Thursday, December 6, 2012

Copyright shenanigins...When climbing's creative worlds collide.

Yeatsian scribbler- Dr Seamus o Perrin in his cloak of many colours

I'm always surprised at the curious,paradoxical attitude some outdoor writers and photographers have about copyright infringement. Usually the worst offenders could be described as having 'right on' political views and championing an egalitarian  approach to art and the creative process. However when it comes to copyright infringement they are as  prickly as Donald Trump after being told his bete noire has just become 'Scotsman of the Year'!

As someone who essentially puts out work under a Creative Commons licence- Attribution-Non Commercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK).... which in plain English means the reader is 'free to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work ' with certain conditions...'Attribution — You must give the original author credit....Non-Commercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.....No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. ' blah de blah...

Looking in on social network sites like Facebook and Twitter I often pick up on a media bod, say a photographer-not usually a follower or friend- bleating about some geek lifting a jpeg off Google images and using it on his blog A blog which probably gets 5 visitors a month! I always want to say..'For Christs sake, catch yourself are no Ansel Adams pal and your chocolate box photo of Tryfan has as much artistic merit as a Paddy Power betting slip !'...You can tell I was brought up on a Huyton council estate can't you!

I've been lucky to have had the freely given support on Footless Crow from many of our best outdoor writers and photographers. Many of whom have given me previously unpublished work which obviously would have a monetary value if published through a magazine like Climb, TGO,Trail or Climber. And that's the deal. The writers and photographers freely give their work for the entertainment and edification of the reader. Filthy lucre is kept out of the equation!

Despite the contributions of many of UK climbing's leading lights, I have never approached someone who many consider is our best climbing writer- although personally I think David Craig and Harold Drasdo are better - That's none other than Jim Perrin whose output is in the Barbara Cartland league when it comes to writing quantity. That's 'quantity not 'quality' if you can't find your reading glasses.

Why so... you ask? Well for a start he would undoubtedly tell me to feck off!!! However, I'm only too aware of how easy it is to get your fingers burned if you get involved with the Perrin Oeuvre.

Many moons ago the Climbers Club-one of the UK's oldest and most respected clubs- was in the process of publishing a special anniversary journal and the joint editorial committee, comprising of some of our leading writers and climbers, felt they had been given a verbal approval from the author, to re-publish a Perrin article in the journal.  What followed was a rather shabby episode which hardly covered the writer in glory. It appears that Perrin took exception to the edit and furthermore denied he had given permission in the first place. Not content with slapping down the editorial committee he then took the Climbers Club to court and in the event the club had a not inconsiderable settlement to find.

Let's run that by you again. A leading climbing writer whose work often involved  writing articles for UK outdoor publications, based on the freely given interviews by venerable club members like Joe Brown and Jack Longland, sued a climbing club..'club' you will note...not News International. An action which obviously impacted on the club's not exactly overflowing finances....Yes I know!

Someone recently sent me extracts from respected UK mountain media man Jim Curran's autobiography. It revolved around a Perrin article in the UK media describing Curran as 'one of the worst climbers he had ever climbed with' a climber who was 'in an incompetence league of his own'. For Jim Curran, who apart from his work as an art lecturer, was also working as a climbing camerman and rigger, the professional knock on effects could have had a devastating impact on his reputation and career.

What followed was another shabby episode involving 'the UK's finest outdoor writer' and a respected fellow outdoor media man which involved everyone from Sir Chris Bonington, Stephen Venebles and the Boardman-Tasker committee. In contrast to the 'JP V The CC' case, the 'JC v JP' case ended up in the former's favour with Perrin's magazine-Climber &; Rambler having to issue an apology to Curran and pay damages.. I suggest if you want the full bizarre details of the case you read Jim Curran's autobiography 'Here, there and everywhere'.

So...there you have it. If you are considering putting out a blog or a website which uses the material of others,be careful.Most outdoor people are only too happy to give their support in a spirit of cooperation and the wider dissemination of their material. However,a few can I put this? far up their own arses they are looking at that morning's breakfast!  It's a jungle out there kids and I wouldn't want to see a letter from Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners dropping through your letterbox. The moral of the story? some people create for pleasure, some create for profit. If you want to read a Jim Perrin essay then buy one of his books. I'm guessing that the former member of the Communist party who once titled an article 'pay me my money down' would rather walk over burning coals than not be paid for his work.


  1. Interesting. My stance is the same as yours. Anything I post on my blog or social media can be used non-commercially as long as I'm credited and the work isn't altered signifcantly. If the person is making money from my work then I expect a share. I create for pleasure and also to earn a living.

  2. I've had Perrin described to be as 'a cunt' by someone who is qualified to say so, although to be fair, on another day, he referred to Perrin as 'my mate'. I've met Jim Curran a few times and he's a lovely bloke. Whether he is a "good climber" (whatever that means) is neither here nor there. You can be Adam Ondra but if you're a twat, you're a twat.

  3. This will be why when I was searching old CC journals for my book street Illegal was missing!

    These guys contacted me a while back as I once mentioned Jim in my blog, they really hate him and for what seems like a valid reason.

  4. Interesting that - thanks. There´s nowt as queer as folk.

  5. Is there any truth in the story that he once sued the manufacturers of a well-known brand of Worcestershire sauce over their use of his surname?... Or was that just nonsense?

  6. Of course you could take the view that as a professional writer Perrin has nothing other than his words to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Why should he give away his work free?

  7. Thank you Mark Reeves for the 'link'; you kindly told us you had no objection at all to being quoted by us from an article you wrote - clearly in the open-spiritedness discussed in John Appleby's piece above - and in due course, in a future blog, we shall be doing so: we have had so many 'issues' to cover since that conversation....
    May we take this opportunity to wish all the readers of 'Footless Crow', 'To Hatch a Crow', and of our own blog, the compliments of the season.

  8. What the ...are you doing denoting JP by an Irish name in your heading? Don`t belittle those of us climbers from that nation by this association.
    He is not Irish- has no valid genuine connection with Ireland, though he clutches to verse from its poets and writer like a man drowning.