Should I let a publisher use one of my photos for free?

A publisher wants to use one of my flickr photos in an upcoming book. It’s an image of a Scientology tent I saw in London a couple of years ago. The publishers emailed to ask permission to print it, and in return I’d get a free copy of the book. I’ve had two similar requests before, and I gave permission to both. But this time I don’t know what to do.

I know there’s a school of thought amongst photographers that this is taking away their livelihood. This argument generally applies to microstock websites, which have enormous image databases of every subject imaginable, and sell non-exclusive rights very cheaply. Some photographers claim microstock loses them business, as clients who would previously have commissioned specific shots can now get generic images for a fraction of the price.

But this isn’t a microstock shot, and I can’t imagine the publisher would have paid someone to go out and photograph a Scientology tent. Also, and I’m sorry if this sounds callous, I’m really not bothered about the death of old-and-busted business models. Times change. If someone wants a specific photo taken, they’ll still need a photographer. I don’t see that microstock is malicious or unfair to anybody, and there are approx. a million photographic career paths that aren’t affected by microstock. So I’m happy to reject that argument.

I guess I’m confused by the economic rights and wrongs. I mean, the photo was a quick snapshot into which I put no effort or work. But they clearly see some value in it, and I’m sure some would say it’s fair they pay me1 if they’re going to make money off it. But thats somewhat mercenary. I can see the logic, and I don’t mind anyone else taking such a position, but I don’t see the moral duty to do so. I’m not going to get paid either way, and if it adds something to their book, what’s the harm? Like I said, I put no work into the picture, and I don’t see that it took any great learned skill to produce, so why shouldn’t I let them use it? I wouldn’t be losing out, as far as I can see. But maybe if I said no, they’d go pay someone else, so saying yes would be unfair on them. But that’s just stupid. Argh.

Also, they say it’s a book about a Scientologist of 22 years who’s now left the ‘religion’, so it sounds like an expose of some sort. If this is the case, great – I’m happy to help the anti-Scientologist cause. But what if it’s not? What if it’s actually pro-Scientology? I don’t want to help evil cults in the slightest.

There’s also no current mention of the photo being credited to me, which was the case in the other two books. Hmmm.

Anybody have a strong opinion either way?

  1. which I’m sure they wouldn’t, but that’s irrelevant atm []