The Great Microphone of Influency

would you rather listen?

One day last week, I found this comment in our moderation queue. Kenn Delbridge, the photographer who shot the image you see at the top of a post about the way Influency works with your ability to shout louder than others, had found the story, and was unhappy that we’d used his picture without permission.

Kenn had every right to be upset. He’s a professional media creator and as I learned through a back-and-forth he and I had over the course of several days, he carries that microphone with him as he travels the world, taking pictures of it to promote his business. In short, Kenn Delbridge owns copyright in the pictures he takes and felt as though we’d stolen his work.

Taking something that belongs to Mr. Delbridge was not our intent. While we did use a picture that Kenn’s convinced me originated with him, we didn’t find it on either his web site or, as he’d believed, at his Flickr account. Nevertheless, Kenn Delbridge’s “thing” is taking pictures of a microphone in many settings and once I understood that I suggested that we provide him with heretofore-missing attribution.

Kenn’s a reasonable guy. He agreed that getting a bit of promotion was better for him than removing the image, as he’d originally requested. Problem solved for everyone, and I have, I hope, a new friend.

A lot of important stuff goes into this story. We’re talking about attribution, business change, media in the Internet age, copyright, and more.

To start with, Kenn Delbridge’s microphone photographs all incorporate the Shure 55SH microphone. I’m not picking on Kenn when I point out that the iconic status of the Shure 55SH microphone as well as his clear display of the Shure logo could create a problem for him if Shure ever decides they aren’t happy. Does Kenn have Shure’s permission? For that matter, might things work in the opposite direction—as they do so often in film and television—in other words, is Shure paying Kenn Delbridge to promote them? And if they are (and if Kenn was in The United States, which he is not) shouldn’t his relationship with Shure be disclosed? By the way: while copyright law typically vests rights in an image to the photographer, it’s always fascinated me that people of whom photographs are taken have what are often interpreted as lesser rights.

While the specific solutions to these issues might seem not to matter to you, how media gets created, consumed, and repurposed is a big deal. As I described here, we have a policy about how we use pictures at Answer Guy Central, and the fact that I discovered Kenn Delbridge’s picture elsewhere—unattributed—doesn’t change that … nor, as I hope my dealings with Kenn exhibit, should it. If you use content that belongs to someone else you have at the very least an obligation—moral, legal, whatever—to disclose that.

This is part of why we’ve created Video Network One. If professional media creators don’t always understand their rights, how can all the people who are just playing around or trying to become media professionals?

If you’re a media professional or even a wanna-be media star, stop by Video Network One and sign up.

And if any of the business change issues that I’m talking about here leave you scratching your head, say hello.

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