Is there any real value to photos...
Wed, 10 Dec 2003 16:15:22 PST

This is a good question for the casual Web user, many folks do not understand 
or appreciate the reasoning behind copyright law.  

Actually, the truth is that there is value to Web photos, but it may not be 
known, per se.  This is why the bulb nursery in question has not taken the time 
and expense to create/take/produce its own photos.  Each photo might be easy 
to produce if a camera is available at the right time, etc.  However, making 
20, or 50, or 100 photos is a lot of work and has value.  Photos have value 
even if only in time spent, and effort to correctly identify them, etc.  This is 
the basis of copyright law, writing, and photography have value and cannot be 
used or appropriated indiscriminately.  

Copyright law is clear.  When any photo or writing dated and known to be 
associated with a creator, then the material is copyrighted (even if copyright is 
not claimed).  The important matters are to date, and to identify an author.  
Web lists and pages that identify photos by author are suitable to establish 
copyright, newspapers and magazines are suitable.  Even mailing the photo or 
written work to yourself is acceptable because the postmark establishes date.  
Even if you don't know a piece is copyrighted (writing or photo, etc.), it may 
be copyrighted.  

There are some exceptions to copyright law.  For instance, educational 
purposes are allowed (a teacher may use a Web photo of a bulb in flower to 
illustrate a botanical concept for a class).  Almost without exception, a person may 
not infringe upon copyrighted material in order to make a profit; this is 
important and the courts give "profit" a great amount of weight.  So, if a bulb 
company improperly uses copyrighted material to illustrate a Web catalog, they are 
almost certainly in violation of copyright law.  Enforcing copyright is more 
problematic and entails time and money, as well as (probably) copyright 

One informal means (often cost free) is to notify others (via a list such as 
the PBS list) that copyright is being infringed.  Often such announcements 
help to establish a pattern and boycotts can occur.  If people (e.g., hobbyists) 
are upset about businesses taking photos without permission or payment, they 
may choose to spread the word or boycott a business.  The principle (to me) 
seems similar to a clothing company "cutting and pasting" catalog pages and 
photos from a competitors catalog, without paying the graphic design artist, the 
camera man, or the model.  It is not high on the list of crimes against 
humanity, but the net effect is that is may cause some to stop posting their beautiful 
photos on the Web, we can all stand to lose should that happen.  

LINK 1. Copyright Law FAQ

LINK 2. Copyright Registration

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