Something Borrowed: Poker Media and IP Laws

Steve Ruddock : July 12th, 2016

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There is a lot of cheating and theft in the poker world. Players cheat and steal from other players. Online poker sites have cheated and stolen from their customers. And if you work in the poker media you’ve undoubtedly had your content jacked at some point in time – I know I’ve found my articles reprinted without permission, sourced without attribution, or outright stolen and published under a (usually fake) person’s name on some¬† less than reputable affiliate website.

The theft of intellectual property doesn’t begin or end with written content though. All sorts of media are vulnerable, and this topic was recently broached on Twitter when photographer Drew Amato confronted Matt Glantz about his use of photographs for his social media accounts that were taken by, and owned by, Amato and other photographers.

To his credit, Glantz quickly apologized, and explained he was unaware Google images weren’t free to use – something very few people understand, and even less abide by. Glantz wasn’t the only poker player who realized they had been unwittingly using copyrighted photos.

This exchange led to a pretty lengthy debate about what can and should be done, with fellow poker photographer Joe Giron posting the following:

Stealing is pervasive

As someone who produces unique content on a daily basis I can sympathize with the plight of these photographers.

At the same time, we’re living in a digital age, and policing violators has become too burdensome, so I’m not sure if cracking down on the soft-offenders, players looking for an image of themselves, is going to solve anything.

I almost see it as a cost of doing business in my industry.

One photographer I spoke with said that people/players do in fact buy poker pictures, so on some level, educating poker players about buying pictures is probably a good idea.

I found this somewhat surprising since they could simply screen grab themselves on a live stream and use that as their picture. Not to mention that with the technological advances, the gap between a photograph taken by a decent amateur and a professional is considerably smaller when you’re looking for a simple thumbnail for a social media profile picture – professional pictures are a different story, and the gap between a pro and an amateur is considerably wider.

Getting back to what can be done. As I said above, I’ve found entire articles I’ve written reproduced with a fake byline at random sites, and on a daily basis something I’ve reported on goes unattributed or is thinly rewritten by another site, once again without attribution. A lot of it isn’t a big deal and is more a nuisance than theft, particularly the rewrites. And at some point you become numb to it, and come to grips with the fact that you’d have to spend every waking hour tracking down your work, and policing the internet in this manner would simply consume you.

Photographers in particular have it rough. IP laws are difficult to understand, and few people are going to spend hours of their time trying to read through them, only to come to the conclusion that they’re somewhat clear about certain pictures, but not so clear about others, as there are several factors to consider, not least of which being fair use, laws varying by country, and photographing people at public events or in large groups.

Add to that the complicated matter of copyright trolls and their litigious ways, and you suddenly have a situation where the average person has little to no idea what pictures can and can’t be used, and it’s no wonder they simply throw their arms up in the air, head over to Google, and say screw it.

The laws are antiquated

As noted above, we’re living in a new era.

In 1995, if someone wanted to steal a book and sell pirated copies they had to actually print off the book. In 2016 they can sell it as an ebook.

The same holds true for pictures. 25 years ago you had to take your roll of film to a store to get your pictures developed – no one could still your picture without actually physically stealing your picture. Today, you and virtually everyone in the world, have access to your photos, and the billions of images that have appeared on the internet, instantaneously.

Protecting your work has become a much more difficult task; in fact, it’s impossible.

What we have instead is a situation not unlike the medical field in the United States. Because so few people are actually paying, the price is inflated for the ones that do. For photographers this means  their work gets priced so high that no one will buy it.

Can anything be done?

So what’s the solution?

Damned if I know.

Maybe photographers water stamp or brand every image and let people go nuts sharing their pictures and hopefully reap the rewards of the name and brand recognition?

Maybe photographers are paid better for their time, and ownership of the pictures reverts to the employer who duly water stamps those images?

Maybe photographers could allow players to use images of themselves (with attribution of course) for some publicity or as a testimonial?

Like I said; I really don’t know what the answer is. But the internet era is certainly making it a lot tougher to make a living by creating unique content.

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