As much as I could understand the music industry for trying to stop the free for all downloads initiated by the old Napster , as much as I can’t agree with the Recording Industry Association of America latest move:

According to the Washington Post of December 30, 2007 : ‘In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.”

The RIAA says you cannot make a copy of your legally purchased music unto another medium.

This is important because the RIAA is using the same laws as we use in the photo industry. And the RIAA is giving copyright laws a bad rep. Under the same principle, it would be the equivalent of  suing a publisher for scanning one of our slides.

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I am all for copyright protection and believe that the laws should be unforced but there is a limit to how to interpret the law. There is also the need for old businesses to adapt with the current times and find a better way to handle new challenges, not bigger threats.

The photo industry doesn’t have such an organisation as strong as the RIAA. The closest we have is CEPIC or PACA, none of which is allowed to take any legal action on behalf of its members. Even if they had, I would doubt that they would go suing their customers for making a copy of an image they just purchased. How else would they be able to send it to the printer or designer ? As long as those copies remain in the belly of the beast and are not exposed, we keep our eyes shut and our mouth closed. It is not legal but no harm is done, so who cares ?

The RIAA, but its actions will soon trigger a backslash that will affect anyone who uses copyright laws. The winners will be the “Commoners”, those who have been promoting free exchange as other where promoting free sex back in the 70’s. The San Fransisco based Electronic Frontier and Creative Commons who are still flying high from the pot and acid left overs. Those who see themselves as the cool dudes that will finally create the ephemeral idealistic society where everything is free and traded.

There is not much the photo industry can do while we wait for the pendulum to swing back in our faces and force us to change our policies. Without choosing camps, we will very soon be the bad guys as we will be swallowed in a vicious battle of digital rights and grabs. We will probably have to give up more than we wish, or can, before we can emerge. Or we can set our own rules. Clearly, simply and with efficiency.

We can separate ourselves from the RIAA and shark eating lawyers and specify our own code of conduct that clearly specify what can and cannot be done with our images. Post it loud and clear on our sites and in our communications. This is what we stand for and this is what we authorize you, our customer, to do.

An iniative as worthy, and useful, as the PLUS Coalition.

Happy 2008 !!! May all your wishes become true and your resolutions become reality.

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