For Portfolio usage does not also mean for commerc$al usage …….!

There is a hurtful thing happening all around the internet in the photography, art and fashion business. Legal usage and copyright rules are being purposely ignored. It’s time to unleash the Black Unicorn of fury.

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

(Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

I can’t believe the amount of disrespect and or playing dumb that occurs in this world of get me mine….using other Peoples art to make money with. There is an assumption that Trade for use in portfolio is equal to trade for use in commercial. I’m sure that some businesses in the creative world are also using trade as a tool to come uppity. Thinking its easier to get over on artists who may not know the difference. Part of this is driven by all the newbs on both sides of the business.

What I am alluding to is that many….many so called professional business people are ignoring copyright and the usage of imagery for personal gain…… Blatantly ignoring information or not knowing what is right and wrong. There is no excuse for taking work from others and using it to sell your products without giving the creators some sort of compensation for the creation of said art. NONE

No-one is doing anyone favors by cutting another person out of the commercial cost of doing business… its not as if a creative person…… who does all this work … a middleman who does nothing…. yet gets paid. In the end if you get paid for that persons work … you should share it with them as well. Also If you think you can use a point and shoot to get imagery that helps to sell your goods, then by all means do the work and take the credit… Don’t use and abuse creative talent for your commerce. Remember this…………. The Public can tell the difference between bad image design,  good image design  and Great image design and how they shows investment.

As a small business owner in the 2012 era, one should be responsible for knowing where the lines are drawn. It’s not hard to find out the info, but it is much easier and lazy to ignore it if you are that kind of person……?…… Are you that kind of person? One who will use others to come up..$monetarily$… one who will ignore copyright and usage rules? One who thinks you’ve done nothing wrong and will claim ignorance of such rules? Everyone can be forgiven, but why go to the distance when respect is the professional way…… right?

If you continue reading….. then you will know what the rules are ……..and you will no longer be able to rightfully claim ignorance. I’m gonna take a brief moment in time to show and explain portfolio usage and commercial usage $. The Purpose of this exercise………is to expose the one distinct and unforgettable factor ($) that separates the two and makes it easier for all involved to get along and play fairly, professionally and respectfully.

We all know that there are those who don’t have this skill set and prefer not to do the right thing….. It’s ok, They stand out like a sore thumb and wont last long in the industry! It’s much easier to avoid this mess than to try and clean up after the bomb has trashed our community. We also know that there are  many factors which help confuse the issue. This makes it hard for most creative start-ups to find the important info required to be protected from the problems that can, and do, arise from playing bad-boy with other peoples art.

First I will give the definitions of Portfolio and commercial:


noun \pȯrt-ˈfō-lē-ˌō\

plural port·fo·li·os
: a hinged cover or flexible case for carrying loose papers, pictures, or pamphlets
[from the use of such a case to carry documents of state] : the office and functions of a minister of state or member of a cabinet
: the securities held by an investor : the commercial paper held by a financial house (as a bank)
: a set of pictures (as drawings or photographs) usually bound in book form or loose in a folder
: a selection of a student’s work (as papers and tests) compiled over a period of time and used for assessing performance or progress



a (1) : occupied with or engaged in commerce or work intended for commerce <a commercial artist> (2) : of or relating to commerce <commercial regulations> (3) : characteristic of commerce <commercial weights> (4) : suitable, adequate, or prepared for commerce <found oil in commercial quantities> b (1) : being of an average or inferior quality <commercial oxalic acid> <show-quality versus commercial cattle> (2) : producing artistic work of low standards for quick market success
a : viewed with regard to profit <a commercial success> b : designed for a large market
: emphasizing skills and subjects useful in business <a commercial school>
: supported by advertisers <commercial TV>

Next I will explain some ,but not all, of the Usage info possible. there are many great tools for discovering usage fees and one of the best is Getty Images. Please learn how to use this important tool!

In the ART, Fashion world…… pictures are used as tools to sell products or to help show the details of those products or to tell stories of lifestyle.. If you have arrived to this part of the discussion… you have seen this symbol ($)… at least 6 times in this blog. It is the one and only separating factor that everyone in the industry needs to remember when thinking about how the usage and application of a picture can be displayed by anyone in a business environment. To simplify the concept I will only focus on internet usage for the moment, this can be applied to storefronts as well. For internet use;

If an Image is on a page with a dollar sign $ or a monetary figure with intent to put in a shopping cart…….

then the image is being used to sell a product and therefore falls under commercial usage. If there is a dollar sign on the same page as the image then It’s that simple… Commercial fees apply!

Lookbooks are a different beast and do cause confusion………….remember it all depends on its linkage to commerce.

If the image is on a page that directs you to price-tags and commerce (the shopping cart) than it is a portfolio piece that can fall into commercial usage as well… if an image directs you to a portfolio of other similar pieces and does not have any directory to the commerce of the products in the image……. then it falls under portfolio and can be used responsibly to show potential customers your work. The Big difference is the $ sign and it should be common sense from this point onward.
Posters, Coffee table portfolios, etc…. as long as they are not for sale…. can be used as portfolio pieces that show people to the style.
Protect yourself from future demise by respecting the boundaries set forth by a hundred(?) years of practice and professional business law. Ignorance of the differences wont help!
From one of my Favorite companies Hurley I will post some screen caps to show what is considered a portfolio image and then the commercial usage of images in the same site..

These first two images of the kid with the Hurley stickers link you around the site where you can find more stories and lifestyle like stuff about Hurley. This is the opening page of the Hurley site.
These next two pages clearly have shopping carts and are links into the pricing catalogs for Commerce. That makes the image a money generator and puts it into a different category of usage rights usual contract for time limits or outright usage. Remember that if it has a dollar sign or monetary value anywhere on the page it is now a commerce generating image and should be respected as one. If you have unregistered images on pages that generate you money… you should address the issue with the copyright holder.

Remember If you Use this Symbol ($) along side of Imagery that shows what a person is buying, then it is that imagery that is selling the product and you should pay for the proper contracts that allow for such usage…. You will suddenly find out why…. Why advertising is expensive……… but worth its weight in gold. When you neglect the artist creatives, you are rightfully stealing. How would it feel if those creatives came into your store and cleaned you out? Be Truthful about this!

Now go eat some sushi and ponder the choices that create the world in which we make of it.


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