Now Showing: Chicago Journal Classifieds news article: Planck Studios Chicago Prints and Photos

Now Showing: Chicago Journal Classifieds

A lesson in image copyright - 13,000 copies later...

Posted Sep 13, 2009

It's got to be a rite of passage - the moment when you see your own work, published and re-purposed - with someone else's phone number and nameplate in big, bold letters. It's an emotional moment - maybe because for a flash you feel connected to the general background of society. Then you realize that someone else is making money using that connection. And you were left out of the process. That's not a very good feeling. I like money. And communication. Hey!

Scan of the Classifieds header in the Sept 10th printing of the Chicago Journal

I looked at my back issues of the Chicago Journal print publication (yes, Chicago Journal, you got me - I'm a reader). I didn't see my work show up again - nor did I see it published online. So, I'm hoping this is an isolated incident. I did see other photographs used for the classified header, also without credits. Should you find my work in another issue, or should you find your own work published without your permission, please contact me and let me know.

I'm flattered that the folks at the Chicago Journal like my work. I like their work too. They just published an article on the recent South Loop Neighbors photo show where my work was featured - with my consent. Over the last year I've met a few people involved with the publication and they are kind and dedicated - folks with whom you'd feel good working.

Color image of the print in question, South Loop

It got me thinking about how the decision was made to use my print, South Loop as a background banner for the classified section. So I'll leave this space blank for now - and I'll update it later with a proper response from the Chicago Journal themselves.

They are pretty quick over there - just hours after contacting the editor of the Chicago Journal, I've received a positive response. It appears that they are taking the matter seriously:

Dear Jonathan,

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. Use of your photograph for the classified section was a mistake, and we're checking into how it happened. We will be following up with you today on how to make this right.

- Micah Maidenberg, Editor/Reporter Chicago Journal

Some background information and my thoughts so far...

With a circulation of 13,000, The Chicago Journal is free and printed weekly - available in kiosks and coffee shops in the South Loop, West Loop and Near West Side neighborhoods. The masthead has over 30 employees listed. Not a huge operation - but to add to the confusion, the classifieds appear to be operated by their parent company Wednesday Journal (responsible for at least 5 other publications). That's a lot of things to manage.

My image of the South Loop has been available online in 1200px wide format (large enough to be reprinted poorly at any size above a few inches - and likely the file used in the paper) since March of 2008. It is published both on my website and on Flickr.

I hope that sharing my experience will open up a dialog on this sort of practice. After being in this situation, maybe I could help educate myself and others as to our rights concerning protected imagery. I hope to answer the following questions:

  • What is copyright infringement?
  • What exactly are my rights as a producer of fine art?
  • What are some trusted online resources to help educate me on this issue?

If you have experience in these matters, please send me an email and I'll update this post as I learn more.