Monday, April 29, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Steal

I'll begin this post by letting you know that it is somewhat of a rant. I apologize ahead of time but I know I will feel a lot better after I vent.

Right after the 1st round of the NFL draft ended, a friend and fellow photographer posted some of her wire service photos on her Facebook page of the three Florida State players that were drafted that evening. MV (as we'll call her) is gainfully self employed as a sports photographer and shoots for a high profile wire service. Anyone who shoots sports for a wire service knows that the pay is minimal in comparison to the number of hours that go into shooting any given assignment but it beats a sharp stick in the eye.

Anyway, within a matter of hours, I saw this post from her on Facebook:

"Gotta love when websites use 2 of your images without credit (and possibly without consent)."

It seems the author of the Blog took it upon himself to "borrow" the photos (read - steal) and use them on his Blog post. Somehow, MV noticed that her photos had been used. in all likelihood without her wire service's permission, and contacted the numbskull. To his credit, Mr. Blogger took the Blog post down. MV posted this update:

"Well that was quick. Article Removed. CAUGHT THEM. Should bill for the time that my photos were live. haha.

The same thing has happened to me in the past and it's no fun to have to call/e-mail/otherwise track down the transgressor(s) and go through the process of either being paid for use of the images or having them take them down under threat of all kinds of unpleasantness (it helps that I'm a lawyer). 

In response, I began to add a small watermark in a corner my images before posting them on line. To the less than scrupulous, that was nothing but an easily overcome annoyance. The watermarks were just cropped out or cleverly removed in Photoshop. I have since begun plastering a much bigger watermark across the middle of my images, something I resisted doing so as not to detract from the images. I know that to the truly adept Photoshop savants, even these watermarks can be removed sufficiently to serve their purpose but at least I take comfort from knowing that they're going to have to work for it if they're going to use my images without my approval.

After I saw what happened to MV, I tracked the Blog site down and found an e-mail link. I sent the individual a brief message that went something like, "Using other people's images without permission is stealing. Shame on you."

Mr. Blogger e-mailed me back with a "Who, me?" resonse, asking me to what photos I was referring? I guess he thought that by having taken the Blog post down, his theft would go unnoticed by the rest of us. I replied and told him exactly what photos were at issue. Caught with his pants down, he sent me this reply:

"Hi, Mike:  A couple of things about those photos.
- They came from a Google Image Search and I didn't see photo credits on the images. That's typical as photos from search engines get used and reused on various sites and the name of the original source gets lost. Also, there was no watermark photo credit that would tell me where they came from.
- I apologized to her and deleted them after less than 12 hours on the site.
- I didn't profit from her photos. As you see on ChantRant there's no advertising. It generates zero income. In fact, I spend my own money to host and maintain it. Like you, I'm an older grad. Also a booster who expresses his decades of love of FSU Football with a personal blog. This brings up a question, though. In the future, could I use her photos -- or yours -- with permission, if it includes a prominent credit and a link to her site? It would be  a quid pro quo, since I can't pay but can provide promotion for her work. I already have an agreement like that with a Tallahassee photographer, who sells individual photos to readers that like his work."

Are you kidding me? You did a Google search and found photos taken by someone else and you just downloaded them and passed them off on your Blog as yours? Whether they had watermarks or photo credit, didn't it dawn on you that you didn't have permission to use them? Just because they're on the internet, you don't have a license to steal them no more than you have a license to pass yourself off as a French model, Monsieur Blogger. How would you like it if I copied and pasted your Blog posts and passed them off as mine after doing a Google search for articles?

Whether you profit or not, you're still a thief. You spend money on hosting your Blog but you never thought about spending money for photos? Obviously, you must believe the photos provide value to your Blog or you wouldn't bother using them. Dude, you're free to write all you want about FSU sports and show the Seminoles all the love in the world, but if you want to use photos, you have at least four options that don't involve theft: 1) get geared up and spend the hours that MV spends producing her images and generate your own images; 2) ASK FOR PERMISSION BEFORE USING SOMEBODY ELSE'S PHOTOS; 3) buy the photos; or 4) use the photos that this other photographer is willing to let you use.

As for your whether you can use her photos in the future in exchange for photo credit/promotion, that's between you and her but I would strongly suggest you work it out with her ahead of time. If I was her, I'd tell you to...never mind. 

And no, you do not have my permission to use my photos. If you had contacted me before you showed your rear end by doing what you did, I may well have given you permission to use my photos in light of your circumstances. I've allowed use of my photos for many worthwhile causes when they've given me the courtesy of asking me ahead of time. But in light of your dubious ethics, I would prefer not to be associated with you or your Blog. 

OK kids, now I feel better.

Off To The Cabin

First thing this morning, I'm off to our cabin in the North Georgia mountains to check up on the place, do some spring cleaning, catch some trout, and just relax for a few days. Not sure if I'll have the time to post anything on the Blog until I return but I'll try. As soon as I return, I'll be shooting the last 2-3 days of a USTA Pro Circuit tennis tournament but until then, hello mountains.

1 comment:

North Georgia Gal said...

Hi Mike,
If you are up, you are cordially invited to stop by Blue Ridge Mountain Photographers monthly meeting tonight, May 2. Held at the Arts Center starting at 6:00pm with a bit of social then down to minimal business and the program! We would still love to have you present anytime! Cheers, Morgan