A little under two weeks ago I attended the LION 18 conference in Chicago. LION is short for Local Independent Online News and is an organisation for local news sites. Little did I know all the reactions I would get when I tweeted my surprise over how in bed Facebook is with local news sites and newspapers in the US.
I’ve been down this road before, and I’m sure most other artists, journalists, writers, photographers and musicians have as well (I know you have).
Friday night I photographed a concert done by the Norwegian band Di Derre. The concert was great and both the band and the audience were on fire. Suddenly Jo Nesbø (world famous author and lead singer and song writer of the band, which I guess how is a hobby project for him) announced that they had a new singer. Then the captain of the local football team came on to the stage. His name is Daniel Berg Hestad, and he just set the record for most games in the elite series in Norway (even I recognise that this guy is turning into some sort of football legend). His team had also won that day, and they are currently the number one team in Norway. In short: There was cause for a celebration, and he sang his heart out.
Naturally I realised that this was a moment I had to capture on video. I was ill prepared and just had to make do with the lens and equipment I had there and then. When I came home that night, I edited the video and uploaded it to the local paper’s web site. It got thousands of hits, something I of course knew it would get. Both Berg Hestad, and his team, are well known, well liked and very popular.
The next day, a journalist from one of the biggest media houses in Norway called me and asked if they could have the video on their web site (read: in their player so that they could receive all the hits for the video). The would credit the original article on rbnett.no and link to it. I said that was of course fine with me, as long as the editor of the rbnett.no approved. He did, and I downsized the video so that it would be easier for the journalist to download it to his computer.
I emailed him the link, and then I asked where I should send my bill. I swiftly got a reply telling me that there must have been some misunderstanding. Payment had never been mentioned, and they thought that it was clear that crediting the video and linking to the original article would be enough. I told him that no, that would not be enough. He then replied he had to check with his superiors about payment, and said he’d get back to me.
I was sure that this would be the last I heard from him, but several hours later I got a reply from him telling me that they would not be using the video after all, and he thanked me for my time.
That’s when I got really pissed off. I had spent over an hour getting permission for them to use the video, downsize it, upload it to my server and telling the journalist where to get the video. Yes, the video is not of great quality, as I said I was ill prepared, but there are videos on their web site of much worse quality than mine. And that’s beside the point. They wanted me to give them my work for free so that they could receive hits and ad revenues for it. And believe me, Berg Hestad’s name would make sure that they would receive loads of hits on this. This is incredibly unprofessional behaviour that I would not expect from this media house.
I choose to believe that it all came down to a misunderstanding. That they didn’t know that I was a professional, and do this as part of my livelihood. But the realist in me is afraid they thought they would get away with telling me that I would get free exposure.
I’m sorry, but the exposure I will get from your use of my photo is minimal. Besides, would they go to the local grocery, buy lunch for your colleagues and then tell the cashier to give it to them for free because it would give the shop publicity? Would they tell their carpenter working on their building that? “I doubt it. Do you think the journalist on duty work for free?
I’ve invested in equipment, I’ve trained, worked for hours and I worked my butt off that night to get pictures, interviews and that video. I worked until half past three in the morning, and they have the gall to ask me to get it for free?
I know the editor of the web site, so I will get in touch with him and tell him what I think of all this. I just have to calm down a little bit more first.
Here’s Harlan Ellison on working for free: