Jump to content

Recommended Posts

Buildings, land, logos - the long arm of brand copyright stretches far and wide.


Now, a company called Light Years IP, ' .. an NGO which specialises in securing intellectual property rights in developing countries', are promoting the Maasai people by making their trademarked culture worth up to $10m a year. "The Maasai are an ancient and sophisticated people - they know they are being ripped off and they want this to stop."


"That's exactly what they should do," says Bruce Webster, an independent international branding expert.

".. It's a proud, ancient people against exploitative Western multinationals - and they'll win the PR battle absolutely," says an independent international branding expert.

There are currently 18,000 results for Maasai on Alamy. Predictions for the prospect of releases needed (for any usage) in future for them and other indigenous people and their lands? 






Link to comment
Share on other sites

I find this really interesting. I have 35 Masai images on Alamy and many more that I hope to eventually submit. I was in the Masai Mara with Joseph Van Os Photo Safaris. Joe Van Os negotiated with the chief of a village and we each paid about 50 dollars to be able to photograph dances, a mock wedding, construction of a home, etc. We were told that we (about 25 of us) were giving them 6 months worth of income. Some of the villagers seemed to genuinely enjoy us -- especially a young woman who thought my attempts to sing their song were pretty funny. We women were taken into the women's dance though the men didn't have to do the jumping dance that the men do -- to "impress the ladies" I was told. And they were impressive. I was uncomfortable about what we were doing even though we had paid and had permission. I always put in the description field of my images that we paid a fee for permission but there were no written releases. It was a drought when I was there and the poverty was very apparent in the skinny cattle. We were invited into a mud home -- no windows -- dark -- I said a little prayer of thanks to whatever god allowed me to be born into the wealth we enjoy in the USA. Most of our guides were Masai and one talked to us quite a bit about their culture. By the way, we were told that if we had brought gifts we were NOT to give anything to an individual. They were to be given to the chief to divide as he saw fit. I was feeling rather cranky about the fact that one of our guides spoke very poor English until I realized that he also spoke French and German -- as well as Swahili and his native language of Maa. We have a joke in the US that sort of goes like this -- "What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual. What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American." That is pretty much it for most of us. Anyway, I very much liked the Masai people I was able to know a little and I hope they can benefit from use of their imagery.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, it is a very interesting conundrum and I think that we have to try to put ourselves in another's shoes when we take these kinds of pictures.  There are many issues involved.  I fully understand the indigenous peoples wish to protect themselves and their culture and to gain some income from those who are making money by selling images of them/using their name-image-brand.  Paulette stated that she paid ~$50 to take pictures and I am sure that this provides a good income for those on the receiving end.  How fairly this money is distributed is another matter, but then that's a huge political/moral issue that straddles every nation, let alone tribe.  So it seems like they are already protecting themselves to a certain degree.  Will this IP idea help or hinder?
'Light Years IP' seem like a well-meaning organisation and the BBC report appears to highlight multinationals in abusing the 'brand'.  Is it a practical solution?  Certain foodstuffs and names are protected within the EU: Cheddar cheese, Champagne, Melton Mowbray pork pies, with more applications for protection being placed all the time, so we in the West are certainly not afraid of protecting ourselves.
When I used to travel frequently in south/s.e. Asia I learned to always ask permission before taking any photo of anybody, I think that it's important to engage and communicate with someone before even rasing your camera.  If someone doesn't want their photo taken, then don't take it.


From the BBC article:

Crunch time for Isaac came about 20 years ago, when a tourist took a photo of him, without asking permission - something the Maasai, are particularly sensitive about.

"We believed that if somebody takes your photograph, he has already taken your blood," he explains.

Isaac was so furious that he smashed the tourist's camera.


I hate it when I see people taking 'sneaky' photos of other people.  90% of the time if you ask, you will get a yes.  If you have taken the time to engage with the person you can also get a good, unposed photo.  Very rarely will people ask for or expect a fee.  If, on the other hand, the people have asked for - and received - a fee for taking images, then equally, you can snap away happy in the knowledge that you have effectively exchanged a financial contract and - again - you are on a fair footing on both sides of the lens.


I don't think that historical images already taken are likely to be at any risk, but I do think that this is an issue which will only grow as the world's power bases gradually shift over time.  Hopefully, it will result in a more equal society in which we can all have a share, rather than result in a greedy-grab for any buck going by all sides.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.