I was driving home from Maria's Taco Express, where I had a great lunch, when my phone rang. I thought it might be my errant lunch companion who failed to show up so I answered it. The call started out pleasantly enough, it was a woman from a publishing company in another city. She immediately went into the sell mode to tell me "what a wonderful series of books they produce about major cities in the U.S. and, isn't it wonderful?" They're going to do one on Austin.
Well, that's okay with me, I guess, but why was she calling me? "Well, in order to make it a great book about your city it would have to have photographs of stuff, including some food shots from some of our more famous local restaurants. So the publisher asked the restaurants to send in photographs. But here's the problem, the photographs from one restaurant are too small and mushy and they need big, meaty, high res images for their super deluxe, super high quality printed book." And they just kinda think I may have taken the photographs of this wonderful food that they want to put in a wonderful book that might just put Austin on the map as a city. Imagine that. Austin as a famous city. I can see people walking with more spring in their step right now....
I described the image I thought the person on the phone might be interested in and she more or less agreed that it probably was that image. Great, I say. What is your budget for the use of photography (one time) in your beautifully printed book that will put Austin on the map and save us from obscurity? "Zero. Ziltch. Nada."
But there are a couple of stumbling blocks to her wishful "free" thinking... The first is that the images were done for a magazine on a one time usage rights agreement. Oh darn, you mean the restaurant didn't get all the rights to my magazine assignment? That damn, pesky copyright law. Then came the "leverage." "But well, if we don't get the high resolution files to use then we'll just have to pull that restaurant out of our book!!!!" Oh no!!! This particular restaurant with a two hour wait for a table on week nights, the restaurant that's been here for twenty five years-----all that may crumble if I don't send off my intellectual property, ASAP.
Then why are you calling me? I ask. "Well, you see, we need a high res version of the image and since you might be the person what took the image we were thinking we might be able to get the high res version from you. Because we need the high res image. See? For this impressive book."
Why didn't you ask the restaurant for a high res image? Isn't that their responsibility? "Well, they like this image but they weren't sure where it came from.... " So why are you calling me? "Because we need a high resolution version for our book." But you don't have any budget to pay for it?
Now I'm getting a bit feisty. So you're producing a book to make money? "Yes." Your company is in the business of making books for profit? "Yes!" And the restaurant will get free advertising because it will be in the book? Is that right? Yes! And so why is the artist of the work the only one who doesn't benefit from the use of the work? Why is the photographer the only one who isn't getting paid?
"Well, stutter, I just trying to find out if you have some deal with the restaurant, like they pay you a yearly fee or something so we can use the image...."
But I don't have any business relationship with the restaurant. I own the photograph and I need to be paid if you intend to use it.
And then she asked, "Why are you getting so upset? Is someone you know dying or something?" (actual question...).
And I asked, Do you have any intention of paying to use my photograph? "NO!" she said ".... .and you've been so unhelpful and mean I'll never call again and if I ever see your name come across my desk I will never use you!!!"
Thank you, I said, because you'd only be calling to see if you could get more stuff for free.
I don't remember who slammed their phone down first. But it never helps my blood pressure to be on either end of a call that's all about getting shit for free.