Steal This Photo (But You’ll Pay in the End)!

This is a picture taken (obviously) on the beach of Cape May, NJ. Nice right?

I’ve posted this photo on my blog a few years ago and people seem to like it.

So much so, that one website decided to feature it in a travel article on Cape May.

Only one problem with that: This photo is copyrighted was used without my permission.

Most people are apparently ignorant of what a copyright means, and the fact that if you post someone else’s image on your website, blog, Facebook or other social media sites, you will contend with ownership issues and rights. You can’t just copy and then post an image on your own site without permission–even if you give that person a photo credit. You can’t grab someone’s copyrighted photo for your personal use without permission.

A photo doesn’t need to have a watermark on it to be copyrighted. The copyright info can be embedded in the data file of the image, as I do. I also have a copyright disclaimer within my site. And, this and other images are registered with the US Copyright Office–and that’s what gives you the means to litigate for monetary damages.

It’s pretty difficult to discover someone using your images without permission on the web because there are infinite sites out there.  I happened to discover this unauthorized use because I did a Google search on Cape May and found this  photo on someone else’s site.

I contacted the site’s owner and the first reply back was: “hey, sorry, I don’t usually post copyrighted photos and do give photo credits”, and that they took the image down after I wrote them. And, to paraphrase: No harm, no foul, we don’t get much traffic to our site anyway.

The fact that a site doesn’t get much traffic doesn’t negate that you ripped off my property! Imagine, someone steals your car and returns it to you a couple months later and says, “hey, all cool now, right?”. Don’t think so. And the photo credit crap doesn’t wash. I can’t tell my bank to let me slide on my mortgage payment this month because I’ve told all my friends on my Facebook page I have a mortgage with their bank–think that’s going to wash?

Rather than the bother of litigating, I settled with the website’s owners and they paid me for their unauthorized use of the photo. Lessoned learned for them.

People have been conditioned to think that photos, music, movies and other intellectual property that’s posted online is free for the taking. It’s not. If you haven’t paid for it and gotten the property owner’s permission, it’s theft, plain and simple.

On a happier note, I had two different Canadians contact me about buying photos I posted on my website from the Tartan Day Parade a few months ago, where I photographed their bagpipe bands. They didn’t even think of trying to rip my photos for their sites. Maybe more Americans should take lessons from Canadians on the honesty front.

All photos are © 2010 RZF Images. All Rights Reserved
Unauthorized distribution of any of these photos or other content, including without limitation through email forwarding, copying or online reposting is prohibited by law. Please contact RZF Images for licensing of any of these or other images on my sites


7 responses to “Steal This Photo (But You’ll Pay in the End)!

  1. I think it happens more than we like to think.I label and copyright mine too but with digital, it’s just very easy to do.Hope it works out!

  2. Just so I understand – Is it still legal to post a photo if you give credit and a link to the original photo? Technically, you aren’t stealing it when you give credit, right?

    • It’s NEVER been legal to that. Just because you give a photo credit to a photographer does not mean you have permission to use the photo. That’s like saying to your friends that I’m borrowing this car that was parked on the street, but you didn’t get permission from the owner to drive the car. It’s still stealing. You must contact the photographer who shot the image and get permission. They may be happy with just a photo credit and maybe a link back to their site, or they may ask for payment for you to use it.

  3. Thank you for the clarification! Blogging has been new to me and I guess the notion of citing papers in school gave me the idea that it might be okay to do the same for images but with the analogy that you gave us – I understand your perspective as a photographer and will be asking permission if I were to ever use anyone’s photos.

    • There are stock photo sites you can access to buy generic photos for a blog, which for basic shots might be worth looking at. But if you find a stunning shot you’ve found on the web and would like to use, best to use Google Images and upload the shot into their search engine. They’ll find where the image resides and it should be fairly easy to track down the owner that way.

  4. Its nice how you contact individuals who use your images located on Google images and then extort money from them with threats. Its a great little business. If you cant sell them put them up with out copyright info and then go after users with a threat of a lawsuit or payup. Real Classy, I personally would ignore you as you wouldnt bother paying for a lawyer its easier to just email users and hope for a payout based on your threat. LOL!

    • I see you’re so very knowledgeable about copyright law. Whether or not a photo is watermarked with a copyright is irrelevant so long as it is registered with the US Copyright Office, which the photo in question is. Ignorance is no excuse for not obeying the law. And I sell my photos and services just fine thanks. And my lawyer would disagree with your last comment, because I don’t bluff.

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