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Stop Stealing my Copyright!

Have you ever been stolen from? Do you know how it feels? You work hard to achieve, to acquire, or to create and then some undeserving fool steps in and takes it all away from you. You feel violated! Your efforts were in vain. Something meaningful that was rightfully yours is snatched away.

As a young man, I developed a real love for music. I grew up in it, with Mom on the piano, my uncle on the guitar, and my aunt and sisters singing. By high school, I was becoming especially intrigued with the guitar, and I began to teach myself the chords and scales, and learn from whoever could teach me. During my junior year, some buddies and I formed a band. We practiced for hours upon hours every single day, until we sounded awesome. Those were the glory days, and we thought we had the world on a string.

My interest in guitar quickly became a passion, even verging on obsession, and the guys in the band became like a family. On Saturdays, when I had the chance, I would descend upon our local guitar shop and spend literally the entire day playing first one instrument, then the next. What an opportunity to learn. What beautifully crafted instruments. I knew that someday I would have a fine guitar like the ones in the store... Someday!

I managed to get a part-time job working weekends, and full time during my summer break from school. I saved most of what I earned, really every dime I could, always dreaming of that brand new electric guitar. The Peavey T-60 with dual action pickups, and a Peavey Special 130 with Black Widow speakers to amplify my sound. Yeah, there may have been much nicer guitars at the guitar center where I hung out. But this one, this was the one within my reach by the end of summer break. I'm sure I must have had the proudest look on my face as I counted out the money and took possession of my dream.

As time marched on, our little band gained some notoriety, locally at least, and we had the time of our lives. But eventually high school ended and we all moved on, and life took some new turns. I left home and went off to college to study for a career, and time for guitar became increasingly scarce. Between classes, and study, and part-time work, my Peavey T-60 just about forgot who I was. I sometimes thought of selling her to help pay for college, but I had worked so hard and saved so long for her I just could never do it.

The summer after I finished that first long year in college, I landed a pretty decent part-time job working in a hospital. I moved into an apartment near my job, and my very first day there was when I first experienced the horrible feeling of being violated. When I came home from work, some undeserving fool had broken into my apartment and stolen my Peavey T-60 and Peavey Special 130 amplifier. I was stunned! I was horrified! What could I do? I filed a police report, but what good is that? I knew I would never play my guitar again.

As a man today, I still feel the sting of the impact that loss had on me. It wasn’t as if I squandered something meaningful, it was ripped from me. As a business owner today, I’m incensed by what I often see happening in my own industry. I surf the web, to get inspiration from other portrait photographers. There are many beautiful websites that showcase the original artistic works of true craftsman, story tellers who reflect life through the images they create. On every one of these photography websites, without fail you will find a stern warning about copyright infringement, “Violators will be prosecuted!”

As craftsman we are very passionate about our work. As artisans who earn our living from our original creations, I believe our copyrights to the images we create as photographers, should absolutely be honored and protected. But too many times, I click on a fellow photographer's website and, “loading”, then up pops the beautiful pictures and awesome graphics, which obviously took a tremendous amount of time to create. But then, what's that I hear; Enya, Kenny G, or some current top 40 hit starts to play. And I sit there wondering, “Can this person really justify paying the very expensive licensing fees to be able to put this stuff on their website? Or are they (God forbid) infringing on someone else’s copyright?”

Aristotle once wrote, “Dignity does not consist in possessing honors, but in deserving them.” We may be able to give our websites a polished appearance by violating a musical artist’s copyright, but what have we also done in the process? Have we not lost our dignity? Webster defines dignity as, “The state of being worthy or honorable; elevation of mind or character; true worth; excellence.” If we do not exercise dignity in our profession, by abstaining from infringing upon the music copyrights of performing artists, how can we then justify our demands as professional photographers, that our copyrights to our images must be protected? If a client who visits your website, notices you have copyright protected music to accompany your gallery presentations, what does that do to your credibility when you speak of copyright infringement?

In our studio, and on our website, we use royalty free music, for which we have purchased a proper license. The cost for a royalty free music license is very reasonable, even for the smallest portrait studio. There are numerous vendors and a multitude of selections of royalty free music available, both in mp3 and wav formats. The tracks are very easy to download and edit for in studio ambience, multimedia advertising, digital proofing sales presentations, or to use on your website. If you are currently unlawfully using copyright protected music on your website, please consider that, you are trading your dignity to possess honors that you really do not deserve. Hmmm ... makes me wonder how good ole Aristotle was to know copyright infringement would become a serious problem. Serious for sure, and ubiquitous; but what I fail to understand is how a person who's livelihood depends on copyright protection, can justify being a perpetrator. Good day and happy clicking.

Written by: Steve Barnes Copyright 2006, Steve Barnes

About the Author:

Steve Barnes is a professional portrait photography, a free lance writer, and co-owner of Hayley Barnes Photography, in League City, Texas. Please visit his website at: Hayley Barnes Photography, Elegant portrait photography for children, families, and high school seniors. "Custom Designed, Uniquely You"

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