“Pro” Photography Must Die

The tyranny of professional “Cap-P” photography has finally reached oblivion. It is irredeemable and we should let it burn.

Pathetic. Midnight legislation, snuck through on an unrelated spending bill during the holidays. They act as if something has been won. Nothing has been won, except the seeds of their own demise.

That it was attached to a COVID relief bill is just gross. I’m ashamed to have ever been involved with ASMP.


Giving the copyright office Internet police powers and binding judgement is… I’ll just say it, it’s fascist. I do not use that word lightly. We cannot let what remains of the open web to be governed by IP and the copyright office, nor should we trade in our right to privacy, to bailout corporate content holders.

ASMP members think they can rescue their obsolete model by attaching themselves to a corporate rear guard action, that seeks to enclose the digital commons. It won’t help “pro” photographers much, as it seems mostly designed to benefit a narrow group of intellectual monopolists and bureaucracy. ASMP and other image makers were used, again.

It goes beyond media. Corporations who “own the rights” to fruit and vegetable seeds, for example, are likely patting ASMP on the head today. Same for pharma executives, who wish to mark up prices 1000%. Many will continue to underpay corporatist photographers or force bad agreements that strip them of their copyright, by the way.

Association photographers are blaming random users for their own failures, and for the sins of corporate media. Emerging photographers sucked into this and who went into student debt for something that’s now learned free elsewhere, won’t make their money back with this.

They won’t win respect or mainstream relevancy with this, either. Respect is earned. What’s relevant is fickle. For “pro” photographers, the golden age was many yesterday’s ago. Photography, like a bar, is the wrong place to look for love, anyway.

An individuals intellectual monopoly – this includes corporations, with their “personhood” status – was never meant to scale globally. It can’t, even with surveillance and strong enforcement, which is what deluded globalist photogs now demand. And to think it should, somehow, was always naive or oppressive.

Given that reality, how is the CASE Act applicable or even remotely enforeable on a global scale, where a bulk of infringement occurs? Hint: It’s not. Attempts to do so will be rightly seen as the digital version of colonial aggression. It will barely be enforceable here in the States.

21st Century technology has never been compatible with 20th Century IP norms


I would warn that you should be careful of what you upload, download, and stream. Because white male photographers – most of what ASMP is unless much has changed – feel entitled to lord over a democratic medium, and are out for blood.

At most, they’ll entangle an innocent or ignorant grandma and small businesses, because corporate infringers have enough money and attorney power to avoid this silly bit of desperation theater.

Akin to the RIAA’s aggressive tactics, it will backfire. Similar to how alcohol prohibition failed miserably, file sharing will continue. But the sad thing is, innocents or the naive will either have to fork over money they don’t have or lose internet access, without fair trial or right of appeal. If this sounds unconstitutional to you, you’re right.

Proponents of this monster will say they’re only going after people who seek to profit from infringement. But as the linked cases above show, reality is different.

As for so-called “pirates” who have any modicum of sophistication, they will continue to do what they’re doing:

VPN + Tor. Encryption. Mirror and onion sites. File to China, India, or Pakistan. Pay BTC to a programming wiz to strip DMCA from the file. Write content tracking blockers, etc.

Indeed, using IP addresses to identify people is a broken methodology, anyway. ASMP flunkees and their copyright office buddies would have been wise not to try.

Those of us not “infringing”, someone like me and who once had a moderate view, but who now find copyright intolerable and a threat to a sustainable future, will continue to migrate to open source systems. So more brain drain from the legacy system.

Abolish copyright. It’s the only sane thing to do now.

ASMP, as a former associate member, I know that you’ve been in decline for years. Portland chapter meetings were like group therapy sessions. It was sad. End your denial and pull the plug already. Stop wasting membserhip dues, by lobbying for a digital dystopia. It’s painful to watch you do this to yourself. This is bad for photography, too, supposing that you actually care about that.

Peer Production License

Unless otherwise noted, most work on my website and this blog is now licensed with a Peer Production, P2P Attribution-ConditionalNonCommercial-ShareAlikeLicense.

This is an intranational license that is basically a fork of the Creative Commons NC-SA. What it does is free up peer contributors to the commons, so they can use the work commercially.

In short:

P2P collectives, employee owned orgs, non-profits, etc., are fine to use the work for commercial purposes, so long as there is attibution and the license is shared alike.

If it’s a privately owned for-profit business or corporation, then commercial license is not given unless terms are agreed to.

Individuals cannot resell, but are free to share and remix non-commercially as before.

I view this as an improvement over the CC NC-BY-SA, which is too limiting in scope and leaves fellow peer producers at a disadvantage.

For a tl;dr primer of the license or the full text, please follow the link above.

Sen. Wyden is Right About the CASE Act

And the photography associations are wrong.


All due respect to the PPA and ASMP – two associations that I was a member of – they’re at best misguided, if they think copyright can be fixed in this way. At worst, they’ve lost their moral compass.

It’s sad to see “pro” photographers lower themselves to corporate rent seeker status, as if they are deserving of special privilege.

This turd of a bill was not debated, at all, in the House of Representatives and has received scant media attention. No wonder, because it’s hard to imagine any popular support for this.

Not to mention the usurpation of our judicial system with an administrative tribunal that is probably, oh, not so Constitutional.

I suspect this law, should Senator Wyden concede, will be contested in court. You know, a proper public court of law. Not an ad hoc unelected bureaucratic tribunal outside the judicial system, that denies due process.

I sympathize with photographers whose images were commercially used, without license. Its happened to me, too.

But there are myriad reasons why their old business model isn’t working like it used to. Testing the dark waters of digital dystopia and unconstitutional tribunals is no way to make an obsolete model work again.

A bipartisan bill – again, passed without debate – is not a rationale for legitimacy, in of itself.

Time and again we’ve seen how Congress taints its legacy with one bad law, after another. Poor judgment is something politicians are richly rewarded for.

By now most Americans should understand that bipartisan = everyone gets screwed.

This bad law will do nothing for photography itself, which is what should truly concern anyone who identifies as a Photographer.

Some Rights Reserved

I have switched the copyright license for most of my published work, on my blog and website. It will be a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.

This means that you’re free to share, remix, or use. But it must be non-commercial, attributed to me, and shared with the same license. Some of my official digital copies are available to download and share.

Client work will remain All Rights Reserved, for the agreed to embargo on extra use.

My reason for this is simple. The world has changed. However, bad actors or patent trolls are, once again, being too aggressive with their IP rent-seeking. I’m looking at you Disney and more recently, Microsoft.

You can use centralized databases or emerging decentralized tech. But we all have the right to own our data and content, sharing or selling it however we choose. Copyright infringement – if we’re going to have IP laws at all – should at most be a civil matter, rather than criminal. Anything more, is barbaric.

Free PDF Copy: Against Intellectual Monopoly

NOI, Copyright Office, and Photographer Culture

Recently ASMP delivered an NOI to the U.S. Copyright Office detailing how best the office can both modernize and help photographers going forward. Here is ASMP’s full response (ASMP has removed this page) and here is the summary version (ASMP has removed this page).

Edit update 12/29/2020: I was quoted on page 15 of ASMP’s response, but the links are now broken and the web page no longer is available. IIRC I basically wrote that technology now exists to make the copyright registration process smoother and more affordable for photographers. And in cases of true commercial infringement, a source for creators to help prove ownership. If I showed any modicum of support for a small claims tribunal, it was likely muted and is now regrettable, and was mild in comparison to what the CASE Act is.

In addition to the five questions ASMP asked its members as part of the NOI, I wrote a letter to the ASMP committee that focused more on culture and mindset.



In addition to the five question answers I recently submitted, I’d like to make an additional comment on ASMP and photography’s moral position.

I think it’s important that we not come off publicly as being copyright extremists. I think a sensible and moderate position is a good one to take, because we want a majority of the mainstream to be supportive of us.

In digital culture today, two polar opposite positions have risen. On one side is the Pirate Party types. The sort of people who say, “Down with copyright! Share! Mix! Copy! And do so without a care!”. They have their esoteric reasons for being this way, whether it is faux anarchist-libertarian or a bizarre sort of digital Maoism. Some are just cheap and like to get stuff without paying out-of-pocket. Offline, some might call them shoplifters or looters.

On the other side is RIAA and MPAA lawyers or patent trolls. The sorts who will sue a grandmother and her granddaughter for copying pop songs, or who will try to ram through something draconian like SOPA. All they do is alienate people and play into the hands of the Pirate Party crowd (and Big Tracking Data interests, e.g. Google, Facebook, et al… ).

What’s missing in the discussion is a sensible middle ground. One that represents not just the legal principle and rights of individual creators, but also the moral center. A holistic view that mirrors true community and middle class values, liberal-independent-conservative.

These extremes have made life difficult for the independent artist and photographer. However, with two clear extremes we now know where the middle is.

Are we for mindless “sharing economy”, which is just really grab and go devaluation of photography? No, we’re not. At least I hope the multitude of us are not.

Edit 12/29/2020: Sharing is great. Communities will benefit tremendously from a true P2P economy. I was referring to faux P2P sharing promoted by Silicon Valley.

On the other hand, are we out to ruin a person’s life, bankrupt people, or “kill the Internet”? I’d like to think that in most cases of infringement, unless it’s truly egregious, that we’re not looking to be regarded as blood thirsty litigants or “Luddites” out for deadly revenge.

Fair compensation so we can make an honest living, respect, and equal footing in the marketplace (this includes digital “sharing culture”) is what we’re working for. It’s important that we frame this part of the public dialogue.

Perhaps that seems old-fashioned. But I see no sustainable future for us if we adopt either of the extremes.

I hope my answers to the five questions in a previous email and this comment helps you. You’re doing publicly thankless but heroic work on this, and I humbly thank you.

Many Regards,

Paul Ottaviano

P.S. — I think it’s also important this not be seen as something that only benefits the “Professional Photographer” or commercial studio photographer. Anything that conjures up feelings and images of stuck up exclusivity is self-defeating.

In my opinion, in addition to ASMP member interests, we should also be advocates for fine art photographers, students, and serious amateurs regardless of their age, years in the business, popularity, or commercial success. At the end of the day, it’s about photography and its future.


Thomas Kennedy, Executive Director of ASMP, wrote a thoughtful letter in reply agreeing with me on several points and thanking me graciously for my support.

It is people like him who deserve many thanks. I haven’t been in the photography business long, but I can tell that for people on the association boards it’s often a thankless job. Going to Washington D.C. takes guts and perseverance.

Regardless of how you feel about things personally and whether you agree with every sentiment or point made in the NOI, folks like Tom are trying to make a positive difference for photography.

If you ever happen to meet one of these people, by all means buy them a drink.