A photographer tries to buy a print of his own image from the person who stole it

Apr 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

A photographer tries to buy a print of his own image from the person who stole it

Apr 19, 2016

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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It’s a fact of life these days for photographers that our work may be stolen if we post it online.  No matter what level of photography we’re at, if you post enough images to the web, it’s simply become an inevitable consequence of sharing out work with the masses.

Sometimes it’s an honest mistake, somebody loves your image, likes it enough to share it, and just doesn’t about copyright or crediting the auther.  Other times, the infractions are a little more serious, and the intent becomes obvious, as Australian photographer Steve Arklay discovered.

With around 400 million accounts as of January 2016, Instagram is a platform which many of us visit daily, and occasionally, some of us see our images posted by others.

When credit is given, it’s often usually fine in the eyes of the original creator.  For Steve, however, browsing Instagram one day led him to find this image posted by a user who shall remain nameless, completely without credit or permission.

The image in question is this photograph Steve shot at King Island and was featured on surfing website Swellnet’s “Wave of the Day”, with his permission, in July, 2015.

Rather than do the typical photographer thing of getting outraged and immediately commenting on the image to express their anger, Steve did some digging.

When he found the Facebook page of the person who’d used his image, he was more than a little surprised to discover that it had also been posted there.  The bigger surprise was that not only had this photographer lifted the image and reposted it without credit, but he’d also slapped his own watermark and copyright notice on it.

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Having noted on the person’s Instagram profile that “All photos on this page are for sale”, Steve enquired about purchasing a print of his own photo.

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While Instagram may have bumped the resolution of their images slightly in the last couple of years, and started offering formats other than square, they’re still not exactly the kind of quality you’d need to print huge.  Not even close.

So, Steve accepted a smaller size to continue the conversation to see how far it went.

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This is where Steve was expected to hand over his details, and upon seeing his name, the “photographer” caught on and all the stolen images were removed.

Needless to say, the sale never went through.

Steve says that he wasn’t attempting to entrap this person by striking up a dialogue, and that professional curiosity was the driving factor.

While this ended with the result that Steve wanted, getting his stolen work removed, who knows how much this person might’ve already made from the image, and how much he may have made from other images on his page that could’ve also been stolen from hard working photographers.

Innocent infractions where people simply don’t know any better are often unlikely to see the photographer compensated for their use, and it’s usually easier to just speak to the person and have them take them down, or just file a DMCA notice if you’re not in a particularly chatty mood.

When it comes to profiting from the work of others without their permission, as well as claiming it as their own creation, the legal route is one that many photographers choose to take, and rightly so.

You can see more of Steve’s work and reach out to him through Facebook and Instagram, and the images & screenshots above were most definitely used with permission. :)

Have you had work stolen and used commercially without permission?  What did you do?  Let us know in the comments.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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21 responses to “A photographer tries to buy a print of his own image from the person who stole it”

  1. Dick Blom Avatar
    Dick Blom

    Stealing is the new buying…

    1. Rick Johnson Avatar
      Rick Johnson

      And screenshotting is the new stealing, sadly. No EXIF preserved there, unfortunately.

  2. John Pilkington Avatar
    John Pilkington

    I’ve had images stolen and re-posted on Farcebook, Twatter, Tumblr, Imgur, Reditt,VK, Zazzle

    & Instagram. You name it- my stuff turned up there. I found out the hard way that DMCA is the only way & if you try reasoning with people it’s 50/50 as to whether you get a decent response. Some people are mortified when you tell them that the image is copyright and cannot be more apologetic and some are downright abusive and aggressive that you want the image removed.

  3. Irina Burkova Goodall Avatar
    Irina Burkova Goodall

    what a shame

  4. Vegas_Sirk Avatar
    Vegas_Sirk

    I have shot images of medical devices and had other companies that sell them take the photos and reuse them for their catalog and then try and claim they shot them. Super easy to spot out my own images, and not many photographers have access to the machines I took photos of.

  5. Michael Chastain Avatar
    Michael Chastain

    I recently ran across one of my images making the rounds on Tumblr. Whatever, I wasn’t even mad. I took it as flattery. Somebody trying to SELL my work as their own, though? That’s pretty damn low.

  6. Ralph Hightower Avatar
    Ralph Hightower

    Create another email account and make the purchase and proceed from there in the courts. But, mission accomplished.

  7. Steve Bigler Avatar
    Steve Bigler

    I don’t want to mention names… but a certain “famous celebrity photographer” called Xerry Xvenaim once took a gift I gave him… printed and reprinted it and sold it as his own. I don’t want to call him a complete cunt or a scumbag though… that would be wrong of me. Name was changed for the sake of anonymity.

  8. Steve Bigler Avatar
    Steve Bigler

    Anything I post to the webs… I either hide my name in script somewhere on the image at like 30% transparency, or I just outright banner it as mine. Unless it is a commercial use… then $$ superseded me needing my name on it… or I got proper credit.

  9. TheInconvenientRuth Avatar
    TheInconvenientRuth

    Just yesterday I had an interesting discussion with a young man selling t-shirts with images on it that were mine. Now I generally don’t do anything about repostings on facebook, tumlr, instagram, because it’s trying to herd ants. Get one, ten new ones pop up and it’s generally not worth the hassle. Plus, the resolution is generally small enough to be comercially useless. But this guy claimed he was free to do so “because he had no way to know who they belonged to because they were off the internet”. I explained to him that a simple Google image search led straight to my website, but he said that he had no idea of knowing if “i was the one that did them (sic) or just reposted them anyways, so no point in finding out.”. He also added he had no intention whatsoever to pay for something he found “for free” on the internet… As asual, the friendly and resonable approach doesn’t work, time for my lawyer to bill some sense into him…

  10. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
    Arthur_P_Dent

    Why not name the thief?

    1. James Wyper Avatar
      James Wyper

      Because not every situation is best resolved by the Internet lynch mob?

  11. Rick Johnson Avatar
    Rick Johnson

    Here’s a dilemma. I share social-media resolution, watermarked images with a business in exchange for the privilege of shooting their events and selling action shots to their customers (not incredibly lucrative when screenshotting a watermarked image is so much easier). The images were provided with a license document stating online or social media use only. I recently found these images on printed posters, and in promotional folders used to recruit new members. Would this constitute theft if a provided image was used outside of the license terms? It seems the “I have the file, thus I can do whatever I please with it” mentality is common for many, and illustrated in the article above, as well as in my situation.

    1. James Wyper Avatar
      James Wyper

      Technically it’s not theft, it’s an infringement of copyright. You’re in a stronger position than the guy in the story above, as you’re dealing with a business with a reputation to uphold (and, in general, greater respect for the law) rather than some random stranger who can just disappear offline. My suggestion would be to contact the business, remind them of their agreement, explain that it has been breached and suggest a new agreement with a sensible commercial rate for the additional use of your work (including retrospective payment). Only if you can’t get amicable agreement (hence the emphasis on a sensible rate) should you then speak to a lawyer.

  12. Rob Avatar
    Rob

    Had a for-profit college use images from my agency’s Web site on the college’s site promoting one of their programs. I requested a) credit the images or b) take them down. College did neither, but did go out of business within a year. In the end, I guess the choice was b.

  13. PhotographyByDepuhl Avatar
    PhotographyByDepuhl

    Had an image of event I produced featuring a movie I filmed stollen from the companies Facebook page that actually worked with me on the event.

    I had FB take it down and wrote an article on how to get Facebook to remove a copyrighted image on my blog (http://blog.depuhl.com/get-facebook-remove-copyrighted-image/), after I had contacted the company to ask them to remove the image. They never responded, until I wrote a blog post that talks about the theft of the images and the unlicensed use by them.

    They called me saying that my post was showing up when people searched for their company and they asked me to take it down, because it was hurting their business.

    You can read that post here: http://blog.depuhl.com/bitton-events-lies-about-their-work/

  14. DavidR8 Avatar
    DavidR8

    I wish the poll had an “I don’t know” option

  15. RudeBoy Avatar
    RudeBoy

    I find this story very fishy. It may be a brilliant way to start a social media story to get people to look at your work. So Steve finds his photo on instagram (which has 400 million accounts) posted by another photographer which will rename nameless. Nameless? Really? Ok, maybe he is taking the high road. How the hell did he find the needle in the haystack? Is Steve following “the photographer”? Then Steve goes to the offending photographers FB page where he slaps his own watermark on Steve’s image. Anyone see a watermark in the screen grabs? The plot thickens. Now the screen grabs turn into text screen grabs. Hmmm, That means that Steve has the offenders phone number. Why would you get someones ph# to make a deal but decided to do it via text when you could have simply continued via messaging? He asked for his banking info and email via text. Who gives their banking info via text? I would think it would be via a direct phone call or something more personal. “This is where Steve was expected to hand over his details, and upon seeing his name, the “photographer” caught on and all the stolen images were removed.” Hmmm? All the stolen images? So now this is some kind of masked justice in that this thief was shamed into taking down “all the stolen images”? What about all the other photographers that could have allegedly had their images stolen and their recourse? Some other food for thought. Swell net got 680 likes for Steve’s photo. This anonymous photographer got 1,112?! Steve should shake hands and partner with this guy and sell some prints. Don’t always believe what you read on the internet. This very well could be fact but my instincts say this is a fairy tale.

  16. RudeBoy Avatar
    RudeBoy

    Why was my comment deleted? Where is the watermark on the offending photographers post. Why are the conversation screen grabs in text form? That would mean that Steve had his phone number. The list goes on. Is DIY the National Inquirer of photo news? I said nothing slanderous. I simply pointed out the holes in the story as a reader. I could repost if you would allow it. Or is the story a fake?

  17. PNut67 Avatar
    PNut67

    The ONLY way to stop this…(IMOHO, of course)….is make FB, Insta, & any other photo sharing social media sites FINANCIALLY RESPONSIBLE for EVERY picture stolen…..EVER!!!! & in present & future as well. Stop fighting this crime like the cops fight drugs, from the tail (the thief, in this case)….fight it from the head, like you should fight a snake….if you have ever had a photo stolen….SUE! SUE! SUE them until they finally set up barriers & blocks in place to keep people (thieves) from stealing YOUR work, & in some cases, claiming it as THEIRS & selling as if it was theirs….this is copyright infringement to the nth degree
    …stop going after the small fry’s (thieves). & start going after the big catch….(FB, Insta, & others who allow this crime to continue)….AND STEALING YOUR WORK IS A CRIME!!!!

  18. Ania Avatar
    Ania

    I work closely with photographers and image theft seems to be a pressing issue which is only growing. Together with my team we cooperate with 250 photographers and managed to already regain € 6 000 000 from the infringements of their rights. If you seek assistance in claiming your rights, sign up with us and will get back to you with the assistance: https://photoclaim.com/en/application/