I feel very sure that anyone in the creative sector will be well aware that protecting your work from theft is a total nightmare.
But, perhaps there is one thing worse, and that is dealing with people with a total lack of respect for what you do and who you are, I think that cuts deeper than loosing income. The fact that people see what you do as worthless is perhaps the biggest beating any artist can take.
For a long time now my images have been taken and used without my consent by numerous people and businesses. Perhaps the most galling was the centre page spread utilisation of one of my photographs featured within the daily mail, with no payment offered, and no credit given.
Under threat of legal action The Mail did eventually pay me for the image, but it took a lot of hard work to get them to recognise what they had done was not just illegal but also rude and exceptionally discourteous.
I have always resisted the suggestions from friends and social media followers to start watermarking all my work. “Why should I have to” was my usual answer.
Those who know me will tell you I have no fear in dealing with thieves and will openly call them out and also take legal action if required. I always felt that it was the thieves who should change their ways and learn some damn respect for what I do.
Recently the problem seems to have worsened, and using 1 image as an example I will illustrate the scale of the problem. Recently I captured an Image of the Illuminated Abbey Event at Whitby. My intention was to sell the image as a Limited Edition print on my website. No Canvases would be made available for sale and the image would be print or framed print only.
I put a copy of the Image out through my usual social networking channels. The image went viral. A few days later I started getting messages from friends and members of my social media groups telling me that people were reposting my image as their own without giving credit to me as the creator.
For clarity, these people were not sharing my work, they were downloading it to their phones and computers before reposting it as if it was an image they had taken.
With the help of friends we managed to call out a lot of the thieves and get them to remove my image from their social media accounts.
An Apology For Copyright Breach.
As recently as the 14th December 2018, almost 2 months after it was taken the image was still being posted without my permission on social media.
Alerted by friends I found my Image on a group called I Yorkshire. A couple of positives from the experience were
1. The poster at least admitted it was not his image and that he only posted it because he thought it was a beautiful picture. Those are nice sentiments, but as a professional photographer sentiment does not pay my bills, nor do social media likes.
2. The groups Admins removed the image instantly and corresponded with me to resolve the situation. These guys were true pro’s and it is a shame more group admins do not follow their example.
Below is the apology I received from the guy who posted my Image on I Yorkshire Group.
“Hi Glenn. I recently posted a picture of yours on the I love Yorkshire page. I didn’t know it was yours as it came up on one of the military pages I run, and I’ve never attempted to claim anything other than I copied the picture from social media.
I apologise if my posting the picture caused you any offence, but please be aware that I only posted the picture because of the way it totally captured the beauty of Whitby and the port.
Kind regards xxxxx”
It was actually very nice to receive the apology, and I think it was a first, as people caught out stealing don’t usually apologise.
Full marks to this gentleman for apologising, he went up in my estimations significantly after he apologised. It takes a real man to acknowledge when they have been in the wrong. I salute you for that sir, however, it is still quite worrying that the gentleman in question still didn’t see what he had done wrong.
Believing that because his intentions were good it therefore made it ok to take other peoples intellectual property to share when and where they choose without first seeking permission to do so. But well done for at least apologising, its a starting point.
The usual line of defence is usually to the effect of “its just a photograph, who gives a fuck”. Which brings me to my earlier made point about respect.
Not only are people willing to steal my work, it also would appear that they have no level of respect for me as a creator, an as a hard working man trying to pay his bills by staying the right side of the law and doing the one thing in life he loves the most.
Ok, Im ranting on a bit, I know…. and this is a subject I have been ranting on about for some considerable time now. On Friday evening I weighed up my options which seemed to be.
1. Stop using social media to put your work out.
2. Watermark the shit out of your images so that you put an end to their theft once and for all.
Anyone who runs an online business would tell you it is financial suicide not to utilise social media for business, therefore option 1 simply was not an option.
I have therefore taken the decision to watermark my Images when they are to be displayed on social media.
Again, as a creator, you are very much aware of just how simple it is to remove a standard watermark from the sky or from the bottom of an image. A 30 second job in Photoshop using Content Aware Fill can make a watermark disappear in an instant, without a trace of it ever been there.
The only option left for me is to watermark the images in several places and through some of the more detailed areas of the image where no amount of editing will be able to remove them.
Posting My First Watermarked Image.
Recently I posted a watermarked image onto Social media see it here. The first comment on the image, was “Spoilt by the watermark”. Well I guess that was always going to be a comment someone made. It simply illustrates the big down side of Social Media as I see it. As well as giving good honest nice decent people a voice, it also affords that same voice to the local chimpanzee community.
But, on the whole I think the watermark wont deter the members of my social media channels from enjoying the photographs, and I guess they always have the option of buying a copy of the image without a watermark to hang on their walls at home. I feel a little sad that I have had to start watermarking my images, but I feel its the only real solution to deal with the thieves out there.
Disrespect Of My Work
Above I have hinted a couple of times about disrespect. There have been numerous times where I have felt that people just have no level of respect for the work I do or the amount of hours i put in to make this business a success. Many seem to think I run a social media channel simply to provide an endless stream of images free of charge for them to enjoy and use as they see fit. As a photographer I feel this is probably worse than theft itself.
Admittedly, by my own shortsightedness I have let some local businesses use my work free of charge. The deal has usually been that the business gets use of my images for its promotions and I get exposure in return for the images. This is not something I have done often and is certainly not widespread as I usually charge a license fee for the use of my images. However there were a couple of occasions where I felt the exposure was enough to compensate for not taking the cash instead.
If your interested in a great video on the value of photography and why you shouldnt give it away for nothing, have a look at this great video by photography legend Matt Hart.
However, the end result now seems to be that those businesses use my images without crediting me and without linking to my website as requested. This is one huge slap in the face. I find myself asking, just how cheap do these people think I am ? Needless to say I will be stopping these deals in the New Year and requesting a license fee for any images used from this point forward. No doubt they will stop using my photographs and move to the next sucker. I will keep you posted on that one. Out of all the negative things things that have happened recently, I think the lack of respect and lack of value seen in what I do has to be the hardest to deal with on a psychological level, worse than any amount of money lost through people stealing your photographs.