Friday, May 31, 2013

Copyright and Photo Use

I normally would be posting a FitDog Friday post today. Rest assured, my dogs are still doing their fit things. I just have another issue I want to talk about.

Spring Pole-3549

Recently, two blogs that I read regularly have posted stolen pictures. One of the blogs, in fact, regularly posts photos stolen from event photographers, often with the caption "stolen photo" and always with a large copyright watermark across the photo, and/or "PROOF" printed across the photo. For the other blog, this is the first time I have seen a stolen photo shared.

I did, and will always, contact the photographer, letting them know that I think their work has been shared without permission and giving them a link to the specific blog post. At that point, it is up to the photographer to decide if they want to just request the photos are removed, ask for them to be paid for, or sue the blogger for sharing that content. A few people have told me that contacting the photographer is over reacting. I really don't think it is.

I am not a professional photographer. When I take photos at events such as lure coursing, I share those photos for free with the owners of the dogs for any personal use. I ask them to contact me to discuss details if they want to use a photo for any commercial (money making) use. For me, this is a reasonable thing to do. I don't lose any money if someone wants to download a copy of one of my photos of their dog and print it, or share it on Facebook, or on their blog.

Doing this to a professional photographer is actually stealing their work and reducing their income. Event photographers generally are not paid for taking photos at events. Their sole income comes from selling digital or print copies of the photos they take during the event. If you steal the proof the photographer places online for people to preview, you are stealing- it is just as much stealing as it would be to walk into a store, stick some makeup in your purse, and walk out without paying.

I really don't think either of the bloggers who posted the stolen photos recently would do that. I do think that they either don't realize or don't believe that just using these low quality watermarked proofs on their personal blogs is illegal. They don't count it as bad as stealing something physical from a store, or don't think of it at all.

So, here is a basic rule of thumb to go by if you want to use a photograph on your blog or other social media site.

  • Did you take the photograph yourself? If so, use it as much as you want, wherever you want- it is your property, and you own all rights to it.
  • Did a friend, family member, or non-professional-photographer acquaintance take the photo? If so, make sure to contact them before using the photo on your blog. Most people will say yes. If they say no, respect their decision. The photos they take belong to them, and they get to decide how they can be used. Sharing photos on Facebook is generally okay without express permission, as long as you are using the "share" link, not downloading, uploading, and then sharing as your own.
  • Did a professional photographer take the photo? If so, contact the photographer before using the photo for anything- blog, Facebook, printing, anything. Some photographers will be willing to let you share a lightly watermarked photo on Facebook or on your blog. Some will require you purchase the rights to the photo. Others will not want to give you any access to digital files at all. Respect their decision. Stealing the photo to use on your social media or for personal use cuts into the income the photographer is relying on, and may result in legal action.
  • Unless you took the photo yourself, never download, alter, and upload a photo. Editing photos can destroy the quality, remove important watermarks, and otherwise change the original art. If you want to alter a photo for any reason, get express permission to do so from the person who took the picture.

Sorry for the long, serious post. This is simply an issue near and dear to me. If the weather here ever stops raining, I will share some pictures of my own. For now, I will have to visit everyone else's blogs to enjoy pictures of your dogs.


  1. Thanks for touching on such a sensitive issue. I always take my own photos but have seen plenty of blogs that use ones that are clearly not the blog owners. A watermark will keep some from taking them but not all.

  2. How did you know the second blog persons's photo was stolen? Was it someone elses dog?

  3. I was wondering that are you certain they are stolen? Sometimes I post proofs when I am waiting for the purchased photo to arrive.

  4. I just started writing for an online magazine and always watermark my photos for that. I don't know if I would be upset about someone taking my blog photos. I have seen on some folks sidebar a line about copyrights to images. The electronic age - - - causing so many challenges now!! Hope you get some sun!

  5. I could tell the second blog was using a stolen photo because it very largely had both the photographer's website and the word PROOF stamped across the photo. No photographer would want their work displayed like that. If the photo had been purchased, I would expect to see nothing more than a small watermark on the photo, not multiple stripes of watermarked writing crossing the entire photo.

  6. I wouldn't mind too much if someone displayed one of my photos, but I would not like them taking credit for it, or if they entered it in a contest as their own work.

    I totally agree, displaying a pro's watermarked photo is wrong! That's the whole reason they spread the watermark across the whole make it undesirable! I guess some people just don't care and steal the photo anyway.

  7. One of my pet peeves is copyright infringement. Newsflash: watermarks mean you DON'T have permission to use the photo. I've had big organizations steal my watermarked photos and continue to use them after I send a take down notice. It is NOT ok.

  8. Kuddos to you and well said. We go to great lengths to take these pictures and we sure don't want someone else poaching.

  9. My person agrees.

    And I like the picture of the pawesome Dog.