Khadija Saye

Obituary: Khadija Saye, fast-rising artist killed tragically young in Grenfell Tower

A tribute to Saye and “to all those who lost their lives at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017” has also been set up at Tate Britain, featuring an image from Saye’s series Dwelling. in this space we breathe.

A memorial fund has been established in her name to support emerging artists:

On the Move with the DMLA

Programming has just been announced for the DMLA (Digital Media Licensing Association) Annual Conference. To be held on October 22-24 at the iconic New Yorker Hotel, the conference will be followed by Visual Connections in the same location. Time to book a room and make your reservations.

The programming committee has been working for months to craft a program that will shine a light on all that is progressive in our industry; technology, new product offerings and emerging leaders. Ideas and room for discussion to inform and stimulate all those who work in media licensing.

Pond5 CEO Jason Teichman is keynote speaker. Under Teichman’s leadership, Pond5 has invested heavily in next-generation search and discovery technology, including AI-driven tools to protect the intellectual property rights of its artists. Offering buyers the broadest license rights in the industry without the constraints of the traditional “rights-managed” approach, he has also worked toward opening new global distribution channels.

A few highlights from the sessions:

Chris Franco from Woodridge Growth will be guest speaker on day two. Chris helped run user acquisition at and Fanduel, and helps get apps in the top 10 on the App Store. In our “Growth Hacking” session he will share best practices for discovering new customers, keeping existing ones happy, and generally pointing growth to the top right corner.

Breaking the Frame: The Format Revolution: Panel discussion: While 2D images still dominate the marketplace, they are being challenged by new formats (3D, VR, 360, panoramic, cinemagraph, GIFs). Expert panelists will discuss which ones, if any, will take over, how and why?

The Future of Food: Panel discussion: Trends start in the kitchen and bar before being ultimately re-crafted and recast by each player in this chain. Come discover where we are, and where we are going with food in the future.

Post-Usage Licensing / Found Money: Panel discussion: Copyright infringement costs you and your contributors money. Education alone doesn’t work and copyright law isn’t a law if it’s not enforced. Come learn more about the discovery, assessment, recovery and copyright registration process and what’s to be gained (and lost) in the world of post-usage licensing. Hear from industry experts from the USA and Europe along with legal counsel who specializes in the field.

And returning, the popular Legal Panel: Legal gurus discuss the important issues facing our companies and industry right now. This will be followed by round-table discussions over lunch.

In depth scheduling and registration information can be found here:

Joining a trade association has everything to do with being a united voice. DMLA’s greatest strength lies within its membership. Together we can accomplish what individual companies cannot through collaboration and exploiting our strengths.

Erik Wahlstrom on What Makes a Photographer

Erik Wahlstrom is an up and coming shooter who has a super YouTube channel on all things photography. His musings on What Makes a Photographer are relevant and he also sparks good discussion.


For more on Erik:


Cracking the Vault

The archives of the FBI have long been of great curiousity to researchers everywhere. Thought we would delve a bit deeper and sent our intrepid reporter Michael Masterson to explore a bit.

With the FBI so much in the news recently, it seemed timely to do a little investigation of our own. In response to public demands through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the bureau launched an electronic reading room called “The Vault” in 2011. The database allows you to search nearly 7,000 agency documents by keyword or topic and delivers whatever results are found in the form of (sometimes poorly) scanned documents and files. The Vault contains memos, letters, Western Union telegrams, newspaper clippings and all manner of miscellany.

The material available dates back decades and includes an incredible range of categories from anti-war and civil rights material to gangster era and unexplained phenomenon files. Some of the most frequently requested topics recently include J. Edgar Hoover (not a surprise), the Pulse Nightclub Shooting, Trump Management Company (again not a surprise) as well as the Trump Taj Mahal and Trump Shuttle and the impersonation of Bhumibol Adulyadej, the recently deceased King of Thailand. Apparently in 2000 someone set up a Yahoo account in the king’s name and began using it on game sites.

Of course, celebrities frequently feature in popular searches so you’ll find documents relating to James Baldwin and Ben Bradlee, Phil Ochs and Debbie Reynolds. She appears in a confidential response to a request from the Nixon White House for “pertinent derogatory” information about her, Fred Astaire, Rod Serling, Shelly Winters, Patricia Neal and Vincent Minnelli among others. Debbie apparently came to their attention because she’d attended the March on Washington in 1963 when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. And just in case that wasn’t enough, the FBI included the information that an “admitted homosexual” had had sex with her then-husband Eddie Fisher while Debbie engaged in both “normal and homosexual relations.” In Arnold Palmer’s case, Nixon’s counsel, John Ehrlichman, had requested any arrest records or derogatory information about the golf pro and his wife before they were invited to a White House dinner for Burma’s leader. He came off clean and got the invite apparently.

The “Unexplained Phenomenon” section includes a wealth of material about UFOs, discovering alien bodies and Roswell, New Mexico with another section devoted to Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP). In the late 50s the bureau scrutinized a Virginia railroad employee named William Foos regarding his claims of having ESP and teaching the blind to “see.” As proof he did a demonstration with his blindfolded teenage daughter who was able to read, move about, distinguish colors and even play jacks without being able to see. The FBI conjectured that ESP could be used to provide “undetectable access to mail, the diplomatic pouch, visual access to buildings – the possibilities are limitless insofar as law enforcement and counterintelligence are concerned.” But in the end they found no scientific evidence for it and dropped the idea in 1960.

More serious subjects provide insight into the bureau’s obsession with civil rights activists like singer Paul Robeson who was blacklisted in the McCarthy era and was the object of particular ire for Director J. Edgar Hoover. The FBI dubbed him a Communist, forced cancellation of his concerts and eventually had his passport revoked. He merits 31 documents of hundreds of pages each in The Vault. There are 30 more like that for Malcolm X and his wife Betty Shabazz and dozens more for Rodney King, Cesar Chavez, the Freedom Riders, the NAACP, the Nation of Islam and the Ku Klux Klan.

Browsing the “Popular Culture” section yields documents on everything from Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Welles, Walt Disney and Marvin Gaye to the Grateful Dead, the Monkees and the song “Louie Louie” which was investigated for possible obscenity. Charlie Chaplin makes an extensive appearance for both his personal and political shenanigans. The FBI, suspecting him of being a Communist, pried into every aspect of his personal life. After his affair with a minor actress named Joan Barry resulted in a paternity suit which she won, FBI director Hoover used it as an excuse to charge Chaplin with “white slavery” or violation of the Mann Act which prohibited transporting women across state lines for sex. Chaplin was acquitted but still mercilessly pursued by the bureau in minute detail. In 1943 a memo to Hoover discussed Chaplin’s future wife, the 18-year-old Oona O’Neill, as someone who enjoyed listening to the Little Tramp because he “likes to think of himself as exceptionally well read and intellectual, and for a couple of years Paulette Goddard had been content to sit around and listen to him.”

By movie studio (ebay) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The “Miscellaneous” section is a grab bag of odds and ends including aviation subjects such as the crash of TWA flight 800, Amelia Earhart’s disappearance and the Hindenburg tragedy where the FBI pursued a sabotage theory that an anti-Nazi professional acrobat on board was responsible for crashing the zeppelin. There’s a marvelous set of documents about the movie “I Was a Communist for the FBI” including a request from Warner Bros. for J. Edgar Hoover to film a short intro “pointing out the need for citizens to report information to the FBI.” The director demurred.

Be forewarned: opening The Vault is addictive. Hours will disappear. And just in case you’re interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, there are sections on “Criminal Profiling” and the “Legal Handbook for FBI Special Agents.” Have fun.


Michael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook and Workbookstock, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. Masterson has been a speaker or panelist at industry events such as Seybold, PhotoPlus Expo, Visual Connections and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) national conference. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies and sourcing talent for them to promoting and marketing industry events as well as providing resume and professional profile services for job-seekers. He can be reached at





footageMarketplace – A Report From Across The Pond

by Julian Jackson

footageMarketplace is a zesty expo held in London at the HQ of BAFTA. It’s similar to events held by Visual Connections, in that footage agencies and industry technology suppliers exhibit, while visitors network, meet old friends, and attend seminars. Last week’s event was the eighth, run annually by Robert Prior, who publishes Stock Footage and Stock Index Online, (which I write the news for).

It has evolved over the years. Last year seminars by key industry participants were added. That has become a major attraction. The panel discussion on “What Does it Take to be Successful at Footage Research?” was completely packed, and an added overflow room filled up too. The other two seminars were on Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence, which were also strongly attended.

Robert Prior the organiser and James Buchanon at Footage Marketplace 2017 at BAPLA in London

This year several stills agencies exhibited: Ardea, Mary Evans, and TopFoto. That is, alongside suppliers like Science Photo Library, Robert Harding, who expanded their offering into footage a while ago, and companies such as Adobe Stock, who are more recent players on the scene. I take it from this that many agencies are taking on wider media content, including motion material to expand their reach. Art Library Bridgeman Footage has made a big success of its venture into film and video (see our previous article).

While the organizations present mostly come from Britain or neighboring European countries, several had made the journey from the USA, including Global ImageWorks – who have just added stills to their motion collection. Cathy Carapella, Vice President – Music & Media Clearances, said, “It was demand-led, we had acquired plenty of still photos combined with video archives, and when researchers found out about this they wanted access. So we have put 180,000 historic images online and we are adding to them regularly.”

Flora Nedelcu, Managing Partner of TopFoto (who runs the fotofringe expo) said that it was nice just to be exhibiting, without the pressure of organizing, and she was having fun talking to people. She thought that there was a whole group of potential clients she had met that didn’t cross over to fotofringe so it was a valuable event to attend.

There were 33 exhibitors in total, which is probably the full capacity of the David Lean Room. The prestigious and convenient central London location means that the organisers have no plans to move to a bigger venue: by reducing the refreshments area a bit you might accommodate one or two more tables at a squeeze, but that would be at the loss of a prime place to have private business meetings, not to mention gossip. I met Rich Remsburg, an Emmy Award-winning archival researcher based in Massachusetts who was nominated for Jane Mercer Footage Researcher of the Year Award, in the FOCAL International Awards Gala, which was to be held the next evening so Rich had come to London to participate in both events. He’s working on a documentary about Robert F Kennedy, and has just finished “Promised Land” about Elvis Presley, directed by Eugene Jarecki. The award went to Nina Krstic, for “OJ – Made in America”. However Rich found his visit valuable, “It’s always good to learn of new footage collections, and I also looked at new material at footage archives I already work with.” Rich outlined his methods and views on the industry, “I am constantly searching for new sources of material. Sometimes it’s to use immediately, sometimes it’s ten years before it becomes relevant.” He said that we were entering a new era of serious, well-made documentaries which made use of new outlets for distribution, including Netflix and Amazon, as well as theatrical distribution and online. Rich’s workflow includes downloading content, having it transferred to disk, and also, if it is still in film form, liaising with labs to get it digitized.

Important technical advances include: sprocketless film digitization from iMetafilm. Their process means that film can be digitized at a lower cost and higher speed, as well as being able to handle fragile material and metadata embedding effectively. VintageCloud took over the Steenbeck company, makers of one of the most renowned of film viewing and editing machines, and by using artificial intelligence are able to add metadata about the content of each frame automatically during the digitization process. The bottleneck in digitization for both stills and film, is the cataloging – without which it’s pointless as you can’t locate material without it. However it is expensive and very time-consuming to do this manually. AI offers a way out – it won’t completely replace human oversight but could take the donkey-work out of it, and allow researchers access to a lot of content that is languishing (not to mention deteriorating) in vaults currently.

You can view the exhibitors’ profiles here:

Robert Prior says, “The feedback from the exhibitors was outstanding – they all thought it was very well organized, with a lot of visitors – footageMarketplace has made itself a fixture in the industry calendar and we look forward to next year’s event.”

General View of footageMarketplace 2017 (c)Julian Jackson

Julian Jackson is a writer with extensive experience of picture research, whose main interests include photography and the environment. His portfolio is here: He also runs a Picture Research by Distance Learning Course . Linked-in profile.


Stock Photo Sites from the POV of SEO

Recently, Jacky Chou, a digital marketing consultant and founder of Indexsy and reached out to share with us some of his struggles with sourcing great imagery and a few of his favs:

It is difficult to create online content. Many will take a look at the job description and make the determination that it must one of the easiest professions in the world; they would not be entirely wrong, but that would be underestimating some of the frustrations and difficulties that are involved.

One of these elements, for the longest time, has been finding suitable stock photography for posts. As the Internet has continued to advance, competition has formed and thrived, and there are some incredible resources for sourcing great stock photography.

1. EyeEm

There are only a few elements that are required for a good site: a solid interface, ease of navigation, and, more than anything… GREAT PHOTOS.

2. Gratisography

I would like to thank Ryan McGuire, for creating a solid stock photography website. He runs a company that is called Bells Design, and he created this site as an accessory, or a side project. The photos are all high resolution, and he seems to be selective regarding quality. I also appreciate the categories that allow you to sort through the photos and find what you are looking for in a faster and more efficient way. New photos are added to the site on a weekly basis, so the catalogue is always fresh.

3. MMT

MMT  is operated by Jeffrey Betts… Specifically, it is the perfect place to go if your articles are relating to office culture; but not limited to this niche. Like most top-tier sites, this website adds new photos every single week.

4. Picography

Dave Meier’s “Picography” is one of the more reliable stock photography sites on the web.. As well as Dave, there are a whole bunch of great photographers who add the products of their labor to the pool of pictures.

5. Death to Stock

Previously, I mentioned that many of the stock photography websites are branching into all sorts of niches to separate from the pack and make themselves distinct. “Death to Stock” is less of a website, and more of a personalized service. Once a month, a collection of artfully curated “stock photos” is sent to each subscriber. This basic level of service is free, but a more comprehensive “premium” package is available for a small fee.

6. Picjumbo

Picjumbo is easy to use, and full of good results, with new photos added to the collection every single day.

Thanks to Jacky for the tips. What are some of your go-to sites? We would love to hear about where and why you look for images?

For more about Jacky, check out his site here:

What to Know About Media Licensing

Earlier this year, Pond5, in partnership with Association of Clearance and Research Professionals (CLEAR) hosted a panel in Los Angeles called “The Current and Future State of Media Licensing” for Media Professionals curious about how the swift evolution of media is changing the landscape for clearances and licensing.

A panel of experts was assembled to represent every part of the process — from artist to clearance lawyer. Panel moderator and CLEAR Co-Executive Director John Downey III, elaborated on the five most important things you need to know about media licensing today.

CLEAR Co-Executive Director Barbara Gregson introduces John Downey III

1. Technology may be changing, but copyright and trademark rules aren’t

We live in an age of new media channels like Netflix and YouTube and emerging mediums including virtual and augmented reality. But just because technology and media are evolving, doesn’t mean copyright and trademark rules don’t apply as they always have. For example, 360-degree cameras may be an exciting technological advancement that allow videographers to shoot everything — but “everything” also means capturing more things that may need clearance. If there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts in the background, or music on the radio, that’s all subject to regular rules – ones that aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. “The rules don’t change until the law changes,” says Downey. “It always goes back to the basic three questions: What does your lawyer say? What does your network say? What does Broadcast Standards and Practices say?”

Read the entire article here.

Many thanks to Pond5 for the reprint permissions and to writer Alexander Huls.


Rounding Up Ranching Culture – Part Two

Michael Masterson continues chatting this week with Seth and Charlie talking about technique and where Ranch Raised Kids is headed.

Michael: You are often shooting in remote locations in challenging conditions, Seth. What do you use to capture such natural imagery?

Seth: For me it’s all about environment, natural light and a Canon 35mm. F1.4 lens that creates an honest dialogue between my subject and me. Just keep it simple. I don’t want technique to get in the way of the picture. Shooting wide open with a gentle fill flash allows me to make intimate portraits spontaneously anywhere on the ranch. Our kids are such good sports. I’m always ready to shoot as soon as we arrive. Getting the kids to relax and feel comfortable in front of the lens seems to come naturally. I’m lucky that way. The average session goes on for an hour to ninety minutes.

It’s funny. During the discovery phase of Ranch Raised Kids we experimented with ring flash and heavy equipment but the day we tested this set up on location was very windy and we scrapped the idea immediately. It was the best test of all time.


Michael: I know most of the work has been done quite recently but do you plan to keep in touch with the kids and possibly shoot them again? I was particularly taken with Tallen’s story.

Charlie: We are not planning a “7 UP” type project. Right now Ranch Raised Kids is about kids on Arizona ranches but word is out and families in New Mexico have contacted us. So fingers crossed for Ranch Raised Kids, New Mexico! Yes, we will stay in touch with the families and I know we will always be welcome guests on many of these ranches. Our Ranch Raised Kids Facebook community is growing rapidly because the kids and their mothers are very active on social media. Tallen is a great example. He was 6 when he was severely injured in a horse accident and his mother Whitney was told he would never, eat, breathe or walk on his own again. Recently Whitney posted a video of Tallen, now 11, kicking a ball. You can imagine how many likes that post scored!

Tallen Simpson, 11, with his horse and custom made saddle, Williamson Valley, AZ

Michael: What is the end game for this project?

Charlie: Ironically, at Art Center I teach a course about marketing photography so this is a question I ask my students. Knowing what you should do has not made it any easier to do it! We have talked about making a documentary, or developing an episodic TV series, a tee shirt line and/or children’s books? But we come back to one thing: We want to find a partner to sponsor the publication of a book. Someone commented that our investment in the Ranch Raised Kids project is an investment in the future of ranching in the West. We would love to be associated with a company that supports the community too.

Ben Pat Kimball, 14, ready to feed horses, CV Ranch, Paulden, AZ

Michael: Finally, can you share a particularly moving or unexpected moment with one of the kids for us?

Seth: My moment was photographing Tallen Simpson, the 11-year-old who is working so hard to speak and walk properly again. When we arrived at the ranch I was hoping for 15 minutes with Tallen. As always I started shooting but something strange happened. Tallen’s gaze into the lens was so intense I could feel it inside my head. It’s hard to explain but we started to bond. Fifteen minutes became an hour. We did four, maybe five set-ups. He didn’t want to quit. It was incredible. His mom was amazed. I was deeply moved. Charlie was speechless.

Charlie: I am constantly reminded by the danger of ranch work. Ranch kids develop a sixth sense about livestock unlike photographers from LA whose lives need to be saved occasionally! At a branding last year a cowboy called Bernard was dragging a calf to the fire when his horse started to panic. Seth was in striking distance of Bernard’s rearing horse but he was completely lost in his “photo-zone” with his eye glued to the camera. Luckily Bernard had the skill to jerk the horse away and only then did Seth start running backwards and ended up on his butt inches from the branding fire. Close call!

Bernard Gravalex saving Seth at the branding for the J Bar S, Vallee, AZ

But talking about the kids – I will always remember a moment at the end of a long day of ranch work last summer. As Seth and I left after dinner Riley Rodgers, 8, said to me, “Thank you for your time, Ma’am.” That took my breath away – a good upbringing can happen anywhere but in this day and age, perfect manners are hard to find. Thank you, Riley.

Devyn Blackmore, 12, looking over the Blackmore Ranch, Hillside, AZ

All images (c) Ranch Raised Kids and reprinted with kind permission of owners.

For more, go to


Michael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook and Workbookstock, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. Masterson has been a speaker or panelist at industry events such as Seybold, PhotoPlus Expo, Visual Connections and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) national conference. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies and sourcing talent for them to promoting and marketing industry events as well as providing resume and professional profile services for job-seekers. He can be reached at


Rounding Up Ranching Culture – Part One

Personal projects – necessary to the creative. Here we start what we hope is an ongoing series exploring what engages and drives one beyond the commercial world. This is part one of a two part conversation Michael Masterson had with respected industry leaders Charlie Holland and Seth Joel.

Charlie Holland and Seth Joel have shared a long marriage and successful careers in photography. Charlie was the director of photography at Getty Images for a decade and now works as a senior archivist for a photo collection at the Autry Museum of the West in Los Angeles as well as teaching at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Seth is a noted, award-winning portrait photographer based in Los Angeles who also works in San Francisco and New York. They work together in their studio and on their personal project and passion: Ranch Raised Kids.

Charlie Holland & Seth Joel

Michael Masterson: You’re both horse lovers. When you started shooting stock in Arizona about ten years ago you came into contact with the local cowboy culture. Tell us about that experience, how it informed Ranch Raised Kids and why you started this project.

Charlie Holland: Yes, we both ride and that’s important to Ranch Raised Kids because we can look at and talk about horses all day. We were introduced to the cowboy culture in 2009 on a location scout for a stock shoot. Molly Day, the owner of the Skull Valley Café suggested we shoot a local ranch manager, Kasey Looper and his three young children. They were shy, hesitant models but perfect little cowboys in dress, speech and manner. We met them again by chance five years later. This time all three were working at a roundup and Cole, now 13, was roping calves and dragging them to the branding fire. They implied that “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” and invited us to see them compete at the annual Cowpunchers’ Reunion rodeo in Williams. We went and we were hooked.

Emma Westbrook, 11, helping at the branding at the Lazy B, Duncan AZ

Michael: What is so compelling about these kids for you? How do you find them?

Charlie: How can kids who tip their hats and call you Ma’am fail to impress you? We were awestruck by their cowboying skills, their fearlessness and their work ethic. We saw boys as young as 6 that could “make a hand.” Many lived on vast remote ranches and described a lifestyle that we “civilians” assumed had disappeared along with the singing cowboys!

Katherine Westlake, 14, in her bedroom on the Babbitt Ranches, Flagstaff, AZ

Finding the kids was a carefully planned yearlong process. When we applied to Art Center for a grant we had to verbalize our objectives and outline our plan of action. That was a hard but crucial process. With that grant in hand we built a website, and printed 5×7 glossy picture cards. We pitched the project to the Arizona Cattlemen’s Association who got it immediately and put us on the cover of their magazine Cattlelog with a write-up. Then we started showing up at cattle auctions, rodeos, colt sales, county fairs, trade shows and roundups. We talked to everyone, asked questions, read books, and memorized ranch names, brands and family relationships. When one family agreed to be shot, they recommended us to another family – and that has been repeated over and over for the last 18 months.

Bailey Kimball, 17, working horses at home on the CV Ranch, Paulden, AZ

In late 2016 we self-published a 40-page soft cover “lookbook” to use as both a thank you and an introduction. We didn’t want to be another “shoot and run” photo team. This community, and it is a much smaller community than we imagined, is wary of photographers who are seduced by the “cowboy” and glamorize the ranching culture. We realized that we were asking people to trust us not only with their kids but also the image of the ranching culture.

Johnny Smallhouse, 10, in the adobe ranch house on the Carlink Ranch, Redington, AZ

Michael: Your subjects seem so open in the pictures. How do you build rapport with the kids and their parents for that matter?

Charlie: With the parents we are open and honest. It’s clear we are “not from round here” so we ask a lot of questions. Our friend Amber Morin at the Arizona Farm Bureau wrote a blog about us and she said, “… they unknowingly mirror the humility, tenacity, and stick-to-itiveness of the ranch raised kids they are still photographing.” Wow! I guess that is what makes this project work. Before I interview the kids, I always ask them casually to explain something to me. That gives them the chance to be the expert and gives them confidence. I learn a lot too. A six-year-old gave me the best riding lesson I have ever had – in two sentences.

Seth: Kids are kids. Some are shy while others are extremely focused. Rapport seems to happen quickly with our ranch kids. They know I have traveled long distances to be with them. They feel comfortable working along side the adults. On the ranch they have fun doing the work that must be done and like all kids, they love the magic of photography.

Cade Rodgers, 4, rounding up for the J Bar S, Vallee, AZ

All images (c)RanchraisedKids and reprinted with kind permission of the owners.


Next week part two, we explore process and the future of Ranch Raised Kids.

Michael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook and Workbookstock, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. Masterson has been a speaker or panelist at industry events such as Seybold, PhotoPlus Expo, Visual Connections and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) national conference. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies and sourcing talent for them to promoting and marketing industry events as well as providing resume and professional profile services for job-seekers. He can be reached at


Are EMOJI Protected by Copyright?

We all wonder about the legalities of using Emojis in our projects. Attorney David Lizerbram tackled this in his blog, reprinted here with his kind permission.


Emoji. They are universally beloved. In fact, I’m wondering why I’m even bothering to write this blog post with the boring old English alphabet. But, as with any other digital asset, just because everyone uses emoji doesn’t mean there aren’t some rules to follow. Let’s answer some emoji copyright questions.

“Emoji” is a Japanese word (which is, apparently, why the plural is also “emoji,” not “emojis.”) From a useful article on emoji licensing:

The Japanese spelling is 絵文字: 絵 (e) means ‘picture’ and 文字 (moji) means ‘letter.’ Picture letters. Simple.

In the U.S., as in most countries, copyright applies automatically when a copyrightable “work” is created and fixed in some tangible form, including digital formats. Emoji are just graphic works by another name. If you create a drawing of a smiley face, it’s protected by copyright…declaring it an “emoji” doesn’t change that.

So the short answer is that yes, there is such thing as an “emoji copyright.” More accurately, emoji can be and are protected by copyright.

In one sense, a group of emoji are just a fonts: a series of images that, individually or together, communicate some information. Copyright protection for fonts (or typefaces) is a bit of a complex issue that probably merits its own blog post. For now, it will suffice to say that computerized fonts are protected by copyright (as they are, effectively, software.)

Apple and other producers of digital devices either create, buy, or license the fonts included in their software. So the emoji that appear on your iPhone or Android keyboard are used under that set of legal arrangements. This is why emoji may look different on different devices.

You can use those emoji to say or communicate whatever you want. What you can’t necessarily do, however, is reproduce those emoji on a product. For that, you’d need a license.

Let’s say you really love a the emoji of the poop with the eyeballs. Who doesn’t love that one? (Click here to read The Oral History of the Poop Emoji.) Maybe you want to stick that image on a t-shirt and sell it. Well, in order to do that you’d need a license. If you like Apple’s version of this image, you can start by contacting Apple’s legal department.

If Apple isn’t in a big rush to respond to your request, there may be alternatives. Here’s a link to a “completely free and open set of emoji. Good enough, right? Well, maybe not…if you read the fine print in the licensing section, it states “No emoji may be used in commercial printed, tangible or physical material.” Oops.

There are a variety of other emoji sets out there that have different levels of restriction. You may be able to find an image for free that suits your needs, but be sure to carefully read and follow the guidelines.

Alternatively, you can go to a stock photo site and pay to license an image. I’m going to say this again, though—read the rules before you use the image, even if you’ve paid for it. The license still may have some restrictions.

If you have any other emoji copyright questions, feel free to ask David. He promises to answer using regular old letters and not adorable cartoons.

David Lizerbram, Business Law Strategist and host of Products of the Mind, a #1 ranked podcast about the intersection of business + creativity. Now available on iTunes and at
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