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Business Practices

Library of Congress Technology Woes Shut Down Copyright Office

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 14, 2015

Copyright Office logoCreators seeking to register their work online at the end of August were foiled by a system outage that took the electronic filing system offline. The outage lasted for nine days, from August 28th through September 5 and was caused, according to a report issued by the office, by the shutdown of a Library of Congress data center for scheduled maintenance. The Library’s information technology office was unable to bring the system back online for several days, costing the office about $650,000 in lost fees, as reported by The Washington Post.

The outage came on the heels of a damaging report by the Government Accountability Office, which accused the Library of failing to prioritize digital technology or effectively manage its computer systems. The Copyright Office, which is a department of the Library of Congress, uses the IT infrastructure – the network, servers, telecommunications, etc – maintained by the library.  In her testimony before the House Judicary Committee in April, Maria Pallante, Director of the Copyright Office, highlighted the need for the office to modernize, with technology staff independent from the Library and focused on the Office’s specific goals.

Terrence Hart covered the dilemma facing the Copyright Office in his article, “Outage shows need for Copyright Office modernization.” Hart points out the futility of housing the Copyright Office within the Library of Congress, considering that the two have distinct administrative needs and missions. He concludes by calling for Congress to give the office “the autonomy and resources it needs, without further delay.”

Illustration Rep Changes Policy of Not Crediting Artists After Protest from Illustration Age

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 24, 2015

Illustration Age logoIllustrator Thomas James reported on Illustration Age that he was startled to discover that artists representatives illozoo was not crediting their illustrators on their Instagram account (When an Art Rep Puts the Agency Before the Artist). In post after post showcasing beautiful illustration work, illozoo failed to credit the illustrators, instead referring to all as “illozoo illustrator.” Using his Illustration Age Instagram account, James asked why in the comments section, and got back the reply that “They are all illozoo artists. Anyone can see their work on our website.” In response, James posted the posted an illustrator’s name. That resulted in illozoo blocking the Illustration Age Instagram account.

The move wasn’t the most brilliant bit of PR on illozoo’s part; Illustration Age is one of the most respected illustration blogs, and has a huge following. (The Illustration Age Twitter account has over 27,000 followers alone.) However, the agency must have realized how poorly their Instagram practice reflected on them. James reported that subsequently, illozoo inserted the illustrator names into their Instagram posts (although Illustration Age remains blocked).  It’s a small but crucial victory; as James wrote, “If you’re an artist with an art rep (or are looking for one) ALWAYS be sure that the relationship is fair on both sides and that the agency respects you enough to say your name instead of only theirs.”

Recognizing the need to revisit best practices for illustrator reps, James followed up his illozoo article with a repost of illustrator Luc Latulippe’s list of 30 Things to Watch Out for in an Art Rep. The advice is comprehensive and commonsensical, and covers the basic questions an illustrator should ask an artists’ rep before committing to a relationship. It covers the ins and outs of publicity, fees, payment terms, and the working relationship, and will provide illustrators a clear picture of what to expect from their rep. In the comments beneath the article, illustrator Travis Foster summed up beautifully the key components of a successful illustrator/artists rep partnership: “Mutual respect and relationship... In a healthy relationship, both sides work hard to do their part and also trust each other in the process.”

Below: James’s screengrab of his exchange on the illozoo Instagram account. The Illustration Age comments have since been deleted by illozoo.

screengrab of the illozoo Instagram account

Yahoo Ads Delivered Malware as Hackers Leverage Flash Security Flaw

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 20, 2015

Yahoo logoVisitors to Yahoo’s main website during the last week in July may have been exposed to malware. On August 3rd, security software company Malwarebytes reported on their blog that they had notified Yahoo as soon as they discovered the security flaw, and that Yahoo immediately took steps to remove the threat. According to Malwarebytes, “malvertising” is particularly insidious because it doesn’t require user interaction; merely browsing the website can cause the computer to be infected. After being redirected through two websites hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, users’ computers downloaded the malware.

According to The New York Times’ Bits technology blog, the hackers exploited out-of-date versions of Flash Player. Adobe recommends that users keep their version of Flash up-to-date, and has a sniffer on their Flash download page that tells visitors what version of Flash they’re running. However, in light of repeated security breaches, there are mounting concerns with Flash. In mid-July, Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer at Facebook, tweeted a call for Adobe to announce a retirement date for Flash. In a subsequent Twitter exchange, he pointed out that newer browsers no longer require Flash for video streaming. Since January, YouTube has used HTML5 by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8.

Designers and animators creating media content will need to include HTML5 in their arsenal of professional skills. However, should Flash be retired in favor of HTML5, chances are security issues won’t be solved. As reported in InfoWorld, although it’s an improvement over Flash, HTML5 brings its own set of complex security flaws.

Taylor Swift Listens to Photographers’ Concerns; Foo Fighters Not So Much

Posted by Rebecca Blake on July 24, 2015

As we reported in June, the publicity engendered by Taylor Swift’s protest of Apple’s licensing terms on behalf of artists brought to light the onerous contracts her management company had been requiring concert photographers to sign. Photographer Jason Seldon pointed out the hypocrisy of the contract, since Swift’s takedown of Apple’s iMusic license was undertaken, in her words, on behalf of creators. The outcry cast a spotlight on other troublesome concert photography contracts. Lady Gaga has been demanding all copyrights to concert photographs since 2011, and the Foo Fighters’ contract includes a rights grab of supernatural proportions: photographers are limited to one use of the photos, and the band is granted all copyrights “throughout the universe in perpetuity.”

le Soleil screenshotThe fallout on social media was comprehensive, with photographers, trade publications, and photographers’ associations decrying the contracts. The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) launched a Twitter campaign under the hashtag #fair4photogs. Some media outlets took a stand as well. The Irish Times declined to cover Swift’s sold-out Dublin shows in June, while photographers for six Montreal newspapers refused to shoot her concert there. Instead of sending a photographer to a Foo Fighters concert, Washington City Paper offered to buy fan photos and, tongue in cheek, promised not to ask for either their copyrights or their first born children. In perhaps the most creative response, Le Soleil in Quebec bypassed the contract by sending a cartoonist to document a Foo Fighters concert (right).

In an encouraging turnabout, in mid July, Swift released a new contract that has been lauded as a fair compromise with photographers. The contract is the result of negotiations between Swift’s representatives and Mickey Osterreicher, General Counsel to the National Press Photography Association (NPAA) legal counsel . The new contract permits photographers to use their concert photos of Swift in their portfolios and websites, permits news outlets to publish the photos more than once, and states that Swift’s agents can ask photographers not abiding by the contract to delete images, rather than destroy their equipment.

Unfortunately other musicians haven’t had a similar change of heart. The Foo Fighters management insisted to Washington City Paper that their contract is standard and exists to “protect the band.”  The Paper isn’t buying it. As they reported, “…that's not even close to being true. The Rolling Stones, to name one huge act, aren't demanding newspapers sign over their pictures and the Stones are in the middle of selling out half of the stadiums in North America.”

Taylor Swift Advocates for Musicians, but not Photographers

Posted by Rebecca Blake on June 29, 2015

Note: After this articles was published, Swift revised her concert contract, following the recommendations of photographers. 


Creators were galvanized when Taylor Swift issued her open letter protesting Apple’s decision to not pay musicians, producers, and writers during the 3-month free trial of the new Apple Music streaming service. Her letter read like a manifesto: “These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up… Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing.” Apple paid attention and immediately reversed their decision, and Swift was widely lauded by creators – except photographers.

Within a day of Swift’s open letter, UK photographer Jason Sheldon published an open response to Swift, stating that as admirable as her stance was, it was somewhat marred by the contracts her management company requires concert photographers to adhere to. That contract includes a rights grab; the management company, Firefly Entertainment, has the right to a worldwide, perpetual license to use (and to authorize others to use) any of the photos in any media for publicity and promotion. Sheldon concluded, “With all due respect to you, too, Taylor, you can do the right thing and change your photo policy. Photographers don’t ask for your music for free. Please don’t ask us to provide you with your marketing material for free.”

Firefly shot back at Sheldon, stating that he had misrepresented the terms of the contract. (The entire contract can be read from Sheldon’s original post.)  However, in a subsequent article on PetaPixel, photographer Joel Goodman pointed out that the contract Firefly is currently handing photographers is significantly worse. The terms Sheldon objected to – limiting photographers to a one-time use within a specific publication, and granting Firefly and Taylor Swift Productions the rights grab – are still present. But the current contract includes a clause permitting “authorized agents” of Firefly and Swift the right to “confiscate and/or destroy” the photographer’s equipment, should the photographer “fail to fully comply” with the terms of the contract. Or, as PetaPixel succinctly puts it, “Break Our Rules, and We Can Break Your Gear.”

While a protest against Swift’s inconsistency in sticking up for the rights of all artists hasn’t materialized, at least one publication has taken note. PetalPixel reported that The Irish Times, the second most widely read newspaper in Ireland, decided not to include any concert photography in their coverage of Swift’s sold-out gigs in Dublin. The Times wrote that they took issue with Swift’s photo authorization contract: “The photographs may be used on a one-time only basis and by signing her contract we grant Swift perpetual, worldwide right to use the published photographs in any way she sees fit.”

Below: An excerpt from Swift’s contract, highlighted by photographer Joel Goodman.

Joel Goodman contract excerpt

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