361 FINDING PHOTO OWNERS
December 4, 2000
Michael Turnbull has written a book manuscript called, "The Best of Dot Com Humor." He
has selected 26 photos from Internet web sites that he wants to license to use as
illustrations in his book. When he contacted the web site administrators to determine
where they originally found the pictures they either told him they had no
idea, or that the pictures were in the public domain. Some are definitely not in the
Some images have obviously been manipulated in a way that turns them into a parody of
the original image. In such cases at least two people may have rights claims -- the
creator of the original image and the creator of the parody.
These images can be viewed at
If you have any idea who took these pictures you can contact Michael Turnbull at:
Some photographers could be making money if Turnbull can figure out who to pay. He is
trying to do the right thing, but it certainly isn't easy. I'd like to ask as many of
you as can to take a look at the site he has set up for the sole purpose of trying to
find the legitimate owners of the images. See if you can suggest how he might locate
the owners. Send any suggestions directly to Turnbull at the e-mail address above.
There are two pictures for which Turnbull has some information. He knows who shot the
Elian Gonzalez picture and that AP owns it. What AP can't help him with is who did the
parody. There is also a picture of a group of teenagers with Bill Gates in the lower
left. This has been used in a magazine recently, but where? Corbis does not own the
picture and couldn't be of any help.
Things To Think About
This situation offers some very interesting food for thought.
Certainly there is a lot of stealing going on. In this case by the original
creators of the web sites, not by Turnbull. I repeat. Turnbull is trying to do the
There are no credit lines under most of these pictures. If we want to be
paid for second right we have to insist more forcefully that names or some trackable
identifying number be attached to every image. Interestingly, this is something that the
publishers who are so intent on grabbing rights from photographers should also want. If their
purpose in obtaining these rights is to generate revenue from the images they own
then they ought to be interested in
getting paid whenever an image they own is used. Why aren't they helping us?
We (photographers) do not make it easy for someone to find use when they want
license a use. Even if a credit line was under the image, how would
someone like Trunbull find a way to contact that person. There is no central database.
Several years ago, I tried to set up such an on-line database. It is
asked for a small one-time fee for people to list their names and contact information to
cover the costs of promotion. The problem with this site is that very few people either
learned about it or listed their information. I get people contacting me regularly
wanting to know how to find certain copyright holders and usually I have to turn them
away because the name they are looking for is not listed in any of my databases.
If you want someone to pay you, you must provide some way for them to find you.
What rights do you have if one of your images is used as a parody?
A service is needed where researchers can post images that they want to license
if they are having trouble locating the owner. Agents and photographers could check this
site frequently to see if they happen to own, or could identify the likely owner of the image
would greatly appreciate any help they could get, but it would only work if lots of image
suppliers checked the site frequently. Currently, there is a major disconnect between
those who want to license rights legitimately, and those who own the rights.