02 February 2009

Position opening: Patron to pay the extortionists

Job title: Patron

Responsibilities: To underwrite the costs, both in terms of up-front expenses as well as in terms of post-publication lawsuits, related to the publication of scholarly material. For example, one article published in 2006 with 13 images cost $450 out of pocket for the author (no royalties/earnings result from any publications). Book, with 19 images, cost $1200, including one image that cost £250 just for the permissions. These costs may or may not include the cost of producing the actual reproduction, and they will not include the cost to the press of producing the images in the publication itself (that is a separate cost, and blessedly the responsibility of the press). You as patron, on behalf of scholar, are only responsible for acquiring the reproductions and the permissions to publish.*

Skills required: Have a great deal of extra cash lying around. Desire to participate in supporting freedom of thought, as the high cost of reproductions impacts directly the type of research project undertaken by those participating in the study of visual culture. Be a lawyer or able to hire a lawyer, as the likelihood of lawsuits due to the fuzziness of the rules surrounding fair use, copyright, and global and electronic publication rights are such that a 3rd c. BCE sculpture, well out of copyright, may in fact be "owned" by an individual, corporation, or state government, and certainly the photograph itself may also be "owned" by someone who may wish to "sue" your "ass" at some point down the line for, well, doing your job and being a scholar. Thus, the patron's job is to protect said scholar from these types of threats so that scholar can do his/her job.

Additional qualifications: Ability to do major provenance-based research projects through legal documents that you probably don't have access to, or the ability to hire someone at great expense to do same. Or, willingness to spend over half of your research/writing time on researching reproduction permissions.

Note: this job is dependent on the continuation of the extortionist economy requiring massive fees for the non-profit, educational, scholarly uses of images (usually largely available to the public anyway). By the way, the use of these images in said scholarly publications often *increases* their value, thus accruing more benefit to the copyright holders. For which the scholar must pay a hefty fee.

*Unless, as is more and more the case, presses are in fact unable to publish more than a small number of images (say 10 in a book, in black and white) and you require a higher number to make your argument (which in fact is dependent on images). This will require you to ask for money, on the order of £1500 at a minimum, in order to publish the book with the required number of images. This is in addition to the reproduction fees and rights, of course.

[Article coming out soon, for which I'm currently working on permissions--current tally: $540. There are 5 images in the article. Three of the objects were produced in the 1830s. Two are photographs from the 1940s, available by googling. I may, in future, simply direct folks to Google Image Search.]

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