Sunday, November 2, 2014

Pretty picture: Paphiopedilum bellatulum

I really like this flower, but I'm not going to talk about it because there's something else on my mind.

About a week ago, I received this comment on the "Comment Policy" page:1
Please do not post pictures of my plants unless you ask my permission...owner, Phrag. Sergeant Eric 'Timberlane' AM/AOS CCM/AOS
Which refers to this post from 2012.2 This confused me on multiple levels, since the plant's owner was not being disparaged in any way (indeed, the photo contained no text which could have identified him3 as the owner), and since I felt like the term orchid show sort of implies that people might, you know, look at the orchids.4 Photography is not discouraged at the show, and it could hardly be a surprise to the orchid's owner that people photographed his plant, since at least a third of the people at the show, every year, are walking around with cameras and sort of obviously taking pictures of things. The way the comment was phrased, it seemed like the objectionable part was the posting of the photo, but the photo -- that specific arrangement of pixels -- belongs to me, legally, and I can do whatever I like with it, regardless of who the subject belongs to, so if that's the problem then somebody's just going to have to deal.5

I spent a few days being kind of riled up about this, and then I remembered something. Rarely, I get comments on the orchid picture posts complimenting me on my beautiful orchids or whatever, in the sort of way that implies that the people leaving the comments believe -- in spite of comments to the contrary and tags like "Wallace's Orchid Show 2014" -- that the orchids in the photos belong to me. So perhaps the person leaving the comment believes that I'm misrepresenting the orchid in the photo as being my own plant, rather than his. I don't think that would technically be illegal to do, but obviously it'd be kinda douchey of me if I were.6

So. For the record.7

• Displaying pretty things in public, at a show, where photography is not only not prohibited but actively encouraged, is likely to result in people taking photos of the pretty things. If this is a problem for you, you should probably stop entering your orchids in shows which are open to the public.
• Photographs legally belong to the photographer who takes them unless / until the rights to the photo are sold or the photos specifically placed in the public domain. I don't have to ask anybody's permission to post my own photos on my own blog, no matter what the photos are of.
• All the PATSP posts tagged with "Wallace's Orchid Show [year]," where "[year]" = 2010 or any year after 2010, do not depict my own plants and were never intended to imply that they did depict my own plants.


Photo credits: mine, mine, all mine (though the plant is not mine)

1 Which I published and then accidentally deleted, so you won't see it if you go there. For future reference: there is a "Delete forever? (Cannot be undone)" checkbox on the comment-deletion screen, but whether you check the box or not, there is no way to recover deleted comments. The only difference checking the box makes is that if you check the box, it will be as if the comment never existed in the first place, and if you don't check the box, the comment will be replaced by a line saying "This comment has been removed by a blog administrator."
So if you publish a comment and then have second thoughts about it, your options are between having it publicly readable forever, or having it publicly unreadable forever -- there's no option to take it down temporarily but preserve the option of restoring it later, even if "cannot be undone" implies that there is a way to undo the deletion.
2 And this photo, specifically:

3 Pretty sure it's a him, based on blog statistics from the same time, the members of the Illowa Orchid Society named at its home page, and Google. And the sense of entitlement the comment projects.
4 I mean, it's not the 2011 Illowa Orchid Society Describe, now, is it?
5 In the U.S., at least, people can apparently take a photo of you whenever you're in public and reproduce it however they like, with certain exceptions made for context. Like, you can't use a random photo of some guy to illustrate a newspaper article about alcoholism without getting the model's permission, lest it appear that you're saying they're an alcoholic. But otherwise, there's a general assumption that being in public means you've implicitly given permission to have your picture taken. And that's for people. (Ref.) I imagine there's probably even less of an expectation of privacy when you're a plant. And less still when you're a plant that has been entered in a public orchid show.
6 (It's maybe worth pointing out that the original comment doesn't say that. This is just my guess as to what's bothering the guy. A literal reading of the comment implies that he believes that he owns any photos taken of his orchids, and that he should be consulted before anything's done with said photos.)
7 As far as I can tell, the guy who left the comment hasn't come back to the blog and will probably never see this defense of mine anyway. I suppose if the situation comes up again, I at least have the defense all written out and linkable now.


Diana at Garden on the Edge said...

This is one of those events where you need to "Be The Duck" and let it roll off your back. The guy was being an *&&, you did nothing wrong, try not to sweat it.
Easy advice to give, just don't ask me to follow it. I'd be annoyed as all get out, too!

Ginny Burton said...

Isn't there some way that you can track back to the writer? One of the bloggers I read has mentioned that she can "see" her commenters and thinks it's hilarious when the same commenter posts arguments on *both* sides of a question, but under different names.

mr_subjunctive said...

Ginny Burton:

The only real information I can get on visitors is an IP address, specific page(s) visited, and the time of the visit(s), through StatCounter. Unless I get a paid StatCounter account, I can only see that information on my last 500 visitors.

StatCounter does identify a location for the IP addresses, and in this particular case, the Illowa Orchid Society has few enough active members that I think I know a name and e-mail address for the commenter, but I can't prove it unless they e-mail me, or I e-mail my guess and they confirm that it's them.

I haven't been watching the stats super carefully since the comment was left, but as far as I've seen, he hasn't been back, and I'm not sure it would make much difference if he did. It'd be nice to have more of an explanation about what his issue with the picture is, specifically, but that's about it -- I can't think of an explanation for the comment that would lead to me taking down the photo.

Paul said...

Based on what you posted as the plaintiff's message to you, they are in the wrong not you. You are completely within your rights to post photos you personally have taken. The fact it was not your personal plant is irrelevant. Should the plant owner deign to contact you again, I would not hesitate to tell him/her that quite plainly. If they still wish to have a hissy cow over it, tell them to kiss your gluteus maximus.

The shows in my area always allow photos to be taken. In fact, there is actually a time slot set aside on the shows' second day before it opens to the public specifically for photographers. (Though photos can be taken at other times as well, the use of tripods and flash/light reflectors can be nigh impossible during those other times with all the people milling about.)

Pat the Plant said...

I know orchid growers can be a bit odd but usually the only reason for hiding their plants is that they are stolen from other growers or from the wild. They should not have them in a show.

The only other possibility I can think of is that he had discovered a chemical in this plant that was going to aid his plan for world domination. Which you foiled by publicising his ownership of it.

Claude said...

Having worked vaugely in the journalism field, many years ago, you are correct... anything in public can be photographed and commented on... there is no legal expectation of privacy in a public space. Thats how it is legal for street security cameras, and thats how the paparazi stays in business. There are some iffy areas... altering photos to make a celebrity look like tbwyre doing somehimg illegal could come under libel laws... but im assuming you werent making your orchid pic snort drugs, and even if you were im not sure its much of a celebrity anyway... ignore jackasses.

His only real claim to anything is if you were selling the pics and making money, he might, repeat might, claim that you were taking his money, but then he'd have to prove that he had sold pics of his orchids in the past and you were actively stealing his clients and such, which is very difficult to prove even if you were, and if thats the case he shouldnt put them out where any ole fool could photograph them.

I could argue circles around this... but lets just stop here. You're in the right

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the complaining guy is an old person who doesn't know much about how the internet works and feels like posting photos of his stuff online is an invasion of privacy. Sort of like how I have had elderly relatives express fears that if you put a photo of your face online then you should worry that someone might photoshop your face onto a porn actor's body.

...that would explain why you don't post any real photos of yourself on this blog, come to think of it!

Liza said...

He sounds like a tool. With too much time on his hands.

Carmen said...

What a jerk!! I would be proud if you took pics of my plants and put it on your blog. This guy needs to see a psychiatrist for some strong medications pronto..he's sounds very psychotic to me!!

Lew said...

People are the strangest vegetables.