James Rants

March 11, 2007

I usually write about shiny, happy things that are going on with us, but today I am extremely annoyed about the issue of image theft and the internet.  I bring this up as part public service announcement, and partly just needing to vent.   We have a good friend who is a photographer and recently found out that her work has been swiped by another photographer and is being used blatantly and without permission (in other words illegaly)  on the thief’s web site.  This is a simple concept.  It’s stealing, and it’s fraud.

First of all, I saw the images used on the offending web site and recognized immediately.  I recognized them because I shot the wedding along with our friend so I knew the bride.  Second, the  images that were stolen from our friend and placed on the site showed far superior technical and creative ability than anything else shown on the site.  They stuck out like a sore thumb.  Third, the thief is deceiving every bride who they trick into thinking they will be receiving that level of work.

I bring this up because the internet is a great tool for photographers to show what we can do, and for brides to research and find their best choice.  Unfortunately, things aren’t always what they seem.  Image stealing by photographers is by no means common, but it’s hard to really know how common because it’s hard to track.  There are tools we can use to find out if the words from our site have been used in another web site, but there are few services that track photos, so it’s a matter of stumbling onto the offending site and seeing one of your photos.

Swiping images from web sites is quite common and not always malicious.  For example, I know a lot of the images posted on this blog are swiped and may end up in a bride’s knot profile as examples of how they want their flowers, or cake, or just for inspiration.  This kind of swiping doesn’t bother me because the purpose of this blog is to inspire and educate.  I have even had other photographers who have told me that they visit our blog for inspiration, and that’s cool too.  The line is crossed when a photographer takes a short cut and uses another photographer’s work to mislead a potential client into thinking that they have skills and abilities that they cannot deliver.

Now that I’ve presented the problem, what’s the solution?  The first thing to know is that this issue is not rampant.  As established photographers, out reputations are our most important asset.  There are however, a handful of unscrupulous people out there just as in any industry.  The fact that in the past few years photography seems to many people to be an easy and attractive career  (it is attractive, it’s just not as easy as we make it look) has led to a huge increase in the number of people offerring their services to the market.  This has led some to take those shortcuts and misrepresent their abilities and the only real loser is the client who does not get the level of work they expected.  If you are currently researching photographers it is imperitive that you go beneath the surface of the web site and see more work.  You want to see complete weddings and of course meeting in person to see printed samples is always best if it is logistically possible.  You want to look for consistancy in the work and those are just a few ways to be sure that the person you meet with can do what they say they can and that your expectations will be met.

I may post an update later as to the fate of the offending photographer.  The studio is in Long Island, New York and our friend is based in California.  I guess they thought no one would notice.  They have been contacted and are not answering calls.  I don’t expect there to be any legal action because that’s expensive, but since they are in pretty blatant violation of U.S. copyright laws their web site can be blacked out pretty soon.

Happy surfing!

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