The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

The Journal’s pictures are one of this business’ retail products


Last updated 9/12/2013 at Noon

Photographers are faced with a very difficult situation these days. Especially if their pictures are what they rely on to cover their living expenses. Not to mention the extraordinary cost of their equipment.

The advent of smart phones with reasonably advanced camera technology means everyone is now a photographer. Not necessarily a professional photographer just the same.

For photojournalists, portrait photographers and wildlife and landscape photographic artists, that means we face a major shift in terms of how our work gets noticed, how we find buyers for our best efforts and how we survive in the profession we elected to pursue.

Then along comes Facebook, Flickr, Instagram and several other web-based platforms that allow everyone to post and share millions of pictures: great ones, bad ones and ugly ones.

The every day consumer probably doesn’t consider how their images will be used once they are posted to one of these sites. They are using them in a social manner to enjoy and share with friends and family. The immediacy of these sites is amazing and they provide an incredible way for people to stay in touch city to city, state to state, etc.

I post pictures to Facebook often. I also share photos that I see and enjoy so that others may see them as well. Even then, in the back of my mind, as I share someone else’s work, I wonder to myself if they have any idea where their photographic effort has traveled.

Professional photographers and community newspapers are using Facebook and other sites to promote their work and remain relevant in this age of instant visual gratification. They need to use online sites to promote their work and hopefully be discovered.

At the same time, they are faced with a slippery slope when it comes to protecting their work and ensuring that it is not improperly used or that someone else makes money off the work without proper recognition of the creator of the image.

United States Copyright law is clear. The photographer forever holds the copyright to one of their images. In some cases a photographer contractually releases ownership of an image, but they are paid for it when they do. Actually, in most cases the copyright remains in place for up to 70 years after the death of the photographer.

Even a photo placed on Facebook still remains owned by the photographer. We understand and accept (albeit reluctantly) that by placing our images on social media, that the entity such as Facebook, has been given consent by us to use the photograph in the promotion of their own business.

We do not, however, give permission for the images to be taken by individuals, downloaded or dragged to their computer desktops to be made into prints.

The company owns all of the photographs taken by staff members of The Journal.

Every image that we place on The Journal’s Facebook page is the copyrighted property of the company. We actually embed a digital copyright in the images, and place a visual watermark of our logo over most images.

The newspaper is a business. The printed and online versions of the newspaper and the photographs are the retail products we offer for sale. We have several ways for people to order prints and digital files for their personal use. We sell photographs just like a grocery store sells milk, bread and eggs.

Purchasing our products helps to ensure that the business remains viable. Taking them without paying for them does not.

We love to record community events, sports, school and news with photographic images. As photojournalists, our goal is to provide visually appealing images of what happens in your communities. And, we will continue to do so.

But I must ask, please be respectful of our work. If you see something you like on our Facebook page, beyond sharing it on Facebook, if you want a permanent copy, please contact us rather than just taking it. You wouldn’t take a gallon of milk from the store without paying for it, would you?


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