"Please pay your income taxes!" My government says to me. And then they ask me to give them other valuable stuff as well. Would I work for free for the U.S. Government? Not any more than I already do....Thanks.

I am a generally patriotic U.S. citizen. I pay my taxes without cheating. I keep my lawn clean of refuse and I pay what I think are enormous property, sales and income taxes every year. And I rarely ever complain about it. In fact, this will be the first time I've complained about my money and the government on the blog.

But this is what happened this morning:

I opened my e-mail program and found an e-mail from an employee of the Voice of America Online. It's part of an agency that's sponsored and funded by the U.S. government to disseminate good propaganda about our country in the hopes that people overseas will believe it,  won't really hate us, and won't try to kill us. The VOA gets about $200,000,000 per year to "spread the good word."

The e-mail referenced some images I had made of a mall in Austin being renovated for re-use by a local college. You know, transformation story. Good stuff. The images I did of the project ended up on Atlantic Monthly's online site. The VOA saw them and thought they would like to use them to reach some of their 40,000,000 yearly unique, page viewers. But here's the problem....they wanted to use them without paying for them. Not a red cent. No trade of value anywhere on the board

.....except they did toss me one little bone.... in accordance with copyright law they would go ahead and give me a credit line. If I gave them the use of my valuable content free of charge.

I counter-offered and suggested a very reasonable $250 but the woman I was negotiating with told me very clearly that editorial clients NEVER pay for content and that everyone else is VERY happy to have this valuable credit line.

Of course I find it exhausting and counterproductive to work for free, especially for a government that I already financially support (no tax refund checks here...) so I asked the woman a few questions.

1. Are you a volunteer for VOA or do you get paid for your work?

2. Do you receive benefits and retirement credits at your job or must you provide those from your own pocket?

3. Aren't you ashamed to be asking a struggling, middle class artist, who's trying to put his kid though college, to provide you with valuable creative content for free? If you are not you should be!

I may be missing a good bet here. I'm certain there is a prince in Nigeria who frequents VOA Online just searching for a nice photographer to split his fortune with..... Yeah. He'll see my credit line. For sure.


Dave Jenkins said...

Good for you, Kirk! Our government spends money like a drunken sailor. They could pay you a decent fee out of the Obama's vacation funds and never miss it.

Wally said...

I completely agree don't give up your Intellectual Property without compensation. Ever!

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Dave, I agree that our government spends money like someone in town for South By Southwest on an expense account but let's not go political. We can all dislike the government over reach from whatever side of the aisle we choose to sit.

All the best, Kirk

typingtalker said...

Kirk wrote, " ... the woman I was negotiating with told me very clearly that editorial clients NEVER pay for content and that everyone else is VERY happy to have this valuable credit line."

Then she should just give "everyone else" a call.

Apparently this ploy works often enough to make it worth her time.

Unknown said...

Never give away what is yours!
If "they" start same as far as salaries,pensions,benefits,perks and similar, well then you can re-negotiate.
A way higher fee.:-) jason.

David Corney said...


Michael Matthews said...

$200,000,000 a year? Something tells me this is a less-than-effective propaganda machine.