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Blog and Picture Use: Our Next Steps

By Royal Opera House

17 September 2010 at 11.18am | 10 Comments

No one gets things right all of the time, and last week the Royal Opera House got something wrong. It’s been pretty well documented, but if you’re curious to investigate further you can read Intermezzo’s blog and see our official response. The following outlines our next steps.

Rights and copyright have become even more complicated in the digital age. Like a lot of arts organisations, we need to protect our rights and those of our artists, while also finding the best ways to share our work and encourage people to participate in it. Until now, the way we use social media has not been connected to our rights-management strategy, but it’s very clear that we need to bring the two closer together.

We’re now talking to a group of bloggers to help us determine some guidelines for how Royal Opera House publicity is used in the blogosphere, and hope to have some guidelines available for publication very soon.

By Royal Opera House

17 September 2010 at 11.18am

This article has been categorised Uncategorised and tagged Blog, Intermezzo, Rights

This article has 10 comments

  1. Before the "Intermezzo" affair, I had asked to the ROH for permission to post some ROH official press production's photos on my blog. The answer I got was that ROH policy was not allowing to provide official photos to blogs. Later on, after the "Intermezzo" issue, I wrote 2 emails to the ROH, pointing out their change of policy (ROH allowed "Intermezzo" to keep the official photos posted and gave to her access to the press office to post new ones), asking for permission to post official press photos on my blog and asking to et access to the press office material. For the moment, 6 days later, I don't have any answer to my mails. Hope this is related to your post regarding the next steps to be taken by ROH. Thanks for posting this. Best regards.

  2. Just a comment. The Salzburg Festival allows to post high resolution photos of their productions (no differences are made for blogs), only when they are used in a review, report or news related to the Festival and providing proper credit for the photos. The photos are available for everybody on their website. I believe that this is a very good position and hopefully the ROH will get us the same option.

  3. Ryan Hill responded on 17 September 2010 at 12:29pm Reply

    Kudos for publicly admitting your mistake, that takes courage & I'm very pleased to hear that the ROH is in consultation with members of the blogging community. These folk can and do contribute significantly to the promotion of the ROH and the arts in general. Here's wishing a successful outcome for everyone.

  4. This is a significant back-tracking from the statement made on Friday that the ROH is 'happy to provide approved imagery to the media including blogs'

    I have received an invitation to be be included in this discussion. Not from the Royal Opera House but from another blogger.

    A date has been mentioned which is not wildly convenient for me - but that's life.

    I don't think I particularly want to be in a position of accepting meekly a handout from the Royal Opera House, quite possibly with conditions attached, in order that I can publicise their productions that I - willingly - pay to go and see. I'd rather speak as I find rather than being under an obligation and an implied threat to toe the line or else have 'privileges' withdrawn.

  5. Elaine Simpson-Long responded on 17 September 2010 at 1:06pm Reply

    I am a Friend of the ROH and blog about my visits there on my blog random jottings. I have written at great length about productions and performances and usually illustrated these with my own photos or those found by surfing on the internet. Nearly all of these appear to be in the public domain. I also think I have used the odd photo from ROH and had no idea that I might be breaking some IP law so would be very happy to have this issue cleared up once and for all. Your in house lawyer was a tad heavy handed and that is putting it very mildy indeed. I trust and hope that he has been spoken to.....

  6. Royal Opera House (Former Digital Designer) responded on 17 September 2010 at 1:13pm Reply

    Carlos - Sorry that we haven't got back to you sooner. We're working to develop a policy about the use of our pictures and will be in touch as soon as we've done that - as per the above post.

    Geraldine - the idea of the meeting is that we get some people together to have a chat so that everyone can understand a bit more about each others' requirements. It would be great if you could come along, and it certainly won't put you under any obligations.

  7. A great development, look forward to how it goes from here. I was quite critical at the time, even though I don't tend to use pix on my blog, but this seems like a very positive way forward. Good luck with the discussions.

  8. All's well that ends well :)
    Anyway,as a blogger I don't feel myself represented for "a group of bloggers" which I don't know who they are and how they got to be invited.... So I tell you my opinion here: I'm from Spain, I'm a Friend of the House, I go to two or three shows each year and write a review in my blog afterwards. I use to put a couple of photos taken from a newspaper website and try to put the credits the best I can, but I think it will be much easier if I could get the same couple of photos myself directly from you and credit them properly. Not such a big requirement, I hope.

  9. I think we all agree that the discussion mentioned was primarily around the way in which the subject was approached and I am glad things were amended in that respect.
    However, the issue of image copyright is not new, and maybe it is indeed high time to deal with it. There are in my opinion several instances where pictures of ROH productions, as well as set designs and artists appearing in these productions are used, especially in the internet, outside accredited pres. People who see performances share their experience and illustrate them :
    - With copies taken electronically directly of the ROH website;
    - With copies of pictures take from electronically published press articles ( I believe these is the second most frequent case);
    - With own pictures taken either at curtain calls or during the performances.
    For me pictures taken during performance need to stay a definite no-no as they disturb the performance considerably.
    As to curtain calls I would take a freer view. What damage can be done? The artists are there to be heard and looked at, applauded, etc. What would be the harm in capturing this moment on camera as a personal souvenir? Ok, some might object, but they do so for backstage photos, I don’t think there are any real objections to being photographed on stage at curtain calls, It neither disturbs the performance, and in a way it is part of the interaction with the public :-) More harm is done by an unfortunate flower-tosser as I am sure many performers who have been bruised by too much flowery affection can tell ;-)))
    And this is and has been for many many years normal in any opera house I have been to all around the world. I want proof to boast that I have been THERE and seen THAT :-) Believe me after fighting for a ticket as if your life depended on it you sometimes want that proof :-)
    The other cases obviously need to be dealt with in some way. Taking them from press is more problematic, because the right thing to do is not only to state the photographer, but also the source of the picture ( ie newspaper, etc). However, we also often find that the photographers name is not always mentioned in these articles.
    Then we have the situation of copies taken from the ROH website, where also one cannot always see the photographers name, or the artist or designers involved, whichever the relevant case.
    Some people make the effort to clearly state this information, as far as they were able to identify it, in the text of their stories, as close to the actual photos as possible. This is clearly not ideal, as the photos can be copied further and the text left out. Putting this information on the photo makes the loss of it more difficult. Although not entirely impossible, but in this case one would have to actively try and remove it from the photo, which is clearly evidence of bad intention.
    I believe distributing these photos to public, press and other users equally, with the relevant information already attached to it would solve some of the problems,. Because if the press also only had them in this form, copies from electronic press would obviously also have to carry the information forward automatically.
    Not that we necessarily have to look across the ocean for guidance, but the MET has been dealing with these issues for just as long and sure had to address similar problems. Their, I think reasonable and practical, solution is this, as illustrated in the on line and publicly accessible images of productions:
    Like so

    Please not in the above photo example the credits attached below. They don’t affect the picture but clearly recognise copyright.
    In a similar form I think ROH could also be made available, the clearly stated obligation being to use them in this form only, without any alteration. Any alteration, ie removal of credits being infringement of stated policy.
    I am unaware if photos need to be paid for when published in the press. In any case I believe publishing a reasonable number of pictures free of charge in such a way on the ROH website would be useful for everyone. Any anything made available there could then be used legally ( as long as credits included in this form). But if they come with credits attached in this way, it is easier to use them correctly :-)
    I would totally support pursuing anyone removing the credits or misusing the photos. There has to be some way of separating the well intentioned from the abusers. However, I think we also realistically need to acknowledge that such cases will always happen and detecting and correcting these instances is a time consuming and costly business. And as artistic activities need to prevail in an institution such as this, I can see the difficulties in hiring people for the sole purpose of chasing. But I think a clear statement on the right way to use photos is all we need now. And I hope that most of us who come to the ROH because we greatly appreciate the performances here are well intended and seek to share and support, not damage :-)
    Maybe I am oversimplifying legal matters here, but I believe a technically relatively simple solution like this would be a good way forward.
    I personally would have wished this debate you have initiated and which I think was a very good idea to have been slightly more public. For no other reason than to gather various proposals and let people share their experience with other institutions. Getting some input from similar sized opera houses would probably also be a good idea. The BSO in Munich as well as the Zurich opera house also regularly provide production photos on their websites.
    Surely the more views we have and the more experience with “how others do it” can be helpful.
    I’d like to think that it would be nice to have a draft version of the proposal shared on your website and for us to have a chance to read and maybe provide some input? Just to broaden the spectrum of opinions and experiences :-)
    I’d also like to remind some impatient writers that this institution has a PR department, or generally staff dealing with the front of house and the public of reduced numbers and that it is focused on sales of tickets primarily. There are 20 thousand friends, plus other public… so the numbers of people with requests and questions can surely be quite significant. No disrespect meant, but some patience is necessary, as there are I suspect far fewer people at the other end to deal with all questions. Especially where matters are under discussion some delays may incur. I do believe that more communication and more visibility is needed and there is room for progress, but let’s not loose sights of comparisons. Those who have dealt with other institutions in Europe know that feedback and customer service can be a total foreign language for some.
    In any case I am glad this debate is taking place and hope that this is a step towards better, more frequent and more open communication. Talk to us! We want to listen and respond and certainly hope you are interested in also listening to what we have to say.

  10. sorry for typos, written speedily on the go :-S

This article has 2 mentions elsewhere

  1. The Rambler:  ROH offer consultation with opera bloggers over copyright
  2. Recitative:  Positive developments

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