A Question of Royalties

Early Christmas Day morning, Karen Murdoch (Anvil) woke up early to catch a glimpse of members of the Royal Family attending the church service at Sandringham. Her ‘glimpse’ (below) has unexpectedly propelled her into the media spotlight. 

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Surrounded by professional photographers, with their top notch DSLRs, Karen Anvil captured her photograph with an iPhone SE. The image shows Kate, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle smiling directly at the camera, connecting with the viewer. After taking her picture, Karen Anvil posted it on her Twitter feed. The tags and image content instantly appealed to media outlets across the UK and the rest of the world.

Unfortunately for Karen Anvil, as soon as she posted the photograph online, she lost control of its use. People were able to copy and repost it. Some media outlets contacted her via Twitter to ask for permission to use it, whilst other social networkers urged her to insist on being paid for it to be used. Without the Internet, Anvil’s photograph would have remained unknown to the world, yet with the Internet it is difficult for her to retain control of it.  

If you read through her Twitter feed, you will see how quickly demand for the photograph has spread. Citizen photojournalists are often in the right place at the right time, and camera phones are capable of capturing high quality images. Furthermore, 4G and WiFi enable those images to be shared on the Internet almost instantaneously. 

Karen Anvil hopes that the royalties from her photograph will pay for her daughter’s university fees. On Boxing Day, the media interest will be focussed elsewhere, so hopefully she is able to capitalise on the image during Christmas Day.  

Many professional photographers will have sacrificed Christmas Day with their families to get the money shot of the Royal Family. However, all of their expertise has been upstaged by a citizen photojournalist taking a snapshot. The professional photographer must be finding it increasingly difficult to make their photographs stand out amongst the crowd. Furthermore, how can any photographer’s photographs be treated fairly and paid for accordingly?