Monday, 6 December 2010

What can you shoot these days? Part 1

This is not a blog decrying the lack of targets for blood-lust hungry hunters but is about how you cannot film or photograph anything these days without written permission. Watch any news footage or television programme shot in the previous millennium and there were practically no restrictions on what you were allowed to cover - kids, iconic buildings, film stars, even the Queen was fair game.

Much of the work I produce is sold through stock libraries and each one has its own different rules and all of them have release forms available when you can identify someone within the picture or video. iStock is one of the most restrictive of all the stock libraries, possibly because it is owned by the omnipotent Getty Images. Material I have supplied but has been rejected for copyright issues include The Eiffel Tower at night (the light show is the problem), Sydney Opera House, a night time shot of London when a logo appeared over a total of 12 pixels (out of 5,800,000 or so) and macro shots of the Queen's image on a coin.

A photo of the "Boris" bikes in central London, which look great in their rack, was rejected because the bikes feature Barclays Bank logo. I Photoshopped the logo out, re-submitted and got it rejected again because the London Underground logo appeared in the background.

Timelapse footage of a glorious sunset behind the Millennium Wheel was rejected by iStock (although accepted by three other libraries) because it featured, yup, the Millennium Wheel.

I can see both sides of the coin (but I can't photograph it) and in ten years iStock have over 100 million images downloaded from their site, so they must be doing something right and their quality control is amazingly good. My concern (apart from not being able to get my images and video out to the iStock customers) is that the rich heritage that still and moving images have developed over the last 200 years may be eroded.

Fotolia and Shutterstock have a more relaxed attitude to copyright issues and search engines such as Google Images will find you almost anything, but would you feel happy using a photo sourced here in a TV programme that is being transmitted world-wide?

Without a court case to clarify each case, photographers and film makers will never be certain what they can shoot but one thing is clear, copyright free imagery is becoming an endangered species.

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