To: POP Editor
The first letter in December’s issue (“Can’t get out to the game?”)
suggests photographing sports off a TV screen rather than going out and
shooting it yourself. The writer says he “make[s] sure my final image is
so altered that the source isn’t recognizable”, but I don’t think that’s
in any way sufficient to avoid infringement. That’s not much different
from the people who post someone else’s photos on their personal website
and claim they’re not infringing copyright because they’re not profiting
from it. He’s still taking someone else’s work and using it without
permission. When someone takes another writer’s text and alters it, it’s
called plagiarism and that word fits what he’s advocating, too. Also,
some countries have laws called “moral rights” under which the copyright
owner controls what is done with the work. It cannot be altered without
the copyright owner’s permission.
What your letter writer is suggesting isn’t photography, which is the
creation of a new image. Instead, he’s talking about merely editing
someone else’s work. That’s like paraphrasing Shakespeare and calling
yourself a writer or fiddling with the treble and bass controls on your
CD player and calling yourself a musician just because you altered the
sound of the performance.
Those notices read by the announcer during every sportscast about the
words and images being the property of the league and team really do
mean something — however much he might claim they don’t apply to him.
I’m very disappointed that you published his letter or at the very least
didn’t point out that his interpretation of copyright is extremely
dubious and that what he’s suggesting isn’t very creative, either.
Surely you get enough letters with good ideas that you don’t have to
publish one like that?