I take photographs. Occasionally I take lots of photographs. When I have time I might edit them, and then post them on flickr. Occasionally, someone sees one of my photos and they contact me to see if they can use them in their website. Most of the time, people just use them in their blogs or twitter or facebook by simply linking to the flickr image, or just provide a short credit with my flickr username. I usually decline use of my images for commercial purposes: I am not a professional photographer, and I would rather see a business hire a professional photographer for images they would like to use on their website or other publications.
Back in April of this year, a writer contacted me regarding one of my photographs. It was one I had taken during the snowstorm of January 2011, titled “SnowDay Love“. I was walking on the bike path towards Davis Square and there was this couple holding hands walking toward me. All was white with snow, the trees at Seven Hills Park forming a nice arch overhead. Everything was beautiful and I was really happy with the photograph.
The writer –Tom Weston of Boston – said they had discovered my photograph on flickr. He sent me a very nice email with a brief description of the book, as well as a draft of the conceptual design for the book cover asking for permission to use my photograph. This is how he described his book:
I can think of no one deserving of a wider audience than Lise Meitner, the protagonist of FISSION. Based on the life of the real Lise Meitner, it is the story of a woman who overcame sexism, fascism and two world wars to discover nuclear fission and spark the race for the atomic bomb. FISSION begins in 1906 Vienna, as Lise becomes the first woman to obtain a PhD in physics from the University. It follows her to Berlin where she rises to be the Director for Physics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and endures as a Jew in 1930’s Germany, before she flees the country, one step ahead of the Nazis. Exiled in Sweden, on a walk through the snow on Christmas day, Lise discovers nuclear fission. Following her discovery, she is lauded as Woman of the Year, but is ultimately betrayed and controversially denied the Nobel Prize. All of this plays out against the backdrop of the 20th century: the fall of the Austrian Empire, two world wars and the atom bomb at Hiroshima. Lise’s story is packed with many famous people from that period: Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Werner Heisenberg, Adolph Hitler, Eleanor Roosevelt, President Truman and Kaiser Wilhelm II, to name a few.
Lise Meitner sounded like an exceptional woman with a very interesting story. I was intrigued. And as I mentioned Tom was very nice, he said that although they could not offer me monetary compensation (he is self-publishing), they would credit me in the copyright page and offer a complementary copy of the book once it is published.
Oh, yes, the inevitable lack of monetary compensation. Under other circumstances, I would say no. But I liked the story, Tom was very polite, and I was flattered that someone wanted to put a photograph of mine on their book cover. I replied to him granting permission to use the photograph under certain conditions: I will retain the copyright of the photograph, they will have to credit me in the copyright page, the permission is for the image to be used on the hard cover and paper back book covers only and only of those published by his publishing company, if they would like to use it for any additional material or purposes they would have to ask for permissions again, and finally I asked for three copies of his book singed by him once it is published.
Tom accepted, and offered three hard cover and three paper back copies of his book, all signed by him (there’s some compensation after all). After that he sent me a couple of quick email updates, and it was great to hear that ‘FISSION’ was published in August (it can be purchased from amazon here). In early October I received my three copies, with a very nice thank-you note. I look forwarding to reading the book soon.
This is a photograph of the book:
And this is the original photograph: