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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stealin' Shit

Ming's in full voice somewhere, ranting on like every forum amateur about mall rentacops interfering with his right to photograph anywhere anytime.

This is one of The Most Common threads on any forum you care to visit, and the text is always pretty much the same. I have rights, the law this, the law that, plus which, everyone ought to be super happy to be photographed, because I know more about marketing than you do, and anyways my ideas about how you present yourself to the world ought to trump your ideas.

Photography is an appropriative act. We take a picture. The intellectual property rights held be a photographer, while generally clear and strong, legally, are in fact rather tenuous and thready when examined carefully.

What is particularly maddening about this particular dumb argument is not that is ignores the very real issues (mall tenants have trade dress out there, and is behooves the landlord to at least make a show of protecting the tenant's IP; mall customers may not appreciate some dipshit with a giant camera taking Street Photographs of them; and so on). No, what is maddening is that the argument always contains the planted axiom that the other guys should be happy I am here being a pest.

I take pictures wherever and whenever I damn well please. I am OK with that because, ultimately, ain't nobody getting hurt. Feelings may get bruised, but I'm not actually hurting anyone physically or financially. But. I don't insist that you be happy about it.

The whole you should be happy about it appears over and over again when some weasel wants to steal shit. People illegally download music and movies, and insist that the artists and studios should be happy about it, because, exposure! Creatives steal software and insist that vendors should be happy about it, because, exposure, and I wasn't going to buy it anyways! And around it goes. An incredibly high percentage of people who make intellectual property also steal it, and then insist that the victims be happy about that, because exposure.

It is left as an exercise to the speculative reader to guess why the weasels insist that their victims ought to, if only they were sensible, enjoy the process of being robbed.


  1. Good post. I'll resist the urge to add my own rant, but will say I much agree. Good post.

  2. I am one of those guys who make IP (patents mostly) and maybe in the minority but I am very careful about stealing it, it is hard enough to create IP and having people steal it can be really painful.

  3. Photos may be 'taken' in English, and people 'shot', but other languages prefer to 'make' photos - much less appropriative, don't you think?

    But I think Ming's general point is correct, however pleased he is about himself. Corporations are greedy and governments are evil. And self-righteous jobsworths are universal. Have a look at the sheer idiocy displayed in this little London scene: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/dec/15/italian-student-police-arrest-filming

    but note also Lewis Bush's take on such matters: http://www.lewisbush.com/category/the-camera-obscured/

  4. These things are all remarkably complicated, with overlapping and contradictory rights in play all over the place.

    Photographers, legally equipped with what is often the winning hand, tend to be smug and reductionist.

  5. I think your argument about mall tenant's IP is weak. They are all largely ripping off the same designers and selling the results in shops which are kitted out by a relatively small group of shop fit suppliers, retail designers and contractors who universally work for many different brands...

    1. Don't care where it comes from.

      Why should random photographers get to decide things about someone else's IP? There are, as noted, conflicting and overlapping rights here.

      Smug dismissals serve nobody well.

  6. He has tons of sympathetic replies to his post so obviously he is much more successful than you. But then again what do I know? I follow your blog. :)

  7. Andrew: I think your animus toward Ming Thein has led you to eschew rational argument in this post. Taking photos on public property of buildings that face on public property is legal in most countries. Threatening people who are not breaking the law is probably illegal in most countries (though it's not often put to the test). Therefore, you are siding with entities who are breaking the law. Do you really want to do that?

    A secondary point: Your occasional obscenities are often amusing. But I think you've really gone over the top in this post. Not conducive to reasoned discussion.

  8. As I am on holiday, I will leave more detailed replies for later.

    For the moment note please that the law often simplifies things away in the interest of providing answers one can use. That is arguably its job. Mine isn't.

    Also it's the smugness that I find irritating.

  9. There are lots of things in this world that are legal, but they are not right. There are lots of things that are right, but they aren't legal.

  10. I tried to send this to your email address listed under contact but it bounced.

    Speaking of entitled people. Photography burns down local landmark (probably an accident, but still a sketchy move) to get a cool photograph.


  11. Can't believe this farmer was planting crops where photographers needed to walk. http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2016/02/29/picturesque-poplar-toppled-by-japanese-farmer-because-of-photographers