Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Photo Earns Other People Money

About a year ago the agency that controls the publication rights to the first 5 years of my photography career stopped paying.   You might be thinking "Non-payment is a legit reason to end a contract".  Let's just say that in the most ideal of situations this is true.  Without getting into details (the agency in question briefly came out of a non-communicative state to threaten to sue me for mentioning them on Facebook) the quote that comes to mind is "the law is only there for rich people to make a point."  So, in a nutshell, "you can't get out, we won't pay you and we will continue to profit from your work" is essentially the message that was sent.

I firmly believe that it is human nature to not be able to fully empathize with what it is like to have something you created stolen from you until it actually happens.  This might be at the heart of why so many seemingly law-abiding citizens are okay with downloading pirated music and movies.  But that is a whole other blog entry for another time.

John Fogerty, lead singer and songwriter for Creedence Clearwater Revival, recently gave an interview for the Edmonton Journal.  Fogerty effectively lost the rights to his own songs in 1972 when the band split up and Fantasy Records retained control over the entire CCR songbook.  During the last few decades, if he wanted to perform his own songs, Fogerty would've had to pay royalties.  To add insult to injury, he was sued by the label when his solo tune "The Old Man Down the Road" was claimed to sound too much like "Run Through the Jungle".  So, it was not enough that he lost out on revenue from his original, monumental works of the CCR years, the owner of the CCR songbook seemingly also wanted to prevent Fogerty from even sounding like himself.

When asked by the interviewer what it was that allowed him to finally shed his understandable bitterness, he answered "“My family,” ...  “I healed because of being with my wife and family. It’s a great thing; one day you wake up and you’re not worrying about all of those things that were so dark and bothersome."  I am trying to find the same sense of peace that Fogerty has found through family.  And maybe since I am so much less significant than he is it might take me less time. 

Sometimes that peace of mind is threatened when reminders of how the creative material that I quit my day job to produce is still out there, padding the pockets of others.  I received the following email message last night: 

Dear Mr. Linstead, I just opened National Wildlife and saw your  
stunning image of the Osprey. Truly the best Osprey photo I have ever  
seen. Just a dazzling shot. I have no idea how you did this ..but it  
is awesome! This is what wildlife photography should be!
best Regards
xxxxxx
 
Here is the article in its online version where, as a double page spread 
in a national magazine with digital rights, it is likely to have 
fetched between $750 and $1000.  It is probably the best-selling image 
of my short career.  The trip to Finland alone cost me $7000.  I am far from a statistical blip. 
Be careful who you sign with.