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Barrie Schwortz responds to Colin Berry’s Rude Criticisms

The following is a special posting by Barrie Schwortz: good friend, President of STERA, known to most of us as the creator and maintainer of He writes:

I woke up today to find a somewhat surprising and completely unfounded online personal attack on me by a rather rude blogger. I would much rather spend my day answering some of the 150 e-mails waiting in my mailbox or adding another back issue of the BSTS Newsletter to our next website update, but some comments need to be addressed, even though I usually don’t waste my time arguing with bloggers.

So I guess it’s time to set the record straight. Even though I really do not have the time or the interest in being goaded into an argument with anyone, I do think I need to make some things clear that may not be apparent to those of you who are not in the same position that I am in.

I am one of only six still photographers in history that have been authorized to photograph the Shroud. I am one of only a few photographers (including Vernon Miller) that were allowed to retain the legal rights to the photographs we made of the Shroud. The copyright ownership of our images is not in dispute (and there are 34 years of ‘custom and usage’ as described in the copyright law to support that) but that ownership does bring with it an awesome responsibility.

For thirty-four years I have made those photographs readily available to any researcher who asked. And not just pro-authenticity researchers either. Emily Craig, Nicholas Allen and Luigi Garlaschelli, to name a few, all used my photographs in their research, as have hundreds of pro-authenticity scholars. We have never charged any fees for the research use of the images, or for their being reproduced in hundreds of scientific papers, articles and presentations. The angry blogger, who seems to have some problems with my actions, needs only to write and ask us for the images. He never has. He can even go to the Image Library page of our site where he can review and choose from nearly 300 different images from our various collections. His rude tactics are simply unnecessary.

When I first built the website in 1996, the internet was new and I had every intention of putting the larger images online. However, in those days, with slower dial-up networks, large images took too long to download, so we settled on 72dpi versions for the web. (Some of the research quality images are over 300MB each). In the ensuing years, the internet matured and changed. Over time, sadly, respect for online intellectual property rights declined and many people felt that everything online was fair game. I disagreed, so our solution was to only allow 72dpi files to be published online. But that also presented me with some serious and unique issues to consider: how could I make the images readily available but still protect them from inappropriate uses? The copyright law provided the answer.

The image of the Shroud is iconic. It is revered by about a billion people on this planet. I was privileged to make and own the photographs so it is my legal responsibility to insure that any uses of the resulting images were carefully screened to make sure they were not inappropriate. The very first rule we instituted was that we would never allow the images to be placed on any products. For thirty-four years we have strictly enforced that rule. Because of that, you won’t find any of our Shroud photographs on glow-in-the-dark tea towels, lunch boxes, coffee mugs (as Dan Porter recently reported on this blog), tee shirts, bed linens, lamp shades, or ball caps. (All actual requests I received and denied over the years). I continue to screen every image request we receive to insure that any uses are reasonable and not disrespectful of the subject matter, even if they are strongly anti-authenticity. However, we have never denied access to any researcher and we never interfere in the editorial content of any written materials in which our images are used (which is why you will find our images in most anti-authenticity books as well). And we always stipulate an appropriate, printed copyright notice be included, since that is required to protect the images under the copyright law. For research uses, that copyright notice is our ONLY stipulation. You can also find our images on nearly every Shroud related website on the internet. They are all 72dpi files and look great, and each is identified with an appropriate copyright notice (or should be). That is the law.

The only commercial uses we allow of our high resolution images are for books, periodicals or television documentaries. And yes, we do charge a licensing fee for these uses. That is normal in the commercial media world and all of these organizations have Rights and Clearances departments to specifically deal with these issues. I know because I work with them regularly. The licensing fees we charge help to pay the bandwidth and server costs of the website and keeps the site free of any advertising. We even pay extra every month to keep advertising off the results page of our Search Engine!

Now imagine for a moment what would have happened had I never applied these rules and simply allowed the high resolution photographs of the Shroud to float around the internet. Within days there would have been a host of tacky, commercial items for sale that would include my very identifiable photographs. No one would think less of any of you if that happened, but my name, reputation, integrity and credibility would be totally destroyed if my photographs were used in that manner and I would have become a pariah in the Shroud world. None of you are in that position, but I am. However, as a professional photographer for 41 years and considering the subject matter, I knew how to protect the work I produced, particularly on a subject so important to so many people in the world. And that is exactly what I have done.

So, no, I won’t be posting the high resolution files on the internet any time soon. There are already some other high resolution Shroud images available online that should satisfy most requirements. We will continue to provide the highest quality images that result in the best quality reproduction of this important relic to anyone who requests them, but only directly and on an individual basis, allowing us to still maintain the integrity of the images themselves. We will not do so by simply posting them all on the internet or without following a standard procedure that has served us well for thirty-four years. Some have suggested that all Shroud photographs should be available to everyone online. In a perfect world, perhaps that might work, but we do not live in a perfect world so I will continue to strictly enforce our copyrights as I have always done. It is my personal responsibility and one that I take very seriously. I should also add that, beyond this statement, I do not intend to debate these issues any further.

As for the comments made about STERA, Inc., if the blogger is so concerned with the other collections we hold, perhaps he can personally fund our Archiving Project. I was greatly honored when so many noted Shroud scholars decided to legally leave me their personal collections upon their deaths, but that also brought with it a great responsibility. In fact, STERA, Inc., our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was formed specifically to insure these collections were not lost should something happen to me and to provide an organizational framework that would ultimately insure the materials were made freely available to the public.

I legally transferred ownership of the website and all the collections (including my own photographs) to STERA, Inc. in January, 2010. Our goal is to scan and OCR every page of every document in every collection (totaling tens of thousands of pages), enter them into a searchable database and make it all freely available to everyone via But we have almost 200 large boxes filled with materials (not counting my own archives) and it will take considerable additional equipment and manpower to achieve the goal. It is far larger than one man can do or fund by himself. Instead of making rude, unprovoked attacks, perhaps this blogger can put his money where his mouth is and help fund our project. Noting his adversarial tone however, I somehow doubt it. However, I refuse to be baited into an ongoing, time wasting argument on this topic and will totally ignore all future attacks, so take your best shot, but consider this my last word on the subject.

Barrie Schwortz
President, STERA, Inc.

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