Monthly Archives: March 2010

Copyright! Where the bloody hell are ya?

Tourism Australia in photo copyright rights grab

In lock-step conformity with all the other intellectual property bandits around the world, Tourism Australia makes the by now, traditional rights grab in conjunction with their new “There’s Nothing Like Australia” photography competition.

(From the terms and conditions of entry)

11. By entering the Promotion, Eligible Entrants absolutely and unconditionally assign (and agree to use their best endeavours to procure any relevant third parties to absolutely and unconditionally assign) to the Promoter all right, title and interest in all intellectual property rights in their entry, including ownership of intellectual property rights in any photograph that forms part of an entry.

12. By entering the Promotion, Eligible Entrants acknowledge that their entry may be used by the Promoter, the Promoter’s related entities, agencies engaged by the Promoter, or any other third party nominated by the Promoter, for the Promoter’s current and future promotional and marketing purposes without further reference or compensation to them.  Eligible Entrants unconditionally and irrevocably:

(a) consent to any act or omission that would otherwise infringe any of their moral rights in their entry (as defined in Part IX of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth)) and present and future rights of a similar nature conferred by statute anywhere in the world whether occurring before or after this consent is given (Moral Rights); and
(b) waive all Moral Rights in their entry that arise outside Australia.

Why someone doesn’t warn them about the amount of ill-will and bad PR this will generate in the photographic community, before the terms and conditions are published, astonishes me. In order for them to have unlimited use of a picture, there is absolutely no need for them to grab the copyright. Ownership and use of a picture can be sliced and diced in any number of ways without them wresting ownership from the author. Wake up Tourism Australia! Sense of fairplay? Where the bloody hell are ya?

UPDATE: If you wish to express your opinion of the Terms and Conditions of this competition you can do so by going to:


Filed under Australian, Digital photography, News, Opinion, Photographers' rights, Photography, travel

The way it was…the way it has become…

Anti-Vietnam War demonstration, Grosvenor Square, London 1968. The way it was. A picture that reflected the mood of the police and protestors before the attempted storming of the US Embassy. © Rob Walls

Ev’rywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy..
.” Street Fighting Man, Mick Jagger & Keith Richards

Watching the creeping prohibitions on photography in Britain prompted me to go to the archive for these pictures. I made them on Sunday, 17th March 1968, almost exactly 42 years ago. They are from the anti-Vietnam protest in London’s Grosvenor Square that became known as The Battle of Grosvenor Square.  It was the inspiration for The Rolling Stones“Street Fighting Man”. Grosvenor Square was the target of the march because this was the address of the United States Embassy.

With the crowd squeezed into the relatively confined area of the square, it was hard to estimate the number of demonstrators but reports at the time claimed they numbered between 6,000 and 10,000. At first the police handled the protest with a certain amount good-will and calm. Up until the point that is, where the protestors tried to storm the embassy.

I had forgotten how fierce the conflict between police and protestors had been until I revisited the video news coverage online.

Even without the benefit of modern riot gear it can be seen that the lads of the Met were not reluctant to put the boot in. According to the Friends of the Metropolitan Police, an organisation dedicated to recording the history of the Met, “on that day There were 86 demonstrators treated by St Johns Ambulance, and 117 officers injured, with 45 protesters and 4 officers hospitalised (vide Hansard). Of those arrested, 246 were charged with various public order offences. Thirteen windows in the Embassy were broken.”

As a journalist, I would think the disparity between police and demonstrator injuries questionable. I’m not saying that there were no police hurt. I witnessed injuries on both sides. But with the prospect of time off or other compensation members of the force would have had something to gain from reporting injured.  On the other hand protesters injured in the melee would have been more likely to write off their contusions to the “revolution” and experience.

Ironically, before he became one of the ruling class, the former head of Britian’s security agency MI6,  Sir John Scarlett, was one of the demonstrators on that day. He was quoted as saying of the riot:

“I twice saw policemen charge quite strongly at very few demonstrators who were doing absolutely nothing and both times people were heavily clubbed over the head while one of my friends saw a girl being viciously clubbed for no reason at all.”

The way it became. Police arrest demonstrators outside the US Embassy, Grosvenor Square, London 1968

For some balance, Peter Hitchen’s Daily Mail report on the 40th anniversary of the riot is worth reading. However, in 1968, much as they would have liked to, the Metropolitan Police weren’t quite ready to prevent photojournalists from doing their job. But back then the official NUJ press card still carried some weight. Producing it would usually ensure their grudging co-operation.

Not so today! More and more photojournalists are being harassed by police using the stop-and-search powers available to them under anti-terrorist legislation. According to The Guardian newspaper, the use of these powers has grown fourfold, from 33,177 times in 2004 to more than 117,200 in 2008.

On the 14th January, 2010, the weekly journal, Police Professional, under the headline Section 44 ‘breaches human rights’ quotes solicitor advocate, Simon McKay as saying that Section 44 “…has failed on legal certainty and proportionality grounds. It is ambiguous and its use was, and is always going to be, vulnerable to the indiscriminate exercise of discretion by police officers; not necessarily deliberately, but through a process of natural evolution. It is the equivalent of the erosion of rights by osmosis.”

In January this year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the arbitrary use of Section 44 stop-and-search powers are illegal. The UK Home Office is set to appeal against the ruling.  More here. (opens in new window)

Could it happen here? There are signs that it may. For the sake of a free press it is imperative that we in Australia remain vigilant against any erosion of our right to document our society.

Now; in the mood for a little music? Then you could do worse than spend a few toe-tapping minutes of your day with this Big Brother re-mix of Talking Heads, Born Under Punches-The Heat Goes on. It would be funny…if the accompanying video was not so chillingly relevant:

As it says: “1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual”


Filed under documentary photography, Opinion, Photographer, Photographers' rights, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

Photography for dummies

You know how you find yourself magnetically drawn to certain subjects. I’ve found I have an obsession (slight) with photographing shop window dummies. Is it their immobility? Their inability to object to my photo-taking? Their passivity? I’ve never really figured it out and perhaps it’s better not to know. See also blog post (opens in new window): Somewhat surreal

Mannequin at rest in thrift shop

Shaven headed dummy modelling knitwear

One from way back. This picture taken in 1967 was made in Oxford Street, London. One can't deny the Freudian overtones.


Filed under art, Australian, Autobiography, documentary photography, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls, Stock photography

Are you “passionate” about photography?

The trouble with working in a craft that seems glamorous is that every dreamer with a DSLR wants your job. Ask them why and the answer will invariably be that they are “passionate about photography”. Apart from the fact that they have obviously never been taught about hyperbole at school, most of them will throw common-sense to the winds to get work. They will abandon rationality, a not uncommon characteristic of the passionate, and work for nothing in order to be able to indulge this “passion”. This syndrome was never better illustrated than in this bitingly funny scene from the 1960’s cult classic, Putney Swope:


Filed under Opinion, Photographer, Photography, Photojournalism, Rob Walls

Catching beauty…

Sometimes a photographer’s life can be mighty privileged. Last December, while working on the teenage television production, Castaway in Broome, I was given the opportunity to shoot photographs for the portfolio of one of the lead actors, 15 year old, Mikayla Southgate. Endowed with a translucent beauty, and a talent to match, Mikayla is an Australian actress to watch. If she persists in the business, I predict that she will go to the very top.

These are two of my favourite pictures from a shoot on Cable Beach:

Technical details:  Nikon D90, Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8 zoom, focal length 200mm,

ISO640 F2.8 @ 1/250 sec.

Technical details:  Nikon D90, Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8 zoom, focal length 155mm,

ISO640 F2.8 @ 1/640 sec.


Filed under art, Australian, Digital photography, Photographer, Photography, portraits, Rob Walls, Stock photography