3 July 2009

The National Truss

The National Trust certainly knows how to court controversy. The NT does some great work, and although I rarely if ever pay to enter any of their properties, I am like many others a beneficiary as I walk the well maintained coastal paths, explore the managed woodlands and marsh habitats or wander around the free to enter properties. I always had the impression that the NT was a rather old fashioned organisation, as much preserved in aspic as many of it’s properties, smelling musty like your grandma’s living room and policed by elderly white haired volunteers doing their bit for charity. And yes, let’s not forget the National Trust is a charity. Recently, however, the NT has bared its teeth and begun looking more like a ruthless commercial bank than a charity, and not overly bothered about the ruckus it has caused among the photographic community.

To kick off with, NT Northern Ireland announced a photographic competition and was immediately condemned for including an over-riding rights grabbing clause in the Terms and Conditions; it read,

“If you submit any material to us, you agree to grant The National Trust a perpetual, royalty-free, worldwide, non-exclusive licence to use your contribution in all media. This includes the right to copy, edit, publish, grant sub-licences and exercise all other copyright and publicity rights over the material. If you do not want to grant these rights, please do not submit your contribution to us.”
It seems this has now been amended (see here ) , but not before one of the competition’s high profile judges, Simon Norfolk, pulled out after reportedly being “furious” about the National Trusts actions.

Then in April this year the National Trust approached Alamy to request that
all photographs of National Trust properties on the site be removed (except of course those belonging to the National Trust Picture Library-NTPL) siting a bylaw of 1965 which prohibits the taking of photographs for reward. Alamy photographers were contacted by Alan Capel, Head of Content, requesting that photographs of NT properties be reviewed to ensure they were within the “rules”; i.e. full property releases available or taken from public land. My not very extensive portfolio of NT properties (2 to be exact, one reproduced here) took 10 seconds to review and I replied by email that these two were taken from outside the gates at Charlecote Park so were “legal”. It seems this process is now complete and my two images are still there, but it has been reported by Amateur Photographer that 8,000 images have been pulled from the catalogue as a result of the NT’s action.

This is a monumental own goal in my opinion. The NT, although a charity, has to pay its way to be able to continue to do the fine work of preserving and maintaining the fabric of the British countryside and historic properties. But this action is seen by many as greedy, especially given the charitable status of the organisation. The action against Alamy was also seen by some as a protectionist measure to ensure the images in the NT’s own library were protected. It is a shame that the NTPL itself does not play by the rules; the great majority of NTPL’s images on Alamy are shown as “Model Released”, including this one of an “unknown man”. Quite how they managed to get a MR from an unknown man, and one who looks like he may have been dead for quite some time is beyond me.

1 comment:

Stephen Barnes said...

Great story and one that I'm all too familiar with.

The latest interpretation of the 'rules' is that if you pay for entry, you're bound by their terms and conditions. However, shots taken on publicly accessible areas where no fee is charged are fair game. Maybe that's right, maybe not (I'm not a lawyer), but I can't see how they can stop you photographing where no contract has been entered into. There are no signs on the gates to say "No commercial photography"

The 'rule' that they quote is actually to stop people 'hawking' for photographic business on their property, and not specifically to stop commercial photography.

What I would never recommend is to disguise the names with obvious spelling mistakes so they don't show up in keyword searches. Oh no. Never.

Also, if commercial photography is not allowed, can I use the photos for editorial purposes only ;-)