Some Reflections on the Word “USE”

"use and use"

I want each of you to say the following word:  USE.  I want you to remember what you said because sometimes what you see and what others may see, may not be what you get.

“Use” is one of the most misunderstood and abused words in the imaging related world here in the United States.  In fact, where the word “USE” is concerned, context and understanding context is of paramount importance.  A commercial photographer often employs the word as a noun; as such, “USE” is the word that is often called upon to define what can or cannot be done with the photographer’s images.  “Use” is also a word that often determines how commercial photographers price services as well as how they are compensated.  Modeling and advertising agencies, newspapers and magazines, are intimately familiar with “USE” as the purpose for which images are shot is fundamental in determining a significant amount of the dollars that flow between the parties as well as the contractual obligations. 


As a verb, “USE” (′yǖz) becomes an action, and sometimes the nuance of “USE” (′yǖs) the noun, gets lost.  Recently two incidents gave me reason to pause.  A potential client who asked for a proposal for images for a specific “USE”, balked at my retention of copyright and the language in my agreement that allowed him to “USE” the images for the stated purpose, but did not give him the ability to do anything he wanted to do with them.  In clarifying my position it became very clear that this start-up entrepreneur felt that he should be able to use (the verb) the images for any purpose he wanted, even though the project had not been priced that way and he did not ask for it to be priced for multiple purposes.  To his credit, after giving him some references, he came back and indicated that there was much that he wasn’t aware of with respect to images and rights and “USE”.  He is not alone.  Often people who aspire to enter modeling, photography and/or the representation fields are not aware of these concepts.  As we have become a more camera- and video-enabled society, manufacturers who incorporate cameras in their products have done little to educate or make people aware that there is more to imaging than just point, click, and distribute.


In another case, a friend, told me he was going to e-mail me an image by another photographer that he had downloaded and wanted me to see.  I asked him not to do send it, explaining to him that as a working photographer downloading and distributing someone else’s copyrighted work is something I do not do, as I would not want people doing that with my work.  The operative word here is work:  People sometimes tend to forget that the images they may be enjoying are actually work and not recreation for a significant number of us.  It was during that conversation that I realized that software companies are the greatest enablers of people being able to freely download images without regard to copyright or use.  In the absence of any kind of warnings, it is has become routine for people to click on many Web viewed images and instantly have the ability to save or send them.  Is it any wonder that significant numbers of people to feel that they have the right to “USE” images as they see fit?


I want you to recall how you pronounced “USE” at the beginning of this entry:  Was it as the noun?  Or the verb?  Or did you recognize it could go either way?  Since the Web audience is world wide, it is important to point out that laws and business practices often vary by locale, so you should become familiar with the laws and practices which govern you.


August 2009
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current ipod playlist includes:

Eva Cassidy - Over the Rainbow, Rascal Flatts - Unstoppable, Renee Olsstead - A Love That Will Last, Train - Hey Soul Sister, Trisha Yearwood - How Do I Live, Jason DeRulo - Whatcha Say, Byron Kelsey Atkinson - The Love That Heals, Luther Vandross - Love Forgot, Patti Austin - True Love, Phyllis Hyman - No One Could Love You More, Keisha Cole with Monica - Trust, Shontelle - Impossible, Nickelback - This Afternoon, JayZ with Ms. Keyes - Empire State of Mind



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