Eric Cheng

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How not to ask for a free image for turtle conservation

I consider myself to be an active conservationist. I regularly donate time, photographs, and money to the conservation organizations I have relationships with, and I give images away to other organizations when I feel that the donation will have a positive effect. Of course, there is a limit to the amount of time I can spend giving away my work. If I give away too many, I not only compromise my own ability to continue to photograph wildlife, but I also contribute to making it difficult for hard-earned images of any kind to have value in the marketplace. Over the past two days, I've had a rather unpleasant exchange with a guy I will refer to as Wayne out in Maui. I am not going to post his full name nor his affiliation unless he continues to antagonize me.

I received this message from Wayne through my guestbook about a week ago:

> Name: Wayne Location: Kula Maui Website:

> First you do NOT HAVE A SUBMIT botton on your contact form so I was not able to send my message through that page. Only botton was a "go Back" So this is the only way I can contact you.

> Aloha Eric My name is Wayne. I am requesing permission to use one of your Photographs. This Photo is so perfect to represent our cause and kids love it!! "Screaming Turtle" We would like to use this Photo on our website for fun and we would also love to put this on our Support Honus/HonuHeroes Bumper Sticker.

> Our Organization is nonprofit and new. We would love to put you on our links perhaps even an exchenge and give you credit for the photo and your support of

> Please let us know if that will be ok with you and we hope to be able to put his little face on our bumper sticker:)

> Maholo nui loa!!

> WM

Immediately, one notices the numerous misspellings -- usually a sign that whatever organization Wayne represents is probably not a serious one when it comes to being effective or efficient in conservation efforts. Still, Wayne's heart might be in the right place, despite the fact that he couldn't figure out how to use my contact form.

my contact form with "preview" button clearly visible

Wayne couldn't figure out how to use my contact form, so he contacted my friend, Adam:

> From: "HonuHeores" Date: April 2, 2009 10:37:00 PM PDT To: Adam Tow Subject: USE OF PHOTO REQUEST Eric Chen

> Aloha, I was having trouble finding a submit botton on Eric's Contact Form. When you get a chance please get our request to Eric. We would like to use "Screaming Turtle" Photo on our HonuHeroes bumperSticker. This Bumpersticker says "Save a turtle" And have a photo of "Screaming Turtle" on it.

> Screaming Turtle is so perfect to represent what we are standing for. HonuHeroes is a New Non Profit Organization. We would love to Link up with Eric gladly Give credit for the Photo and supporting of Our Program.

> Please get this request to Eric and let us know if this will be ok:)

> Aloha

> WM

OK, so Wayne doesn't even bother to spell my name right. I am still out of the country at this point, and do not receive the message. Wayne is a bit impatient and writes to Adam again in a few days:

> From: "WM" Date: April 5, 2009 8:44:24 PM PDT To: Adam Tow Subject: Re: USE OF PHOTO REQUEST Eric Chen

> Maholo Adam, Hey what do you think? Do you think he will allow us to use it? This picture is such an eye grabber it would really help our program to be able to use it on the bumper sticker.. I mean it will really do the job of getting there attention and that will help HonuHeroes get members to clean the beaches and save turtles!! I hope Eric knows how something so little could help our program so big!! Look in my news on and see some of our articles about the rubbish andhow it effects turtles in Hawaii. It is so horrible and I believe we can all get together and do something about this. So in one hand I just wanted to ask you what you think, Knowing Eric your self, if you thought he would support us this way. Also I have been doing martial arts my entire life In fact I built my own Wing Chun Dummy, I also love musc and I build custom guitars and Mostly like to design artistic guitars with lots of Inlay work and far our design concepts. And I Scuba, Free Dive and Photography and Graphic art. I also love to shape and airbrush surfboards, I surf. All things I seem to have in common with Eric and I really dig his artwork.

> But for the most part HonuHeroes is new, If you see My Honu News section you will see how bad Hawaii and mostly the turtles need such a program. But with no funding how? My plan is to ask the people who love turtles to help any way they can and HonuHeroes is a membership club for members who will pick up the trash and really take action about this. Right now what is most important is getting these members, Local members. So I am putting together a membership package and we take my HUGE Albino tortoise to the beaches , He tends to draw crouds of hundreds in a few minutes so that helps get members. So as a part of this package we are including a bumpersticker to catch peoples attention toward and that Screaming turtle is such a good little image, that would work wonders to support our program!!

> I have 2 Surfboard blanks right now, 6' 6" Blanks which I plan to shape them and eather I or my friend Artist Dale [removed] will paint baby turtles walking from the nest. I am going to make one board for a boy and one for a girl, So the boy one will be the turtles and the girl board will be perhaps a mermaid helping a baby turtle to the water.

> For a fund raised we will raffle it off so the kids will have a chance to win a nice surfboard. Also I plan to give away a lot of raffle tickets when we do beach cleans so the kids will trade full bags of trash for a ticket, The more trash the more tickets you have. I also Plan to build an Ukulele with Sea turtles Inlayd on the fret board, a custom Koa Ukulele. Which we will also Raffle as a fund raiser. My donation will be my parts and time, Which I will donate so 100% of the funds go toward the program!!

> But what I am really trying to focus on is people who love and support turtles to put forward something they have to offer of value to the program and to Honus/Turtles. Like I can offer a guitar and some surfboards, 55 Pet turtles of all kinds for the kids to get to know and love so they want to protect them.. My artist Friend Dale Z is going to help us with some of his time and that is how we are getting this program off the ground!!!!

> I hope I do not take up to much of your time and perhaps you are also interested in Hawaii sports, turtles and this program.. Thank you very much for passing my request onto Eric and reading it yourself!!!

> Maholo WM

Wayne has energy! He is certainly passionate. So I go check out

Hrm. doesn't even exist.

I get tons of emails asking for free images -- a few a day, in fact. If I don't have a good feeling about the request, I send back a standard reply:

> From: Eric Cheng Date: February 9, 2010 9:35:19 AM PST To: Wayne Subject: Re: USE OF PHOTO REQUEST Eric Chen

> Hello -

> I went to, and the site does not exist. Also, do you have a budget for this bumper sticker?

> As you can imagine, it takes tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and travel to capture images like the one(s) you are interested in publishing. I spend a lot of time doing pro-bono work and giving images away to non-profit organizations, but it is impossible to both give away images all the time and stay in business.

> At this time, I am unable to provide images without payment according to your terms, but if you decide that you have a budget for the use of my images, please let me know.

> Best, Eric Cheng

Wayne writes back:

> From: "WM" Date: February 9, 2010 4:56:46 PM PST To: "Eric Cheng" Subject: Re: USE OF PHOTO REQUEST Eric Chen

> My use was to be non profit not as to generate any funds. To use the image to PROMOTE cleaning our local beaches BECAUSE our human LITTER is the LEADING cause of death in Hawaii. So Money is the least of my concern as well as the least of the sea turtles concern right now. All the money hawaii generates through tourism yet it can not even manage to respect the animals that really have more rights to this place.

> As for my Budget for paying for the cost of the bumper sticker of course I have the funds. I also have other images I can use but your image makes a statement I believe it could really help I really do. You can purchase all the equipment on earth yet still one thing you got was a little luck and lets not forget without the Honu you would not have the image so perhaps we owe something to the honu? Maybe not. But I think we all each and every one of use owe at least as much to do everything in our power to fix this litter problem. When our litter is the leading problem in death of our Honu its time to do something about it. In fact I am ashamed to be human just because of that fact.

> Now I again I agree fully not to use the image for any other reason than to promote beach cleans ONLY!! We would not be selling the Bumper sticker. We do not sell anything as of now we do not even take financial donations. Though I am working on our 501c3..

> I will say Eric my reply was not meant for you. It was meant for the guy who told me he would be sure you got back to me. I kind of figured he never got my letter to you so thats why I sent the thanx a lot letter;) It was not meant to offend you at all.

> One thing you might like to see.. I got my very first hatchling two days ago:) Here is a photo of him:)

> Anyway I do understand the financial business end of using any image to generate funds. But I think your image could really go far beyond what money can do. I think it goes far deeper than that perhaps even the reason this image came to you could very well have to do with the path it has set you on. The path this image is set on and the reaction it had in my self and my lady.

> I think the power that little screaming turtle has to scream "Help Us" So please Eric consider Helping me, My lady, HonuHeroes and the Honu.

> Yes does exist. Though lately I had trouble updating my new credit card as I had to get a new one. So Im not sure if is back up. I believe it is. I know on my computer I can see it but if it has not been paid or updated you may not be able to bring it up.. But If you check again I do believe it is back up..

> Anyway Hope you will consider that. We are more than willing to sign any agreement not to use it to generate funds to only use to promote beach cleans and Honu Cleans.

> Thank you!!

> ALoha

> WM

I read this and appreciate his enthusiasm and drive, but am not sure I want to spend time supporting an organization that doesn't even know whether their website is online or not. Also, for some reason, Wayne is starting to give me a little attitude in run-on form.

Still, I do like to support turtle conservation. Maybe the website is just down for now.

I write back.

> From: Eric Cheng Date: February 9, 2010 5:15:47 PM PST To: "WM" Subject: Re: USE OF PHOTO REQUEST Eric Chen

> WM -

> Thanks for writing.

> > You can purchase all the equipment on earth yet still one thing you got was a little luck and lets not forget without the Honu you would not have the image so perhaps we owe something to the honu?

> My point was that I do A LOT of pro-bono work, but I choose the organizations I work with. I have to cap the number of free images I put out there. Otherwise, there would be no more of these images for anyone.

> You can imagine that I give out images to NGOs all the time; each time, I have to weigh how much of an impact my image will have before I give it away., which this image would be used to promote, is not currently up. Please get back to me when I can see what exactly it is that my free image would be used for.

Wayne replies:

> From: "WM" Date: February 9, 2010 7:42:36 PM PST To: "Eric Cheng" Subject: Re: USE OF PHOTO REQUEST Eric Chen

> You mean you would like me to finish the bumper sticker so you can see the exact light your image would be seen in? As for the website it is up. If you would want to see exactly how it would be used I suppose I could go ahead and make it. I had not made it yet because I wanted to get permission before I used it at all. But that would be no problem I mean pretty much just a sticker with your screaming turtle perhaps a little bubble that says Help me and a quote under promoting our beach cleans.

He totally misses the point. I don't care what my turtle image will look like in his bumper sticker campaign. I just don't like that I can't see anything at the URL the bumper sticker is supposed to promote.

I decide that it's not worth further correspondence and go on with my life (no reply).

But it's not over for Wayne. He writes back the next day.

> From: "WM" Date: February 10, 2010 8:56:24 PM PST To: "Eric Cheng" Subject: Re: USE OF PHOTO REQUEST Eric Chen

> you take it way to seriously man. All we asked was to use the turtle for a bumper sticker. Greed is the reason we have the problem to begin with. people like you believe they own everything. The fact is if I really wanted to be a jerk Ide use the picture and really what could you do about it? I asked out of respect but I see where that got me.

> Thats cool Ill use another picture someone gave us permission to use. Now I see your true colors and how much you really care about the animals you profit from. You can talk about how much you care till your face is blue but action will show what your really about.

> Thanks anyway

Wayne calls me greedy, saying that I believe that I "own everything" (what?), and that he could have just used the photo if he had wanted to. He asks what I could do.

Well, Wayne. I could post our correspondence on my website. Enjoy.

Looking back, I think that if Wayne had just written to ask for permission to use the image for a turtle conservation bumper sticker, saying that the entire effort was self-funded (no donations accepted = no income), I probably would have just told him to go for it. Simple and polished is always more effective than long-winded and rambly. Also, the first step is probably to spell the potential donor's name correctly.