Press agencies, publishers, and photographers’ unions signed on July 15th, 2014 a code of good professional practices aiming at setting a framework for the compensation of photographers when their images are published in the news, and at regulation the exploitation of photographs. In the event that these rules are not respected, the code provides for damages to the benefit of photographers, coupled with a decrease or a cut in financial aid for the press.
The goal of this code of good practices is to attempt to reset the economic balance in the relations between publishers and photographers (and/or their agencies), since the situation of the latter has been consistently deteriorating.
The key points of the code are the following:
- Photographic credits. It will be possible to ask the publisher, in the event of a total lack of credit, for damages at least equal to the license fee for the photograph in question. That amount is reduced to 50% of such license fee in the event of an incomplete or erroneous credit.Furthermore, use of the credit “all rights reserved” must be limited to the sole situation in which the photographer or the agency does not wish for their name to be public, or when the author of the photograph cannot be identified, despite real research efforts on the part of the publisher. If the photograph comes from a third party but does not bear the name of its author, the publisher shall at least mention its source. If the “all rights reserved” credit remains even after having identified the photographer, it will be possible to ask the publisher for damages.
- Compensation of photographers and agencies.
- Assignment of rights.
- The rules regarding the shared responsibility between publishers on the one hand, and agencies and photographers on the other hand, in the event of claims arising from the publication of the photograph.In this respect, the code provides that the people involved in the creation, distribution, or publication of the photograph, can only be found liable in the limited cases provided for by the law. For instance, publishers can be held liable when they write the caption of a photograph themselves, or disregard the meaning of the one that is given to them when they use the photograph in an article that has no relation with what it represents, or when using the photograph would lead the viewer to believe that the person photographed is the one the article it is attached to is about.On the other hand, agencies and photographers can be held liable when they do not have certain authorizations (from the photographer for the agencies, from persons or owners of objects for photographers), when they do not provide captions, or provide an erroneous one.
- The implementation of a common standard for the definition and the transmission of metadata, or the affixing of digital protection measures on the photographs in order to prevent or limit their download and re-exploitation without authorization. This common standard shall be the subject of a specific agreement between the parties, to be entered into within twelve months of the signature of the code.
However, despite the apparent goodwill of the code, it has been widely criticized and numerous journalists’ unions like the SNJ (National Union of Journalists), the SNJ-CGT, the CDFT Journalistes, the SNJ-FO, and certain photographers’ organizations like the UPP (Union of Professional Photographers) have refused to sign it.
According to them, the code “does not provide any solution to the catastrophic social situation of an agonizing profession and will, on the contrary, ensure the durability of practices that cut the input of editorial photography to the news”.
The future of these negotiations should thus be followed closely.