Leroy was expanding on his previous defence of Agence France Presse in their court case versus photographer Daniel Morel, who is suing the agency for distributing his work without permission. Previously Leroy had criticised Morel for initially placing his Haiti images on TwitPic, but in his new comments he goes further, suggesting photographers completely avoid all such social media sites:
“Anyone who puts images on Flickr or on Twitter, and then sees them being used, well too bad for him… a photographer should never put his images on a social networking site. If you put your image on Twitter or Flickr and find that it’s been stolen by someone else, well… tough. You can’t ask me to defend you. What I’d like is for all photographers reading this is that they stop putting images on such sites.”
At first there appears some logic to Leroy’s position, but that rapidly disappears on even a cursory inspection. If social media sites were really places where any visitor was welcome to plunder whatever they found photographers would indeed be best advised to stay clear. But that simply is not the case. Most social media sites – including those mentioned by Leroy – have terms designed to prevent the third party use of contributors’ material. One could argue that the terms are not well enforced, but that’s very different from claiming the terms don’t exist, or that they mean the opposite of what they clearly state.
Leroy’s rationale – that a certain group of people should avoid particular places because something bad might happen to them if they venture there – turns the world upside down and shifts blame for the crime from the perpetrator to the victim. In 2010 in the real world outside the web few would dare come out with such nonsense. Don’t agree? Then try this on for size:
“Any girl who goes to these clubs, and then gets assaulted, well too bad for her… a girl should never go to a nightclub. If you go to one and get raped, well… tough. You can’t ask me to defend you. What I’d like is for all women reading this is that they stop going to such places.”
Leroy’s position is not just perverse and offensive: it’s also baffling because it runs directly counter to the stated philosophy of the festival of which he is a director. For years Visa has taken pride in exhibiting images that haven’t been published in the mass media; a perennial criticism has been that the festival shows too many images, to which Leroy replies he has a duty to show stories that would otherwise remain unseen. But if he genuinely wants stories to gain the widest possible audience Leroy should support photographers’ use of social media. Sure, a Flickr stream may not have the cachet of an evening show or exhibition at Perpignan, but if it’s pure eyeballs a photographer is after, the web and social media will trump Visa every time.
The reality of this squabble – which Leroy doesn’t admit, but may well suspect – is that social media sites are a far bigger threat to image distributors than they are to image creators. For if freelance news photographers use social media to distribute material to publishers they no longer have any need for organisations like AFP. Now there’s a thought.