Monday, 29 March 2010

Orphan Works - the Fall Guy, the Politician and the Photographer - Part 1

Derek - The Fall Guy

Once upon a time the Times Online ran a piece on political makeovers which linked to a larger version - this image.

The larger image was 'borrowed' in 2004 by Terry who found it is a search on Google Images. Terry operated a local men's grooming website in the USA - he had no interest in who the guy in the photo was.

The guy in the photo was none other than Peter Mandelson (Official title The Rt Hon Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council) now (in 2010) sitting in the UK government's cabinet, a well know figure in the UK but not abroad. Terry also had no idea that Mandelson was one of the new breed of gay politicians who no longer hid details of his private life.

Flash forward to 2012..........

Derek, a 23 year old fashion graduate setting up his own business was desperate for an image for his website. Short of funds he could not afford to hire a model and photographer. He spent a couple of hours looking through the dollar an image 'microstock' stock websites searching on "handsome man moustache" and he saw no image that was right for him. He switched to Google Images and stumbled across Mandelson's photo that had been picked up by Google on Terry's website.


Derek wasn't interested in politics - he had a vague idea what Gordon Brown looked like & that Brown had surprisingly won the 2010 election but that was about it. He had been reading some designers' discussion boards on the web and some people there who were complaining about having to pay to use photos had heard of something called "Orphan Works".

He had read that Orphan Works was the new cheap way to get images that may otherwise cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds to use if acquired from legitimate sources.

He right clicked on the handsome man's image, looked at 'properties' and sure enough there was nothing there about any copyright holder. His first thought was 'perhaps there isn't one', but he wasn't that stupid. Off he went to the Orphan Works website and found out that the image would cost £30 at the size he wanted it for his website. This was far more than the dollar an image sites, but far less than the other sites where photos were far more expensive.

He discovered he had to do a 'diligent search' and the Orphan Works site provided some guidance. So off he went....

1. Google Images. He searched on "handsome man moustache" again - 157,000 results - and there it was, in the place he had already found it about 10 pages, 200 images in. But yes, this is where he got the image in the first place, Terry's site. He looked at another 20 pages, that's 600 images, thought to himself that's diligent enough and moved on to....

2. Getty Images - 81 images. Nothing. At least that was easy.

3. The dollar a photo 'micro' websites - 224 results, 330 images, 1566 images - he remembered he'd already looked there, and moved on.

4. - 328 images

He was getting a bit bored now and went on to try 5 more sites. He'd been diligent for 3 hours. He went back to the Orphan Works site, paid over his £30, ticked the "I've been diligent" box and took the image. He had read somewhere on an obscure page on the Orphan Works site that the image may have no 'model release' allowing commercial uses, but Derek thought to himself that any guy this dashing and handsome must be a male model and so must have allowed permission to use the image.

So Derek planted the image on the home page of his website for his new range of men's underwear aimed at the family man - his site's slogan was "Underwear to transform your sex life".

Three day's later he couldn't understand where the thousands of website hits were coming from. But no one was buying underwear. In fact the following week there were no less than 265,000 visitors. Wow, he thought, I've gone viral!

And then a letter from a big London law firm representing some guy called Lord Mandelson arrived on his doormat. And another from a US law firm babbling on about statutory damages of $50,000 under US copyright law......

This is fictional. The lessons are real.

> The Politician
> The Photographer

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