My fight against copyright infringement and how I found Pixsy.com

Nyhavn in the Morning

This photo of Nyhavn early in the morning is one of the most shared photos I have. And of course it has been misused too.

A year ago a fellow photographer, whom I did not know, contacted me to let me know, that a company was using my photo illegally. I did a little research, and he was right. It really upset me.

This incident became the start on tracking down misuse of my photos, and I had no idea how complicated things got.

I used Google reversed image search, and at first, it seemed amazingly simple, and I was completely blown with what it could find. But that’s what Google does best, it finds stuff. However, I soon found out; it doesn’t scale. There’s a lot of work involved in tracking down just one single photo. If you have hundreds or even thousands of photos, you can not sit and track each single photo. It takes far too long time.

Nevertheless, what I did was to start out with what I thought to be the most likely to have been misused. I quickly found some usages of my photos, but now things got complicated.

I am a photographer, not an attorney, and I have no in-depth understanding of the law and copyrights. So I started investigating. What does the law say? What is Copyright, and how does it work? What are the differences in EU and US? What pressure tools do I have to get paid? What price should I claim? And how to convince them to pay for it? Should I claim one price, if they mentioned my name, and another if they didn’t?

It seemed that more questions, than answers, popped up in my head.

Regent Street with Busses

This photo from Regent Street in London was misused by the window company in UK.

I share my photos as Creative Commons, non-commercial. I thought I had a clear idea of what this meant. Any commercial company can not use my pictures. But apparently not. There’s a big gray area in the middle, allowing some commercial companies to use my photos if it is just not for a particular commercial purpose. This area got too complicated for me to handle alone.

One particular case stuck out. A Window company in the UK had used one of my photos in an article they featured on their website. They had it under a section called News and Blog on their website. I wrote them a variation of a standard mail. Some consultant from their web agency got back to me, and said, it was a blog, and, therefore, covered the Creative Commons part of my license. What nonsense I thought, this is clearly a commercial company, no matter what they call a section on their website.

I decided to try out this case, and carry the discussion all the way. At some point, I felt like the John Cleese in the Monty Python sketch with the dead parrot. He comes into a pet shop and says: “This is a dead parrot” and the parrot is beyond doubt stone dead, and the shop keeper just keeps saying “no it’s not” in a hundred different ways, and John Cleese gets more and more frustrated. That was exactly how I felt.

The article had a ‘download brochure’ and a ‘get in contact’ included in the same article, yet the consultant kept insisting that the page was under the blog section, and therefore not a commercial use.

At some point he offered a 1/10th of what I wanted, in other words, a tiny amount, to show, as he said ‘good faith.’ I refused, because, I had decided, on principle, to carry this to the end, and get what I thought was fair. It even turned out, that the guy himself was a photographer too, besides being an IT consultant, yet he did not bend.

In the end, after a very frustrating email correspondence, there was radio silence, and they removed my photo from the post, and, in the end, I got nothing.

I ended up with a feeling of not having the arguments nor the authority to handle this. Too much I didn’t know. Only ‘me’, a simple photographer. No power, no nothing. And it had taken me forever, and my blood pressure had been very high. It was a tough road to travel.

Brewer Pub London

This photo from just off Regent Street, is the most stolen photo I have. I made the mistake of uploading it in full quality.

But how do you argue with someone, who responds “no it’s not” every time you say something? It’s not easy if you do not have the authority.

I mentioned this to a photo community I am a part of. And one of the others mentioned Pixsy.com, and I went at looked at their website, and immediately applied and got accepted.

As a simple photographer, what do I get, that is different from I can do on my own?

First of all scalability and authority.

Pixsy.com continuously tracks the usage of your images and presents you with new matches when they occur. All you have to do is go through the list and report all usages that are illegal. It’s so much easier than using Google’s reverse image search. When you have reported a case, Pixsy.com will take it from there. Pixsy.com have the authority, and they have the legislation knowledge to work their way through with an infringement.

Apart from their knowledge, represented by the in-house team of licensing experts, Pixsy.com also have a global network of law firms. Based on the severity of the claim and the scale of the company, they refer the case to one of their legal partners, who will then also go into the negotiation with the infringer to get the photographer the best possible compensation.

Second, I do get a lot more money, than I had been claiming myself. A case like the one with the window company would likely have given me 25 times more than the consultant offered me.

Third of all, it’s healthier for me. I don’t get personally involved.

Fourth I save huge amounts of time because it is so much easier. There’s still work to do, now but it scales.

So, if you publish your photos, I can highly recommend to use Pixsy.com to track down misusages of you photos.

–Jacob Surland

Using LAB color to bring out the magic

Fire in the Sky

This photo really came to life, when I used the color space Lab Color as a tool.

Teaser: Last in this post, you can see the before version of this image of the Eiffel Tower.

Recently I have been working a lot on understanding colors and color spaces. It has been coming to me, from two different angles. It’s funny how things sometimes converge from different places and situations into the same realization, at the same time.

I have been working on understanding why some of my prints went haywire color wise, even at a professional printing house. It turned out, it had to do with color spaces or more correctly the gamut of a color space. A gamut is the range of colors a color space can produce. Gamut is a strange word, but I will try to exemplify in a simple way. I will discuss this in more detail in a later post.

At the same time, as I was working on getting my prints looking right, on another track in my life, in my eternal search for new cool processing ways, I came across the Lab color space as a processing technique. It was introduced to me, by Robin Griggs Woods, and I was completely blown by it.

What is a color space anyway?

Before getting deeper into the Lab Color color space, let’s talk a bit about the color spaces in general. Color spaces are quite complicated, and I will try to make an easier-to-digest description.

Continue reading “Using LAB color to bring out the magic”

Secrets found in Chester Cathedral

Patterns in the floor

Semi secret room found in the Cathedral of Chester.

When I exhibited at Chester Art Fair 2015, I got the chance to see Chester Cathedral. An amazingly beautiful cathedral built in the shape of an enormous big cross. It’s like it has more churches in one, or many chapels if you like. This pattern on the floor I think is a bit of a secret. It’s hidden behind the main altar, next the choir boy’s benches. It’s a sort of a room right in the middle of the church, but for some reason you miss it.

Before getting into the Cathedral we were standing in some of the surrounding facilities shooting on a tripod, and an elderly formally clad lady working in the church came by, and said ‘that must be important’, and I figured she was a member of the tripod police, but no, she wasn’t. She just wanted to know why I used a tripod.

I shot this photo with my Sony A6000. I really like the size of the camera, it produces photos of an amazing quality, as you can see. This is a bracketed photo shot using -2, 0 and +2 exposure compensation.

–Jacob Surland

Exhibiting at Art Shopping Carrousel du Louvre

Christmas Viking Ship

Vikingship on a winter’s morning

I am leaving for Paris tomorrow to attend the Art Shopping Carrousel du Louvre. I am pretty excited about it, and thought I would share with you, the two pieces I am going to exhibit.

The first one is my ‘Viking ship on a winter’s morning‘, which seemed to be an instant classic, and one I have had a lot of success with since I made it 3 years ago.

I had just got home from New Zealand to a winter clad Denmark, and the Viking ship ‘The Sea Stallion’ sat on land with lights on. On the first day I went down there, I had the wrong lens with me. The next day there was newly fallen snow, and I went down during the blue hour and got my shot. The newly fallen snow was a nice improvement.

During the post processing I removed all blue colors, which is what makes this image so special. It doesn’t work on all images, but on this one it certainly did.

The second one is ‘Tower Bridge and City Hall under the Stars‘:

London City Hall with the London Tower Bridge just after midnight. Only a few people hovers around the area. The stars are peaking out from the skies. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

Tower Bridge and City Hall under the Stars

The photo of ‘Tower Bridge and City Hall under the Stars‘ took particular long time to create. It is a composite with a Swedish set of stars in the upper left-hand corner. It took me a long time because the photo kept lacking something magical, and I couldn’t find this magical component, but I didn’t give up. I played with this photo during a period of several months, and then suddenly one day, things started moving. I had found the color theme, I wanted to use, and when I noticed a handful of stars in the corner, I instantly knew what my magical component would be; stars in the corner. I used a shot of the Milky Way that I shot in Sweden earlier.

I make my photos into artworks

Art is about communication. I could have settled for a normal post processing on both of these images, and they would have looked more or less like, what it looked much like when I was there, but it would have been less interesting photos. It’s a different story I want to tell, than the ordinary story. I want to take the viewer on a journey into a land between the real world and the surreal world. Let the viewer ride the mountain ridge, with the valley of reality on one side, and the surreal valley on the other side. The viewer must be fascinated with the amount of details, colors and the different presentation of reality. The viewer might even question if it is a photo at all. That is my aim with what I do.

This put’s a lot of restraint on what photos I can use. The single most important element in my photos is the light. If the light isn’t right, I can’t use the photo. And when I have the photo shot in the right light, I will spend time finding the journey I want to bring the viewer on. Sometimes this comes fairly easy, at other times, this can be very difficult.

Because of the high standards I require of myself, I can only produce a smaller number of artworks.

–Jacob Surland

Sunset at Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo is one of the most extraordinary things I have seen in my life. A lake of the most odd blue color, and then a painterly sky like this.Jacob Surlandwww.caughtinpixels.comArt sale as limited prints. Photo by Jacob Surland, Licensed Creative Commons non-commercial v4.0. No Derivative Work. Protected by Pixsy.com.

Lake Tekapo is one of the most surreal lakes I have ever seen, due the color of the water.

Lake Tekapo is one of the most extraordinary things I have seen in my life. We drove around New Zealand in a campervan for a month. While a month seems like a long time, it really isn’t enough to do New Zealand proper justice. We skipped a large part of the Northern Island, not because we didn’t want to see it, but simply because time didn’t allow it.

Our last night in our campervan we had with a view of Lake Tekapo. And we sure did have a great day there. We drank the world famous in New Zealand soft drink L&P had our favorite sandwiches with Watties Ketchup for lunch, while we sat in the back of our campervan and enjoyed the view of Lake Tekapo.

At sunset time, we were rewarded with the most amazing sunset, with surreal painterly like clouds. A sunset worthy of New Zealand.

This is another one from Lake Tekapo – notice the surreal color of the lake:

Church of the Good Shephard

The Church of the Good Shepard watching over Lake Tekapo.

These are some of my other shots from New Zealand.

Morning Glow in Milford Sound

Milford Sound – so beautiful the gods placed the Sand flies there, so that mankind would not stay there for too long.

On The Road Again

Driving towards Lake Tekapo.

The Fountain at Pantheon in Rome

This photo of the fountain in front of Pantheon is one of my favorites, from my trip to Rome. At first I didn't see it, but when I got close, this acid green color showed up. I when a bit closer, and I could see there was a shape in the water, and I went even closer to get this. And believe me, that color is as good as straight out of the camera.--Jacob Surlandwww.caughtinpixels.comArt sale as limited prints. Photo by Jacob Surland, Licensed Creative Commons non-commercial v4.0. No Derivative Work. Protected by Pixsy.com.

The Fontana del Pantheon has an acid green color at night.

I just returned from Rome. We were down there to receive my parents in law. They had walked all the way from Denmark to Rome, not exactly on a pilgrimage. They began in 2003. My father-in-law crossed the Alps at the age of 76 with no problems at all.

We received them at the gate at Piazza del Popolo and had cold Prosecco (Italian version of champagne) ready. They ended up walking approximately 3300 km over a span of 13 years.

But, being in Rome, also offered a lot of photo opportunities; not as many as we had hoped, though. The only major site we visited, that did not have scaffoldings, was St. Peter’s Basilica.

On the very first morning, we went to the closest location the Spanish Stairs, and when we got there, it was completely sealed off, and entrance to the stairs was impossible. It didn’t matter a lot because the church at the top was covered in scaffoldings.

Spanish stairs sealed off

The Spanish Stairs were sealed off both at the top and the bottom.

Instead, we moved on to the Pantheon.

I can see that I have learned a lot. I shoot much more purposeful now than I did earlier. I have researched areas beforehand and have some ideas of what there is to shoot. I go straight for the more or less bullet proof shots, and then I start searching for more unusual angles. Using this method, I find that I always have at least one carry away shot.

The photo of Pantheon in the top of this post is one of my favorites and the first one I processed. I didn’t see it, at first, but when I got close to the fountain, this acid green color showed up. And as I moved closer, and I could see there was a shape – the foundation of the statue – in the water, and I went even closer to get this.

Believe me, that color is as good as straight out of the camera.

Pantheon itself is one of the most amazing buildings I have ever seen. The roof inside is insanely beautiful.

 

Rialto bridge reflected in the roof of a taxi boat

Scaffoldings covered half of Rialto Bridge when I visited Venice. This, of course, was a great disappointment, as I had planned to shoot it. I call it Scaffolding Disease, and I seem to suffer from that disease. The good thing about such situations is that you are forced to look for alternative compositions. Compositions that include at maximum half of the bridge and I am not sure I would have shot this shot, had it not been for the search for a unique composition.  I wanted a photo of the bridge, and this is one of my shots. I used the roof of a beautiful wooden taxi boat, to capture a reflection of Rialto Bridge. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

A quite unique reflection of the Rialto Bridge in Venice

Scaffoldings covered half of Rialto Bridge when I visited Venice. This, of course, was a great disappointment, as I had planned to shoot it. I call it Scaffolding Disease, and I seem to suffer from this disease.

The good thing about such situations is that you are forced to look for alternative compositions. In this case, I had half of the Rialto Bridge to work with, and only from this side. On the other side, houses on both sides were completely covered in scaffoldings too.

I walked around, and suddenly I saw this reflection in the roof. The Taxi boat had been lying there for ages. We had been at Rialto bridge since before the city lights were turned on, and the taxi had been there most of that time, but I hadn’t thought of using it as a reflection surface.

I am not sure I would have shot this shot, had it not been for the search for a unique composition, using only half the bridge. The reflection in the roof is a bonus, but it is the final touch, I think.

Tail of Clouds in Mölle Sweden

In Sweden, there is a peninsula called Kullen. It's a big chunk of cliff on the western coast, not too far from Denmark. We went there to stay at "The Grand Hotel" in Mölle. The hotel is amazing. It sits high on the cliff like a Queen and has a fabulous view of the ocean and small harbor of Mölle.In 1908-9 The Grand Hotel was built as one of the first bathing hotels. People went there and bathed (shamelessly I might add) in striped long legged bathing suits. This shameless bathing caused photographers to go there and shoot photos of almost naked people, something that later turned into a valuable historic source of information about the early 20th century. This photo is from the harbor in Mölle and you see Kullen on the right hand side.Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com Licensed creative commons non-commercial v4.0. No derivative Work. Protected by Pixsy.com.

I have seen such a tail of clouds a couple of times, along the coast line in Sweden.

In Sweden, there is a peninsula called Kullen. It’s a big chunk of cliff on the western coast, not too far from Denmark. We went there to stay at “The Grand Hotel” in Mölle. The hotel is amazing. It sits high on the cliff like a Queen and has a fabulous view of the ocean and small harbor of Mölle, from where this photo is shot.

In 1908-9 The Grand Hotel was built as one of the first bathing hotels. People went there and bathed (shamelessly I might add) in striped long legged bathing suits. This shameless bathing caused photographers to go there and shoot photos of almost naked people (doh!), something that later turned into a valuable historic source of information about the early 20th century.

This photo is from the harbor in Mölle and you see Kullen on the right hand side. The light you see on the coast line is Ellens Cafe – a cafe worth a visit!

How to tackle illegal use of your photos

Regent Street in London is ever busy. Even early in the morning, before the Underground has opened, the double decker busses are driving up and down the street. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

This photo has been used illegally by Hugo Carter.

Recently I have begun to track down companies, that use my photos illegally. I found quite a few. Some do come and ask to buy my images, but it seems that there are more than a few that don’t. All of my images are Creative Commons, Non-Commercial 4.0, and there is nowhere where this is unclear. This means that my images can’t be used for commercial use, without an agreement.

I really appreciate, that people like my images, reshare them. The only thing is, it can’t be a for a commercial interest. But what is commercial? How do you judge, when something is commercial? According to my dictionary it is commericial means

Commercial: Have profit as chief aim

Unfortunately, it becomes slightly more complicated because I also have a Creative Commons part on my license. What is commercial and what is Creative Commons? It really takes a lawyer to understand it properly. Sites with News can cover themselves under Creative Commons, for reasons I find unreasonable, but the license isn’t clear enough. It’s a gray area.

Continue reading “How to tackle illegal use of your photos”

The Famous View from Rialto Bridge

Crossing the Rialto Bridge is a must do experience when visiting Venice. And if you have the option to plan it, try to do it at sunset. The houses along Canal Grande look just awesome with the lights and colors. Stay and watch the traffic for a while. Gondolas, Varporettos, taxi boats, and ordinary people cruising in their small speed boats. It's a very busy area. Photo by: Jacob Surland, www.caughtinpixels.com

The famous view of Canal Grande seen from the Rialto Bridge.

Crossing the Rialto Bridge is a must do experience when visiting Venice. And if you have the option to plan it, try to do it at sunset. The houses along Canal Grande look just awesome with the lights and colors. Stay and watch the traffic for a while. Gondolas, Varporettos, taxi boats, and ordinary people cruising in their small speed boats. It’s a very busy area, the bridge itself included.

This photo I shot using my 24-70mm Sony Zeiss lens attached to my Sony A7R. As you can see, the light is fading quickly, but I really didn’t want a long exposure. Opened the lens to it’s maximum, which is ‘only’ f/4, and then I cranked up the ISO to 2500. I got a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the three gondolas navigating.

I shot it as a 3 shot HDR photo, but the gondolas and for the water and boats, I only used the one exposure, the middle one. The bright exposure is too long, and the boats get blurry, and the dark was, well too dark.