The American Society of Media Photographers, the Graphic Artists Guild, the Picture Archive Council of America, the North American Nature Photography Association, and the Professional Photographers of America have all joined together to sue Google over copyright infringement, claiming that the search giant has scanned millions of books and magazines that include copyrighted images, then displaying those images without consent.
The suit was filed in the same court where Google’s long standing Book Search settlement is being considered. In that case, Google agreed to pay a $125 million settlement to compensate the rights holders.
Adds ASMP General Counsel Victor Perlman: “We are seeking justice and fair compensation for visual artists whose work appears in the twelve million books and other publications Google has illegally scanned to date. In doing so, we are giving voice to thousands of disenfranchised creators of visual artworks whose rights we hope to enforce through this class action.”
Google responded, via eweek: “We are confident that Google Books is fully compliant with U.S. and international copyright law.”
Yes, their copyright has been infringed. But is there anything to be gained by suing? I would suggest this cost and energy is far better used looking towards a long — heck, even medium — term sustainable strategy for the photographic industry.
The concept of copyright was an excellent one for its time, but I believe that time is coming to an end in many instances, and the Creative Commons movement is more viable and, I believe, more fundamentally honest. It’s one that I think that we, as African media practitioners, should become familiar with so that we can start integrating it into our work. I don’t believe we have to choose the one system of the other, however, but should rather be familiar enough with the concepts of rights and responsibilities to be able to share our material for education and news needs, but keep a tight enough handle on it to make a profit.
It brings us back to that issue of obscurity versus piracy – which is the greatest danger for the African photographer? I would suggest the former.