It gets tiring. It truly does. There was a time when the work of others was highly respected. Photographers posted their own work on the internet to advertise their own businesses. Companies would see the work and hire these photographers based on their lovely work to create beautiful imagery or to purchase the images already shown.
There was no question. Photographers were paid for their work.
Something happened in the past few years to where the internet became a free for all for taking. While we can register our work periodically with US Copyright, our images are copyrighted the moment we take them. Most photographers take thousands of images per year. Every single one of these images are owned by the photographer. Period.
For those who are not aware of copyright – click here for US Copyright laws.
Recently a friend of mine who is also a client had a mutual friend of ours send her a photograph while she was at the Kentucky Horse Park. I am very familiar with this Horse Park and the saddlebred museum that is right there. I have visited there on multiple occasions with my daughter for Breyerfest over the years. The photograph that was sent to her was a picture that I took of her son with his horse. I did an entire photo session of this boy and his horse.
But here my picture of her son was on a sign advertising this company – Equine Land Conservation Resource ELCR.org. I did not give permission for anyone to use this image for marketing materials, nor was I contacted or sent a contract or offered money for the use of my image. It was simply lifted from the internet off of my blog.
I contacted this company who seemed shocked that their “former” employee had apparently designed this sign with my image. While I know that the person who responded to me was not the thief who stole the picture, and I can commiserate with her knowing that I would be very upset if someone representing my company stole an image – there truly is no excuse.
- Why would a company not even care to consider where the images came from?
- Did they think they magically appeared from the sky?
- Here they have a beautiful marketing piece that they display proudly at a very popular and well-known location, representing their company, but they have no idea where the images came from?
- Do they remember paying for the images on this sign?
- Did they think they were free?
- Why would any company think they could get things like that for free?
- My watermark was on this image, and they cropped it out – isn’t that a federal crime?
They paid the employee to design the sign. They paid the sign company to produce the sign (where they had to, I am sure, acknowledge in the fine print that the copyright of the images they were using were their own, as no printing company would take on the liability of reproducing a marketing piece with images that were being illegally used.)
EVERYONE WAS PAID BUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER. I sent an invoice to the company which included payment for me for using the image as well as payment for my client whose son, a MINOR CHILD, was used in this advertisement without permission and without a contract – that to me, is even worse than the photographer not being paid. Her son gets to be used by a company that she did not authorize. Is that okay? The invoice was for the same amount that I have done in the past for advertising companies who have purchased my work as “stock photography” for their marketing pieces. I’m not asking for damages. I am simply asking to be paid for the use of the image (including a portion for the client who was also stolen from). The use that has occurred already. This is FAIR.
Apparently, that was unacceptable as I did not receive payment.
Now, to top it off, this company is paying their lawyer to now dispute this with the photographer. Oh look, ANOTHER person that is getting paid for MY WORK, but I am not being paid for it.
My image. You took it. Now I have to defend myself?
How wrong can this be?
And we aren’t talking about a company with no money. The company’s financials are public – click to see for yourself. $79,000 was spent in advertising for the year 2012. Heh. Funny. And I’m not being paid for my work.
You would think that companies like this, who have a beautiful honest agenda behind their organization would just make it right – but no. Now I have to defend myself for simply existing as an artist, the victim of theft.
And just a reminder to all the artists and photographers out there –BE OFFENDED!!!!!! Why Photo Credit Does not Benefit the Photographer.
This my friends, is the joke the photography industry has become………
Photographers: Please start speaking up and maintaining your dignity as an artist, but more importantly as a BUSINESS OWNER and the owner of your work. The public’s “entitlement” complex has only increased over the last 10 years. I’m pretty sure when I photograph clients or commercially, I’m not “expressing myself” – I’m working to produce a product worthy of purchase. Nice, right?
Jodie Otte is a Maryland professional photographer and designer.