Copy Wrong to Copy Right

During last weeks episode (29) of Build A Better Photograph I mentioned that one of my photos had been abused by an online publication without my knowledge or permission. The image was cropped, the color was altered and the photo credit was removed. Nice! Oh joy, another knucklehead to deal regarding artists rights because not giving a wit about another persons art work has to be addressed. One can do this nicely but confrontation nonetheless is mandatory. As soon as I found out about this transgression I immediately sent an email to the publisher asking him to explain why he was using one of my photos without permission and from where did the photo come from? To his credit, he responded within minutes, apologized and took down the photo and related article. Score one for me.

I wanted to make this right for the publisher, clearly he was sorry but assumed the photo was OK to use  (a big mistake, making assumptions). I wrote back and offered to provide an approved photo he could use and re-post the story. He was agreeable. I sent an approved photo but for some reason the story has not yet reappeared. (happy ending?)

Following are the steps I took in approaching this issue, making an assessment and my conclusions about the resolution:

1)    Being made aware of the issue. In this case the photo was of my wife and she was the source for finding out about this transgression. I use Google Alerts for other types of notifications and just joined the PLUS Registry for future image rip offs. I’ve also used Digimarc in the past.

2)    Assess the gravity of the transgression. Is the issue worth pursuing? In this case it was for three reasons: 1) My wife was in the photo and upset. 2)  I have a local reputation with my client base and need to be vigilant in case this comes up in conversation. 3) Ripping off work is NEVER OK.

3)    Make a plan of action. Phone call? Email? In person? All three? In this case an email was the best choice. It’s written and there is a record of it…in case….

4)    Implementing the action plan. Don’t just think about what to do, do it and do it ASAP!

5)    Evaluation of the transgressors response. In this case the publisher got high marks for removing the photo but it would have been super if he had re-posted with the approved image. Oh well. What can you do? I did my best, received some action so I have to be satisfied with that. On to the next idiot!

6)    Follow up. I’ve since reached out to the publisher via email and phone but to no avail. Guess he had enough or it just wasn’t that important to him anymore..old news is no news, eh?

The steps above are right in line with my “a successful photograph is a series of small steps made correctly” mantra posted at the top of my home page. Everything we do as SECP’s is geared towards pushing out our bubbles of influence and it’s not just creating work and running the businesses. We also take into account protecting our work and reputations.  This is just my opinion of course, I could be right.

See ya!



Michael Stern

My work depicts, appreciates and honors the people who build. Their specialized equipment and stunning challenges are marvels I behold and get paid to interpret. Hope you enjoy this site.

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