Online Prints of Burning Man Photos: Is that commercial exploitation of the Artists's work?

I received an e-mail from a well known artist who showcased many large art installations at Burning Man, and who was concerned that selling individual prints online of photos of his art taken at Burning Man was infringing on the copyright he own over his art and any photos of it.

Shared Copyright: I am fully aware that all photos taken at the Burning Man Festival have a copyright that is shared between the Burning Man Organization, the photographer, and possibly the artists who's arts are represented on the photo. I do mention the artist name in all my photos descriptions (when it is known), and not only that, but i give a direct, clickable link to their website (when i know it), which most other photographers don't do. The copyright watermarks on my photos are generated automatically, and it's not very practical to create different watermarks for the photos of each different arts, but i am fully aware that my copyright is not the only one that governs the use of my Burning Man photos.

Why this ugly watermark? The reason for the ugly copyright watermarks on my photos on Smugmug (the service I use for printing) is that my hi-resolutions images can be accessed on Smugmug, so they need to be protected. I use Smugmug only for the printing process, not for showcasing my photos. My photos are best viewed using the "Slideshow feature" from Flickr.

On Smugmug there is currently no text description for any of my photos - I am working on that - but people arrive to Smugmug from my other sites only when they want to order a print, and the Smugmug galleries with Burning Man photos are password-protected.

Why I let people order prints of my photos online: In the past many people have asked me for prints of Burning Man photos, and I would always send them the hi-res file, and tell them to burn a CD-ROM or DVD (or copy the file on a memory card) and bring it to a store to make the prints themselves. I do not have the time anymore to do that, and when I do that, it actually costs more to those people in time and efforts to obtain the prints, compared to ordering them on-line. This is why I now let people buy prints on-line from Smugmug. I make no profit from that, since the cost of the Smugmug hosting service is on my bill ($150/year), and the small markup (on the prints) will probably never offset that cost.

Of course I still send the hi-res files to the artists (and models) who ask for them, and to the Burning Man Organization, but if they want to get prints, it is generally cheaper and faster for them to order them on-line rather than to print them from the hi-res files.

It is very difficult for me to get paid for the time and effort that I spend with making Burning Man photos (and photography is also a form of art). I spend about one month working on them every year, and make virtually no money with them. Actually last year, the revenues I got from Burning Man photos licensed to magazines was about $200). That does not pay the bills, it does not pay for my time, and it is not an incentive to continue making this kind of photos (even with all the rave revues i get from Burning Man lovers).

My point in allowing people to order prints of my Burning Man photos on-line is not to make a profit or to exploit someone else's art, but to provide something that many people ask me, and do it in a more efficient, cheaper (for me and the people who want photos) and faster way that before.

To support the artists, we encourage you to contact them directly and ask them if they sell other photos of their arts.

If your art is represented on one of my photos and you do not want people to be able to buy prints of these photos, let me know and I will take the photos off Smugmug (where people order the on-line prints), and I will place a notice that prints are not available for these photos, upon request of the artist who's art is on the photo.

I wish I could have personally informed the 500 artists who's art are on my Burning Man photos that I intended to make prints of them more easiely available on-line, but it would be a dawnting task. I don't have a list of the phone numbers or contacts for those 500 or so artists, and gathering it would take another couple of weeks, a time that I don't have.

Feel free to post comments or contact me about this post.

Buy a Print, Canvas or Card online

You can now order high-quality prints and posters, cards, Fine Art archival prints and canvas prints of most of my photos on-line from my website (with no watermark, of course!). The prints are processed by fotomoto.com, a San Francisco based startup and provider of professional-quality prints. They will redo or refund prints if you are not satisfied by the quality and return them within 30 days.

If a photo does not have the Buy a Print button, please email me at tristan@bok.net

To order a print, card, poster, Fine Art archival print or canvas:
  • Click "Buy a Print" above the photo on my website (www.loupiote.com)
  • Select the paper size and type, number of prints then Checkout (secured payment by Paypal or Credit Card)
Of course, prints are made from the original high-resolution images and won't have any watermark!

Price depends of print size and type. Postcards / cards are the cheapest.
If you are concerned about people being able to order online prints of photos of your art, please read: