Something has been bothering me for a while – it’s something that happened to me over the course of a few years – and I finally sat down to write about: Photo Theft. Whenever Facebook, or Instagram, or [social media site] changes its online agreements the wrath of users are quick to follow.
However, most people who are quick to respond to changes do not seem to either a) know or b) care that, chances are, their photographs are being stolen and used by others for their own promotion. I guess you can chalk this up to the “openness” of the Internet. Ok, I’ll buy that with the random mom-turn-blogger discussing food and grabbing any number of food (aka “Look What I’m Eating”) pictures from social sites.
Having said that, creative people – the ones doing the stealing – KNOW right from wrong. Photographers should not have to plaster fuggly Watermarks on our work, in locations that make it difficult to remove / crop and generally destroy the emotion, subject, or message of the image. I sat down to pen a lengthy dissertation on how photographers can take steps to protect themselves when I discovered Peter Zack over at Enticing The Light already did a wonderful job of this.
Take notice – wedding photographers appear to be the hardest hit, probably because that’s where the money mostly resides. Luckily I do not do weddings, do not need the hassle. Yet, people will be surprised at what mundane or average work will be heisted for other purposes such as banners, advertising, etc.
My short story – I found a number of my images used by travel sites, restaurant promotions, and blogs. Thankfully, I was informed of this common approach – An honest company was referred to my Flickr page for “source material”, and this company asked if they could use my work. Now, I’m not saying my work is fantastic, that’s not the point – and actually the request was something I shot while just playing around with a new strobe – from my perspective the image had no commercial value and not something *I* would have thought sellable (I’ll save that thought for another entry). After that correspondence, I began scouring the Internet and requesting removal of my images. Starting with the company who informed others of my “source material”.
Subsequently, I pulled most of my work – for a while – and now only adding a few images back to social sites. For clients I simply hosted the images on my own domain and removed once reviewed and approved. But lets face it, that is no bueno. I like for my work to be seen and critiqued if only by my circle of friends.
For an easily scrollable idea of how bad this is, please check out this Wall of Shame over at Tumblr.