Thursday, 29 January 2009

Copyright Policy Consultation

Although I mentioned this briefly a couple of weeks ago, and was expecting photographers (and other creators) all around the country to be talking about the IPO consultation on copyright, things appear to be very quiet.

So I apologise to everyone for banging on about this now, but it simply is too important an issue not to stand on rooftops and shout about it

This is a Government consultation, which I first learned of in the middle of December via the NUJ. The response in writing from creators is required by 6th February. The National Union of Journalists, the Association of Photogrpahers, British Association of Picture libraries and Agencies are all putting in submissions, and I am sure many of the other organisations that represent photographers will also be working hard.

So what is this consultation about?

It amounts to nothing less than the opportunity to completely rewrite our laws on Copyright. Well, more to the point as we are in Europe we are being given the opportunity to revise our current copyright laws, lose some of the nonsense such as magazine and newspapers not having to provide a credit, and to acquire extra rights such as in Germany where Copyright is an unalienable right under law, and the holy grail of having our rights as creators upheld by law, and getting laws introduced that allow us to chase copyright infringers and charge penalties for misuse, and to make this affordable for sole traders.

This is probably one of the most important issues we will have to deal with for some time, and it has been overshadowed somewhat by the current economic situation. I have prepared my own submission to the consultation, and I am aware that a number of others have too.

John Toner at the NUJ has been to several meetings with representatives of the IPO and it seems clear that this is an excellent opportunity to improve the copyright law hugely. But this will only happen if it is made clear how important copyright is to us as creators. If we just sit back and let our organisations do all the work for us, good job though they will all do, it will not have as much impact as if thousands of creators also write and reinforce what they say. Each of us has individual experiences, all of which will help make our case.

This is an opportunity to get our rights to be recognised as the authors of our work enshrined in law - which will go a long way towards preventing payment avoidance and orphan works.

This is equally an opportunity to get legal backing to prevent stealing of our images and giving us the affordable means of obtaining not just payment but reparations for theft and misuse.

Also there is the possibility of raising the bar in the UK and introducing concepts that are current in several European Countries (particularly Germany) where copyright is an unalienable right, which publishers simply cannot take.

The IPO are asking us to tell them about instances where our copyright and moral rights are abused, they wanton see some of the simply foul contracts that are rolled out by some of the biggest Publishers in the land. If we do not make it clear that we are unhappy with these bad practices it will be assumed by implication that we do not object. This is simply the best opportunity we will ever get to establish some fairness in the area of copyright and the way we work.

My own submission is far from all encompassing, but I am willing to share it with any who are interested (e-mail me

The BJP has taken up the baton on our behalf, and we, as individuals need to support this and other initiaves and make it clear that we do care about copyright and not let this opportunity slip.

Ideally, every creator, especially photographers should make their opinions known. Enough of moaning around pub tables now is the time we can actually make a difference for photographers.

© 2009 Pete Jenkins

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Regional Newspapers RIP...

What is it about some shopkeepers, themselves small business people, that makes them think that surly unfriendly behaviour to their customers is acceptable? In these difficult days of 2009, with a credit crunched economy, and everyone careful of their pounds and pennies, it would seem even more important that ever before for small business people to provide quality service, even if they cannot compete with the rock bottom prices of the giant corporations, who just want to shift units and for whom customer care doesn’t even register on the radar.

I took back 50 incorrectly supplied CD-ROMs to the little local computer store that I have keenly supported since they opened. Incorrectly supplied in that they were DVDs not CD-ROMs and I have enough DVDs, but currently no CDs.

Instead of a “sorry sir, please let me exchange those for you, and please accept my apologies for inconveniencing you”, I got a tirade of unnecessarily brusque abuse, and it was made clear that not only was it not the shopkeepers fault for supplying the wrong goods, (despite being correctly requested), but it had to be my fault as the customer, for allowing, myself to be fobbed off with the wrong goods. Did I not understand what an imbecile I had been?

Although eventually I got the required CDs, they were not the printable types I actually wanted, and of course the experience has entirely put me off dealing with these jokers again. Supporting your local business has always been one of my mantras, but not if it means I have to take bad tempered abuse. A shopping experience like this really is enough to send people to shopping malls (perish the thought).

Those small companies and one-man businesses need to remember that customers are there to be cherished and nourished. Customers are difficult to acquire, and oh to easy to lose.


On Saturday, I was fortunate enough to attend the National Union of Journalists Job Summit in London. The main speaker was one Nick Davies, author of the book ‘Flat earth News’, which caused a sensation amongst journalists as it stated quite clearly, what many of us have known for some time, that regional Journalism is on its deathbed, and that National journalism is on its knees. The unfortunate state of the industry being brought about by greed, and the business practise of using newspapers and other publications as cash cows.

Nick Davies pic by Pete Jenkins

For years Publishers have been maintaining profit margins for the benefit of shareholders by cutting back on journalists, and the rates paid to their staff and freelance contributors. There are examples of regional Newspapers paying £85.00 for a freelance shift in 1994, and paying the same in 2009, in many case actually less. Expenses freely paid in the early nineties are now argued over penny by penny, and in most cases mileage rates remain much the same, even though the price of petrol and running a car have rocketed in the fifteen years since.

Every year there seem to be fewer staff journalists, and the fees paid to freelances appear static, and more is expected for less. Photographers frequently have publishers trying it on; demanding all rights for no extra pay, publishing on the web as well as print editions, and expecting to use freelance content for free, telling creators that they must give up the right to be credited. At the same time as this there are Publishers syndicating freelance work and taking all the revenue from these sales themselves.

Whilst these practises are going on the Publishers are declaring good profits, but the quality of the publications is in many cases declining. Journalists and suppliers are put under greater pressure.

For photographers, the regional press is dead and there is little point in trying to work in that arena, those that do will increasingly become frustrated, find themselves sunder greater and greater stress, and soon without work. Even the nationals do not hold forth a long-term future for professionals, and increasingly newspaper work will become less and less attractive to full time visual creators as they are forced to look for more reasonable outlets for their work.

© 2009 Pete Jenkins

Thursday, 22 January 2009

New beginnings...

Like many I watched and listened to the inauguration of the incoming President of the United States Barack Hussein Obama. Even Lewis my seven-year-old sat and watched whilst Obama gave us an indication of how he wished his government to work. That he acknowledged that Americans themselves are at least partly to blame for the situation in which they find themselves seems to me to be a huge step forward in achieving some solutions.

Mr. Obama said.

"What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility, a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world,"

"Duties that we do not grudgingly accept, but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

Lots of rhetoric, but I do sense that maybe (at last) an American President really does understand that the issue with the US and the Rest of the World really does revolve around the US itself.

With news that Guantanamo Bay is at least being dealt with, and that Military Tribunals have been halted (Washington Post) albeit initially only for 120 days. Hopefully, this is just a start.

Will the US establishment allow this President to do what the rest of the world wants to see?


Despite the political desirability of having someone who is (seemingly) the political opposite of George W in the hot seat in the US, it doesn’t stop politicians (even the good ones) and their Public Relations machines trying to control the media.

Three news agencies have refused to distribute White House-provided photos of President Barack Obama in the Oval Office, arguing that access should have been provided to news photographers. (Newsvine)

In the scheme of things many would consider this unimportant, who cares whether news photographers get access to the president, or if a tame snapper produces images in house? And yes, I can see that as it was the re-run of the oath it wasn’t exactly an earth moving piece, but really should we be prepared to accept the Whitehouse dolling out the only images of Presidential events?

I should say no. It is the start of a slippery slope. From the point of view of being a photographer, it would mean sanitised images, which are never as good as those taken by a selection of photographers competing for the best pic. From the point of view of publications few if any picture editors, will be happy at only ever being able to get the same few pictures as every other publication on the planet.

It doesn’t even matter how good a photographer Mr Obamas official photographer Pete Souza is, as the PR machine churning out his work will put out sanitised photos, they won’t be able to help themselves. We probably never will see Souzas best work, which will be a shame.

More from PDN

We have already seen similar practises here in the UK. When Tony Blair came to Nottingham a couple of years ago, very few (if any) Nottingham based news photographers got access, and precious few photographers working directly for the nationals.

News events should be open to as many editorial photographers as possible, that way we will get the best possible images. It is never right to restrict access to the in house person, doesn’t matter whether it is a football club or president of the United States.

© 2009 Pete Jenkins

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Copyright and Conferences

It seems a popular thing to knock the National Health Service, most especially for those who read a certain type of newspaper, but from my own experience I have nothing but praise for the people who work within it. My contact with the NHS has been infrequent, until recently. Today I went in for a minor procedure, in at 7.00am, by 8.00am the consultant had seen me and by 8.30am I was in the operating theatre waiting for it all to happen, and chatting to the nurses. Whilst I was socialising the consultant was pacing up and down passing comments on the inadvisability of the Radiologists starting work at 9.00, whereas (apparently) the rest of the NHS clocked on at 8.00am.

Once the X-ray machine was all up and running my procedure started with the man in charge pocking around and looking at what he was doing live on screen – weird stuff, I was able to watch what was being done to me larger than life as the operation progressed.

What really brought me down to earth and put a lot of things in perspective was being taken to the ward and parked next to an ex-miner, with one leg who had suffered an industrial accident in 1964.

His story of the accident (he was a maintenance engineer) and the subsequent trauma of being shifted two miles underground, (on a series of conveyor belts used to move coal), in order to be brought up to the service etc, brought my own condition sharply into focus. This genial old man described how he was in the hospital because his care worker had found him after he had had a stroke over-night, and then proceeded to tell me all the improvements made to his house to enable him to use his kitchen etc. Quite a humbling experience.


The NUJ is organising another Photographers Conference for May 2009, to build on the great experience of the 2007 Conference, and the Freelance Office and the Photogrpahers Sub Committee are buzzing with the anticipation of the event. Organising speakers and seminars is not always as easy as it sounds, and this year we are getting industry more involved.

With the credit crunch and the mess that seems to have been created by the banking industry, (is banking truly and industry?), seeming to be settling in for the duration, it seems more and more important now that photographers become more informed and aware of their own industry.

Dealing with the potential changes in Copyright law, (how many photographers have read let alone responded to the consultation by David Minister of State for Higher Education and Intellectual Property, and the Intellectual Property Office to act further on the recent Gowers Review of Intellectual Property reported in 2006. The document is here. I would recommend every photographer working in the UK to read it and if possible comment. The NUJ, AoP, BAPLA and other photographer’s organisations are formulating their responses as we speak which have to be in by 6th February 2009. The more Professional Photogrpahers who respond constructively to this consultation, the more seriously the IPO will regard the situation and the more attention that they will pay to our representatives.

There is a chance here that some seriously useful and constructive changes can be made to copyright law here, such as enshrining the moral right to be recognised as the creators of ones work, without which, much legislation will fail to deliver (as is currently the case in newspapers for example).

That the IPO is asking us is a very positive move and we should grasp this opportunity with both hands.

© 2009 Pete Jenkins

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Day out in London

Why is it trains promise so much and yet these days never seem quite to make it? Travelling down to London yesterday from Nottingham, I was looking forward to one of those nice new squeaky clean trains with plug sockets to enable me to use the laptop, end edit some photographs.

But oh no, what I got instead was one of the older trains – luck of the draw.

Coming back from St Pancras, I thought I had struck it lucky when I was in the front of the queue for the 8.15pm train, which not only was an express, (third stop Nottingham), but was also one of the new High Speed Trains, Great Stuff. Trouble is once passengers were eventually allowed on board, the heating wasn’t working and the sockets weren’t powered up.

Such a shame.

However, at least the train arrived back on time :-)

Yesterday, I attended the NUJ's Freelance Industrial Council. This is the body of elected freelances that deal with 'Freelance' issues within the Union, plan strategy etc. The Council is serviced by the Freelance Office run by John Toner the Freelance Organiser and the assistant Freelance Organiser Pamela Morton.

It was a day-long meeting in London at the NUJ HQ. One of the most productive decisions made was to look at ways of assisting members find new outlets for their work, other than the traditional newspapers and magazines.

With the public knowledge that the Telegraph and Independent newspapers are cutting payments made to photographers, the excuse given being the financial situation, (those very same fees that have hardly changed in fifteen years), one can see that Newspapers are in severe difficulties. We all have known that the regional press was 'under the cosh' for some time, and many photographers (including myself) ceased supplying the local press years ago, but it was clear even then that the national would soon follow.

Staff photographer levels are at an all time low and even those left have to be asking themselves, how long it will be before they find themselves out of a job, or invited to re apply for their own position at a lower pay rate?

Freelance budgets are easily cut, and there are many publications now that profess to have no freelance budget at all (doesn’t stop many of them trying to get pictures though!).

The very big agencies are still in operation, though with them all covering much the same events, and supplying the same generic material, it remains to be seen how long they will be able to maintain operations at their current level.

As the papers cut back as they inevitably will, the agencies will have less pie to fight over. Where will it all end?

Already in the local press it would appear that there are no full-time professional photographers left. Those that still service the regional newspaper sector can only afford to do so because they get the bulk of their money elsewhere.

Regional press has now become the preserve of the aspirant part-timer and the amateur, citizen journalist. Is it a matter of time now before the national go the same way?

I think that this is a tragedy.

(c) 2009 Pete Jenkins