with things other than what I had hoped. Truthfully, it doesn't feel like it was much of a summer at all. I feel like I somehow missed out this year. No camping. Only one day-trip to the lake. One weekend visiting my sister. One solitary weekend of virtually everyone I know having their summer's end BBQ... during which I was teaching workshops ergo unable to attend all but 2...

This September is monumental and I guess I had hoped for a more festive passing of the season for this crossroads. You see, my oldest boy starts high school, my youngest boy starts junior high, and my sweet baby Jane starts Kindergarten. Thank goodness Mads is smack-dab in the middle of elementary or I'd probably be institutionalized next week. I'm trying not to be sad about it - the children haven't left home or anything - but three of four children are experiencing a milestone from which there is no turning back. While I'm excited to see their coming accomplishments I can't help but be saddened at such a gory reminder of how time marches on, and stands still for no one and nothing, not even a family crisis.

High school is so serious - messing up in high school can have some pretty serious consequences, and while most kids kind of get this on some level, in retrospect I'm not entirely I took it seriously enough. Instilling a healthy respect for the impact his actions in the next 3 years may have on his entire career path seems like such a cruel thing to have to do to a child I still picture wearing a soggy diaper and eating daddy-long-leg spiders with the legs pulled off after I told him not to eat ants or they'd crawl around in his belly. He's a good kid, but he's already asserting his independence in ways that alternately swell my heart with pride and break it. I picked up an argyll sweater-vest off the little boys' rack while jeans shopping and wistfully remembered a time when I could have bought it for Wil and he'd have worn it, simply because it was in his closet. Now he wears skinny jeans and dyes his hair black and wants to pick out his own t-shirts. He wouldn't be caught dead in a sweater vest.

Junior high, while it doesn't carry quite the same weight academically as high school, is instead a three-year rite of social passage. It's during junior high that most kids become sexually aware if not active, drugs become readily available in the hallways, parents start locking up their liquor cabinets, and everyone struggles to find their place on a rung of the social ladder whether they share that rung with the nerds, the cool kids, the druggies, or the drop-outs. No matter how hard you love your kids, no matter what you dress them in, no matter how smart they are, there is virtually nothing you can do to predict which rung your kids will end up on, and nothing you can do to prevent them from being bruised and battered in the battle for a spot - ANY spot - on any rung. While kids who didn't quite fit in throughout elementary school are more likely to find a peer group in the bigger pond of junior high, there are also that many bigger fish. Like many parents, I fear that junior high can only be one of two things - a brutal trip through the shark-infested waters and sharp flotsam and jetsam of choppy hormonal storms where our children somehow find a supportive social niche that floats them along relatively unscathed, or they get seduced into the black abyss of social fringe where smoking dope, lipping off teachers, and skipping classes is cool and we stand by helplessly as they self-destruct via their burning desire to belong.

Then there's Serejane. My youngest, my last, my sweet baby, who starts Kindergarten. She's excited as kids starting kindergarten are prone, for in their eyes, once they cross the threshold of that classroom on the first day they are officially Big Kids, no longer babies like those other preschoolers who still pee their pants and play in the toddler park and take afternoon naps. Of course, what our babies don't realize is that when they start kindergarten, they take that first big step away from us - we are no longer needed to change their pee pants, no longer have the privilege of using the gated toddler parks, no longer get to cuddle up with them for afternoon naps. Kindergarten is a bittersweet time for parents, and for the record it doesn't matter if it's your first, your middle, or your youngest children starting, your heartstrings are strummed a little to hard each and every time.

In the fray, I missed a few things and am trying not to beat myself up over it too hard. While I know I have no one to blame but myself for becoming so distracted this summer, I still feel somehow robbed of what should have been a celebration of innocence and freedom, for each of these three children in each of their own ways. I'm trying to not be bitter or angry at the circumstances that caused it to flash by in such a blur, but rather to accept it as a reminder of why I'd rather have apples on the ground and a dirty kitchen floor. I wonder how I will view this time in our lives many years from now. The best I can do now is gather as many nuts as I can before the sun goes down on Summer of 2009. Wish me luck.

newLOVE: the twins graduate to babyLOVE!!!

We rounded off the twins' first year today with a session at the same spot Mom & Dad went for their maternity pictures. It was a gorgeous day and the ladies were in extra-fine form, hamming it up in their own special way, with Twin A being her bustling, busy adventurous self while Twin B sits quietly along the sidelines looking pretty and waiting for the action to come to her... There will be more teasers to come, but I *had to* share this one picture because, well. You can see why for yourself. Happy birthday, V & V!!!!

togetherLOVE: a tough crowd

To look at these pictures you wouldn't know it, but these two gorgeous little ladies were the toughest crowd of the day! Poor Mom & Dad worked even harder than I did but in the end it all works out OK because fortunately, for me, the most gratifying part of my job isn't getting the perfect posed picture (that's almost always 100% luck) It's getting images of people (even little ones) just being themselves. Thanks for an energetic session, M&C - and Mama N? I'll be watching your Facebook updates for #3 and #4... ~smirk~ (And next time you get your hands on an El Camino, let me know - I thought of about a bazillion pictures I could have used it for after the fact lol)

togetherLOVE: what leads up to a little youLOVE

Before heading off to do some fun pics for the creative mind behind Miyo Design I had the pleasure of hanging out with his braniac wife and their two very handsome, silly, and wonderful little men bright and early this morning. Although I'm not entirely sure I'll ever fully recover from watching Mr. K. taste his earwax (the verdict was, "Ew!") it was great spending the morning with you guys. Here's a taste (un-earwaxy) of the pics we got - the rest will follow in a couple of weeks!

oneLOVE: L & M say, "I do!"

Today is a day for TWO weddings! Before ATTENDING a sweet wedding, I got to SHOOT a sweet wedding. Congratulations to L & M on this amazing day. Your vows to one another were so touching, and I'm so happy I was invited to be a part of your very intimate and special day. Best wishes to you both on the continuation of what sounds like your already amazing journey through life together!

newLOVE: fresh from the oven!

Say hello to delicious Baby G! I promised "Mom" & "Dad" a few teasers right away since this weekend is CRAZY... so here they are! MANY MANY more to come. He is totally perfect, Mom & Dad.
(And, he smells good.)
(And, you have great lighting in your house - I only had to move 2 vases!)

newLOVE: halfway there!

I had the pleasure of hanging out with two of my favouritist-est babies ever on Sunday. Mr's B's (who in spite of his inability to be photographed this weekend has enough 'sweet' stored up for a lifetime) has a baby sister, and that baby sister Missy Miss A. is 6 months already (already!) and was rockin' an outfit picked by Daddy... I'm excited to post more but after a weekend spent cleaning house and constructing furniture I apologize for my tardiness... watch later this week for the rest, but in the meantime, feast your eyes on this!