Living With Copyrights


After some of the recent posts here regarding copyright and DRM (reLink 1, reLink 2), I thought it might be worth mentioning that yesterday BusinessWeek contacted me asking if they could include some of my portfolio images in a slideshow that was to run as part of an upcoming article on design education (the Cleveland Institute of Art was one of the schools on which they were reporting, I was told). I assume they were looking for a graduate with a least a modest track record, because a) one look at my profile tells people I’m not a current student, and b) all the images on my portfolio page are of real products and carry short explanations about their development.

Unfortunately, BusinessWeek requested that I assign to them a rather broad set of rights. Here’s what I wrote back:

You should be aware that it’s rare that I – or any working designer for that matter – have full rights to professionally-photographed images of real products. Most designers working for corporations don’t have those rights and neither do designers who work for consulting firms. It’s mostly students who actually pay for photographs of their student work. For computer renderings, the same applies since professionally-rendered images of real products are often created on company time and used in corporate communications or consultant marketing material.

What struck me was that BusinessWeek was asking for any rights at all. Most bloggers pulling in ad revenue from their entries – often including images – rarely bother. I’ve mentioned before that posting images is a touchy subject for me and is the reason I credit images as best I can and don’t have advertising on this blog. If I were to ever receive advertising revenue, I’d ensure that I had the right to post an image.

So anyway, it looks like BW won’t be showing any of my work. Good for them that they ask when so many don’t. I just hope that the other designers they contact have legitimate rights, especially if they’re granting worldwide exclusives. Considering the potential publicity, I suspect plenty will give away what isn’t theirs. I just won’t be among them. However, I also hope that BusinessWeek doesn’t accept at face value that these people have any rights to give – especially after I explained that in many cases they most likely don’t.

In any event, here’s to living with copyrights. This time it’ll probably cost me some lost revenue – perhaps quite a lot. No problem. I figure this blog is my promotion, and I’m getting away with posting other people’s images on a technicality.