I’m buzzing, just photo perturbed, ’cause it had to happen eventually…
What you ask? A photograph of mine, my favorite none the less, was used without my permission, printed on cardstock and delivered around the area.
I picked up the printed piece at the Lewiston GardenFest, and there, staring back at me was my photograph. I was with a couple of committee members too, so they heard me let out a sudden shriek.
“Here is my photograph, advertising another Garden Walk, and nobody asked me to use it, I said in surprise and disbelief.
“Ya, right,” I heard in unison. I said, “No, for real, I would know it anywhere.”
Now why was I telling them?
I create the graphics for the Lewiston GardenFest , and here is our poster that I did this year featuring one of my images. Below, is an ad I did for them with another garden image. Flowers from my garden, used for promotion – my choice, my images, my art, my layout, my graphics.
See how the image below became the art?
The improperly obtained image was also a macro flower in my garden, very similar to this one above. Only, the photo was enhanced for production.
I easily recognized my photo as soon as I spotted it. I had the image professionally enlarged and printed for display in my bedroom. I have it as a background on my iPad, and I see it every day. Talk about bad luck for the image thief … bet they never thought they were stealing one locally.
The poor person probably thought they were swiping a professional photographer’s piece from clear across the world. Let me explain as we begin the story…
Well, that sent me on a hunt down mission, and a flurry of phone calls, one lasting the better part of the morning. I was determined to find out how this occurred and who was responsible. After all, it was my favorite photo. I had to make a plan here….
First, I contacted a few friends in advertising and a few professional photographers that I know and trust. Even one I just ‘met’. One of the photographers is the leader of our photography group, and he had great advice as did one I just met online. So I was prepared for whatever was to transpire. After all…
This image is on my personal portfolio website at Zenfolio. You have to imagine it is one of my very best. But somebody else thought so too and also that it should be free. There is a ‘ noxious weed’ in the garden, me thinks.
Their goal… turn it into a POSTCARD advertising a garden walk, filled and overlaid with red and yellow, stroked text. Yikes! I was crazily upset. Remember my post on Red and Yellow in advertising. Think fast food…
Sure you say, this is just the nature of the web these days. Would it have stopped them if I watermark the image? Probably not, since many watermarks are most easily removed. I could have had an invisible watermark, but that dissuades no one.
So am I being hypocritical by not minding when my images occur on Pinterest? No, because they are not being used commercially, and I get credit with a link to GWGT. Also, the image from Pinterest is not large enough in resolution to make a decent printed piece. Little like the teeny buzzer below, a smidgen fuzzy and unclear. But…
It was a graphic artist that did this at a large printing-house, somebody that should have known better. This person was perusing 500px, a site where I load some of my images for some exposure. Mostly the site is a group of professional photographers and serious amateurs from all around the world, and most of the work is mind blowingly outstanding. See the sidebar and click 500px, I am just a little petunia at this site.
I just recently deleted all the images that I had on 500px to avoid this happening in the future. I had the free account and it was not worth what happened.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.
The image that was swiped, made a very nice POSTCARD in size with little cropping. It certainly made the job easier for the graphic artist.
What they did was devalue my image for my own use and benefit from it by using it to plug another organization. No credit was given, no money came my way (until a check arrived in the mail this afternoon). I was losing out in every respect for the most part.
Here is a quote from Carolyn E. Wright in Fair Use on the blog Photo Attorney. “When the unauthorized use directly effects and competes with the copyright owner’s business or potential for income, a court will usually find that the use was not a fair use. This is true even when the use is not in an area of business directly competing with the photographer – such as selling sculptures based on a photo. What matters is that the photographer could have made money in that field.”
On the web, the first recourse is the Take – Down Notice for the image in contention. But in print and distributed by the hundreds, what do you do?
The first thing I did to get the ball rolling was to call the phone number on the card. I was met with a pretty accusatory and sassy individual.
I explained this was my photo, and the person said to me, “How do Iiiiiiii know it is your photo?”, in a voice expressing an arrogant, blank-you kind of tone.
I said “Because I just said it is.” feeling this should be a sufficient answer until proof could be provided. WHICH I HAD! I further explained, “I have both files, the original and the Photoshop version, dated and clearly identified to me and my equipment.” So there!
It took a lot of nerve to use any image in this day and age of digital metadata. My camera’s serial number displays when the image is dropped into an application to read the metadata. It is proof positive.
Had they used it on a website I would have been less upset. Not happy, but not upset. This happens constantly with fair use standards applying and having no monetary gain from either party. But you do have some recourse. My new blogging friend, the professional photographer, sent me these two useful links. One from Pop Photo, and one from Photo Attorney.
Well anyway, the next morning I called the printer to find out anything they could tell me. I was pretty sure they were not responsible. They are very reputable in our area and the people I talked with, helpful and considerate. And no, I will not name who they are.
After hours of phone calls and waiting, the owner of the company kindly calls me back. He acknowledged that it was my image and additionally, said one of his employees was responsible. I was literally dumbstruck. Never did this thought even cross my mind.
Thinking about it though, I can understand to some extent how it might have happened, because advertising and design is a very stressful, deadline oriented job. I explained that I may have understood the need to complete a project expeditiously, but it was just plain wrong to do so in this manner, especially since my name was right there with the image. Was emailing me for permission of use just too much trouble?
I could have even understood using the image as a basis for a painting. In fact, the client even thought they received a painting on the postcard, or that is what the surly person said. Why? Because the image was of such poor resolution being lifted from the web. It was a bit blurry and dull. Had this designer written to me, I may have forwarded another lesser quality image from the same shoot at higher resolution for their use. Just not my best one, the one I list for sale.
I am but a lone petunia here… stuck in a bad situation.
In amongst all the other petunias. The ones standing out from the crowd…And the ones all struggling to shine.
By the owner making the phone call. The owner went on to explain how the job was underwritten with a deep discount because the client is a nonprofit organization. I explained how this was of no consequence to me nor any of my concern. It does not weigh in to the fact that the image was used for promotional use. He continued that this is not a commercial client. But, I countered, that money was still transacted. He went on to say that they have not yet been paid. Fly in the ointment?
Can you see where this conversation was headed? Well, you probably can’t at this point yet. Because the owner admitted fault at the onset …
I thought this so honorable admitting to fault on his company’s part. I was impressed by his honesty and apology. Well, we satisfactorily worked it out, and I was happy to do so because this man was very nice, unlike the other person who hung the phone up on me. I offered that he can call to request images and I would be very reasonable. After all, this is not my profession. Really, I just started selling my photography officially and have no intent to compete with the pros. I have a job that keeps me extremely busy and creatively satisfied.
I guess the moral here is…
If you post it, likely it will show up somewhere else. I probably lose 40 to 50 images a day from my site according to WP stats. Funny thing, if my photo appeared on a postcard anywhere else in the world, I would have never known about it.
So what do you guys think? Will any of today’s images get lifted? They are from my garden yesterday and from the nature walk at Niagara Falls. Did you guys notice the Creative Commons License on my sidebar? … not like it will amount to a hill of beans, but…
All I can say, is ‘bee’ fair and contact the artist who created the work. You might be surprised at what they say. Oh, and I cannot ID my insects here, sorry to have them pictured without names. Let’s just call them all bees, wasps and flies. Maybe one Mason Bee, I think.
Want a peek inside?
I promise… Lewiston GARDENS next for Monday. The first one has just rolled off the presses.
I will be posting Chanticleer gardens by remote as I will be going out-of-town for a while. I thought since it is a post that will draw a crowd, it would be a good candidate for when I am away.
I am also in the process of redoing my site and making changes, so check out the new tabs when they publish. Look for new pages coming up, with design ideas and tips. I will changing over from old to new. And my About and Niagara Falls pages will be updated with better images and a little history. So I hope you don’t miss the old until the new arrives. Bee well!