Friday, April 30, 2010

Using Stock Photos for Listings Part 2

I already mentioned that someone took issue with my post, Using Stock Photos for Listings. Scroll down near the end of the comments to read that person's comment and my response.

I made this statement in the original post:
Whenever I find a listing for a book I wish to buy, I always take a look at the seller's other listings to see if the photos match in style. Most sellers have at least some variance in style, and a minor variance does not set off alarms. I look for sellers who use too many different styles. I also am concerned about sellers whose pictures look a little too similar to the photos of other sellers, if you know what I mean.
This person thinks that I am jumping to conclusions. She states that she has many different styles of photos. I am not certain whether she uses stock images, since one part of her response makes it sound like she might. If she does not use stock photos, then I am bewildered as to why she would be worried that I would think she does. Apparently, I did not make myself clear.

I consider it a red flag when a seller uses many different styles, but I only conclude that the seller uses other seller's photos when some of the photos look exactly like the photos of other sellers, and I have found the exact photos elsewhere. I am not jumping to conclusions.

Each time I am suspicious of whether a seller uses stock photos, I can find either proof or no evidence in less than five minutes of investigation. It is that easy to decide one way or another. Sometimes I do find no evidence and conclude that the seller just likes to take some photos on the porch, some on the grass, some in the bathroom, and some on the roof. When the seller does use stock photos, I can find the sources very quickly, and then I have proof.

I would link to a couple sellers' listings to show you sellers who use other people's images, but I do not believe that I should do that to another seller. Instead, I'm going to copy some images from some listings that are not from any sellers known to copy photos and place them here, so that you can see what I mean.

These images were lifted by me at random, and all of them are from different sellers' listings. Let's hypothetically assume that I take a look at a seller's listings on eBay. Let's say that the following four photos represent the first four items in the list.

It is quite unlikely that one seller would take such different photos within a short period of time. When I see this type of disparity, I look over the rest of the listings. Let's assume this seller has copied photos. In that case, I will also see photos like these next ones in that seller's listings.

The first photo is from CAL's Book Inn, and the second one is from doc-h. Doc-h almost always uses a scanner for her photos, so they are very consistent and look the same. If I see a jacket and book side-by-side in another seller's listing, I am going to think of doc-h. Now, other sellers do use scanners, so I only conclude that the seller has copied one of doc-h's photos when I see the huge variety of photos in that seller's listings and can find the same photo in either a current or completed listing from doc-h.

I notice that CAL's Book Inn has a different photo style in recent listings. This is not a red flag. As the weeks pass, we shift to different methods. It is when a seller haphazardly shifts between many methods in a short period of time and has photos that are identical to other sellers' photos that I know that the seller is using stock photos. Make note of the word "identical," as that is the key.

I also know that sellers use stock photos when I find images from my website in their listings. Most of my dust jacket images have been edited, and I have intimate knowledge of those scans, since I created them. All that I have to do is look at the seller's image up close and my image up close and can see evidence of my photo editing. Nobody but me can see it, but all of my images have qualities that make them easily recognizable to me. I know what I did to edit the images.

So, if you like to take your photos in 20 different locations around your house, I might investigate your listings, but I will not conclude that you use stock photos unless I find photos that are completely identical to other sellers' photos. Have I made myself clear? I am not jumping to conclusions.

My main problem is that most of the sellers who use stock photos fail to tell their buyers that the photos do not represent the actual books being sold. These sellers should state at the beginning of each listing that the photo is not of the actual book for sale but is provided so that the buyer can see which cover art the book has. As a buyer, I want to know when I am looking at the actual book and when I am not. I need this information for a number of reasons.

Sometimes I need to see the exact condition because most sellers will not answer questions regarding certain concerns correctly. One time, I wanted to upgrade a dust-jacketed book with a faded spine. The seller photographed only the front of the book with the dust jacket in place, so I could not see the spine of the dust jacket.

I contacted the seller, asking whether the spine of the dust jacket was faded, and if so, to what extent. I made clear that I wanted to know about any level of fading. The seller told me that the spine was not faded at all. When I received the book, I was displeased to see that the spine did have fading. I was not happy, but I believe that the seller thought the spine was not faded.

Do you begin to see why we need to see the actual books for sale? As sellers, we may miss something that matters greatly to our buyers. We need to photograph the actual books so that unnoticed important flaws have a chance of getting noticed. I do not think that sellers who use stock photos are bad, but this is a very big deal to me as a buyer.


stratomiker said...

I use stock photos for paperbacks and popular fiction, unless the book in question looks different - a different printing. But when you do that, it is always marked below the photo as a stock photo. And I do add additional description if necessary.

But for collectible books I always use a scan of the item itself. I agree on the importance of seeing the actual item. However, I don't think you can claim a copyright to your photo of someone else's artwork, especially artwork that is already under copyright. That'd be the same as scanning the complete text and claiming a copyright to it.

The copyright is on the material, not photos of the material. Photos come under Fair Use. If someone uses your photo, they may be 'stealing' from you, but I doubt it is a copyright violation. You were using Fair Use by photographing, not copyrighting.

There are so many discrepancies as you read through all the copyright rules. Several of the Rick Brant books are now being put out in Print-On-Demand copies and also showing up as e-texts on Project Gutenberg. These are mostly books from the fifties and early sixties whose copyrights did not get renewed. However, there are clauses that state that if any derivative books in a series (other Rick Brants) get reprinted with the copyright notices featured (which happened) then ALL the books in that series get an automatic renewal. There are several other clauses that defy many books on Project Gute and other e-sites.

Of course, many copyright holders just don't care, which is the case with the Brants. But for those who do care and who'd check out all the rules involved, they could probably put a stop to this kind of thing. We recently saw the Judy Bolton copyright holder stop the publication of THE STRANGE LIKENESS, a version of Judy #38 that was to be released March 1st by Amereon and fans had been placing orders on. She says she's going to write her own version.

Also, many eBayers steal pictures and copy from Amazon. It's amazing the lack of ethics going on at eBay. I read through some of those message boards there and I love all the conspiracy theories, especially the one that claims eBay 'hides' the bidders' identities while the auction is going on ( with the abbreviated and asterisked words) in order to enable shill bidding (so no one can know who's really bidding)so that prices will go higher and they'll make more $$. I would never have thought of that one, but I believe it. Why hide bidders' names?


Jennifer said...

Reading the eBay message boards is a lot of fun. I also enjoy reading about all of the conspiracy theories. It can be like watching a soap opera.

You are right that we can have no copyright claims to the images of the books, and that the use falls under fair use. More than anything, it is rude for sellers to use the pictures of others, and it is disrespectful to their buyers.

People do run into problems on eBay when they take the manufacturer's photos and use them as stock photos. The companies often intervene and have the sellers' auctions removed. This is another good example of why people need to be careful about stock photos. Some photos are copyrighted, and the copyright holder can have listings removed.

Jennifer said...

It is also expected that people will use stock photos of modern fiction, textbooks, and stuff like that. In those cases, it does not matter. But to use stock photos for 50 year old books with dust jackets? That is a different matter.

stratomiker said...

I use that program on eBay (Muze) that gives you stock photos and item reviews and specifics for books, CDs, DVDs, and VHS tapes. I use it because I'm too lazy to scan all those things and because you do get some nice reviews and also listings of the songs on the CDs, so you don't have to list a lot of the stuff yourself. You also get a listing fee break if you use that 'item specifics' program.

However, you would not believe the mistakes in that program! Sometimes it's just plain ludicrous. They don't have proper copyright dates, photos of the covers, review information, etc. I'd say that one out of every five items I list is incorrect and I have to add, in my description, that certain specifics differ. Or I have to scan my own photo because theirs is of a different edition, even though the ISBN number is the same. Often, they have the info but no photo, so I have to scan a photo. Some sellers don't, and you end up with a photo-less listing, which is lame.

And many items, although they have ISBNs and that other UPC number, aren't even in the program, so you can't use it for that item. A lot of listers don't even mention the differences and buyers often think they are getting one thing, and get sent another. Some CDs are issued in record club versions without the barcode and UPC number on them. If you use the listing from the eBay program (which you can also get by typing in the title) it will show the ISBN and UPC - but some buyers go nuts if they get a record club version if it wasn't stated.

Some series book dealers use the Muze program and get the 1980s and up PC listing for, say, a Nancy Drew, then list a vintage book with DJ and tell the reader to ignore all the item specific detail. Fortunately, they do include an actual photo of their item. They do this to get the cheaper rate for using the program, which is 5 cents, rather than the higher listing fee for their pricey book.

There are so many problems at eBay, and they keep making more! Now they have lumped all the listings together, store and non-store, and many get buried in 'bins' that say '479 of this title available', and yours is most probably in there somewhere, but who wants to look through all those? They copied that from Amazon, who has the 'bins' and '479 available from $1.25' or whatever.

Why does eBay want to be like Amazon? They had such a nice distinct personality of their own at one time. Why are they mixing store and auction items together? Do they want to do away with auctions and just be a store site? Having the store items in the with the auctions is ruining the auctions!

It's like MsDonald's now, trying to be like Starbucks with the coffee drinks and Wi-Fi and the new decor. People who go to McD's don't want Starbucks. They are totally going to ruin their business. A couple of them here have remodeled and are unrecognizable as McDonald's. Students with their laptops are not flocking to them. Most college students do not want to hang around a McDonald's! EBay trying to becaome another Amazon is just as silly.