Artists should stand up for each other - Protect our copyrights
By Jim Bianchi

I’m a professional Las Vegas photographer. I shoot families, models, do catalog work, events and weddings. Like many of you, I’m just trying to make ends meet by doing an honest days work. Above all else, I want create the best photographs I know how.



Notice how I referred to “I know how?” In my life, I’ve never taken credit for some else’s artist labor. I would never steal someone’s art and then try and pass it off as my own. It just wouldn’t occur to me, EVER!

But sometimes I feel like I’m riding around Las Vegas on my “Legal High Horse” all by myself. I guess they don’t call this place Sin City just because of the gambling and strippers!

Let me explain why I’m so mad.

I received a call a few days ago from a new video production company and they wanted to form a partnership with me. They had seen my work and liked it and they wanted to provide the video for my future weddings.

Brides ask me all time if I could recommend a good video shooter who doesn’t cost a fortune. I usually can’t recommend anybody because in Vegas, good, reasonably priced video is like a good, cheap buffet, they’re out there, but you might die trying stomach the bad ones. There is a widely know, unspoken rule of about Las Vegas weddings: There is only one thing more common here than bad photographers, and that’s bad video guys.

Most of the good, reasonably priced ($600 to $800 would be a great start) video shooters I’ve worked with previously are so busy that they are never available for any open dates or they have raised their prices significantly. On the other end of the scale there are a lot of very busy video shooters who work cheap here and they should do us all a favor and go pump gas instead. Almost all of these “Budge Video Production Companies” produce garbage. (Budget here is sub-$250, Lots of them around. A few of the off-Strip chapels will do a video for $50 and it includes music! There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground here, always an extreme in the price range.)

I held out high hopes for this new company, but you never know until you look at the work. The owner made an appointment and we were supposed to meet on a Friday at 11 am. At ten minutes before the meeting, he calls and says he is going to be a few minutes late. I know Las Vegas has a terrible freeway system, so I understand when someone is little late. But this guy shows up 45 minutes late and I was not happy! And he is covered in tattoos and dressed like he’s going to a rave! Not exactly a very professional image… even by the very liberal, stylish standards of dress and appearance in Vegas.

I could feel it in my gut; things are not looking good for this company. No warm fuzzy’s, just a bad feeling all the way around. But the big surprise was the promotional material. It was great! Very nicely packaged video, a good one-sheet company profile and some beautifully done, over-sized comp-cards on high-gloss heavy paper. The overall look of the card was very nice with a smooth, professional flow to it. I was impressed at first glance.

Then I noticed the photos. They were fantastic! Each and every one of them was perfect in composition, style and form. And each and everyone one of them was obviously grabbed right off the Internet. They were all movie stills from the classics like Gone with the Wind, Withering Heights, The Wizard of Oz and a few more I can’t remember. Who could believe he produced these images! How many people were fooled or duped by this guy and his production company? I knew where he had gotten these images, so I baited him with a loaded question.

I commented causally, “Wow, this great work. Who ever made this card has a real talent for design and layout. But didn’t you have to pay a fortune to licenses these images?”

His answer, “No we didn’t. We got them off the Net.”

He flat out admitted he didn’t own or pay for these images!! No stuttering or stammering, just an admission of guilt with no apology.

Just like a criminal: if he was bright, he wouldn’t be a criminal!

I explained in short, simple sentences to him that has current working photographer who copyrights everything I produce, I was offended he would so obviously violate a copyright and then attempt to pass them off as his own!

I told him there is no way I’d ever work with him or recommend his company to anyone and that I could never condone such a blatant copyright infringement. I asked him to leave, and with out protest or pause, he did so quickly.

But our saga does not end there. No, no, no, he must not be allowed to continue his thievery and his attempt to make a living off the backs of another artists. Remember, the Internet can be used for good also, so in less than a minute I had obtained the email address at the MGM Studios for licensing movie images. I fired off a nice little note detailing who the company was, the owners name and his home phone number. And since the MGM studios have a huge casino here, I’m sure they will be very interested in enforcing the law and protecting their rights.

So the moral of my story is simple…don’t steal from the Net or someone will report you!!

I know copyright infringement is going to get a lot worse before it gets any better. The music industry is devoting million of dollars to help fight it, and given enough time and money, they will find away, I’d bet on it. But photographers need to deal with it too. I’d like every honest person to take some kind of action when they suspect an infringement. Confront the person involved and explain the law to them. Honest folks who make mistakes will correct the problem and move on, others are just crooks. If you get nowhere asking them to stop violating a copyright, contact the violated company. You don’t have to take it! You can do something!

By helping protect the right of others, you will be helping yourself in the long run.

If anyone wants to read the US copyright law, here is the link. It’s a great piece of legislation that helps protect photographers, writers and artists from the illegal acts of thieves everywhere. Each of us should know it by heart.


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