Sunday, July 22, 2012

Copyright Infringement...

I love the internet.

For the last couple of hours, I've been engaged in an on-and-off online debate regarding copyright infringement. Specifically, I've been trying to get a particular group of hammerheads to understand that something being on the internet does not translate to it being "uncopyrighted".

Yes, one of these pointy-headed geniuses actually uttered the word "uncopyrighted".

A blogger I'm acquainted with was recently sued because she used a photo without permission. Why she chose to do that is anyone's guess but, by all appearances, it was an honest mistake. As soon as the  photographer contacted her about the unauthorized use, she took the photo down.

And then he sued her.

Unfortunately, because she was, technically, in the wrong, she lost.

It's a cautionary tale, to be sure. Nobody wants to be sued. But these days, given the economical hit that photographers claim to have taken, legal action becomes a very viable revenue stream for some if the proper circumstances exist. 

Personally, in the case of an honest mistake, I can't imagine going after someone in the courts. Take the picture down, say ten Hail Mary's and five Our Father's and call it a day. No harm, no foul. The reality, though, is that I could pursue someone through legal channels if I felt so inclined.

I've had a couple instances where someone lifted a photo off my Facebook page or my blog, and a quick e-mail is usually all it takes for them to take it down. If someone asks beforehand, I might say "no", but I also may say "yes". Trust me, though, when I say that there isn't a photographer alive who "should feel flattered" by having his photos stolen.

Yes, that little wisdom-filled nugget was suggested by the same person who believed that photos on the web were "uncopyrighted". 

Well, flattery is great, and I know I certainly enjoy feeling flattered. But flattery doesn't pay the bills. Flattery won't put groceries in the shopping cart or gas in the car. To that end, flattery doesn't hold a lot of value.

The same can be said for "credit".

I've lost count of the number of times where people have told me "We'll give you a photo credit". Well, just like flattery, photo credits don't pay the bills. A "by line" is nice, but it's not gonna' keep the lights on.

I'm a photographer. I take pictures, and then I sell them. That's what I do. Asking for a photo in exchange for a "credit" is more than mildly insulting. You're a plumber? Hey, great! How about coming over to fix my leaky faucet, and I'll be sure to let all my friends know about the great job you did in exchange for repairing that faucet.

What's that? You want to be paid? Oh, no... "I don't have a budget for that".

Making good money as a photographer is tough, and photographers being more vigilant has become more commonplace than it was even three or four years ago. If I find out one of my photos is being used without my permission, I'll ask the offender to take it down.


After that, it's an issue of outright theft, and I have no love for thieves. Hey, I was one of those people who actually supported Metallica during their fight with Napster. If someone creates a work of some sort, be it a photograph or a song or a poem, they should expect to be compensated if someone wants to use their work. If the work is going to be used without compensation, that should be the sole decision of the artist. I know I've allowed it, but that decision was mine. I donate photos to various charities for silent auctions, but the decision to do that is mine.

But it's nice to make money, as well.

I shot a band at the House Of Blues a few weeks ago. One of the members of the band contacted me and asked if he could buy some of the images I shot. I gave him a price, he agreed, and that was that; cash money. That's how it's supposed to work, and it's refreshing that there are people out there who understand that.

I realize I'm rambling. Hey, it's almost two thirty in the morning and I'm stone cold sober. I'm tired and I'm rambling. But I've been getting more and more frustrated by dealing with blockheads to whom the concept of fair compensation is an entirely alien concept, and I needed to vent.

As I don't think I'm going to get through to these people anytime soon, at least not this evening, I think it's time for bed...


  1. So, if a photographer takes a picture of me and sends it to me in an email can I use it without permission?

  2. Well, I guess it depends on the photographer.

    Let's say I take a picture of you, and I send it to you in an e-mail, I sort of expect that you'll use it. My sending it to you is more or less granting you permission. After all, if I didn't expect you to use it, it would've been easy enough to keep them from getting it, by simply not sending it to you.

    I won't speak for all photographers but, if I were to take your picture and e-mail it to you, it's a safe bet you can use it.

    But if I take a picture and post it, and you decide you like it, and take it and repost it somewhere, or print it without my permission, well, that's where problems can crop up...


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