Previous news story    Next news story

Online images and copyright infringement

By dpreview staff on Mar 6, 2013 at 20:06 GMT

A dispute between Canadian pro photographer, Barbara Ann and Ottawa radio station HOT 89.9 illustrates the problematic climate in which companies often turn to the Internet for free photographic images. The Internet fosters self-promotion by making it easy for anyone to find your images. That, of course brings the risk of someone using your images for commercial purposes without you giving consent or receiving compensation.

As part of a Keynote presentation aimed at station advertisers, HOT 89.9 used an image that was found via a Google search, without authorization from, or payment to, the photographer.

Someone at the HOT 89.9 radio station found, via a Google search, a wedding photo that was then used as part of a Keynote slide presentation (shown above) made to potential advertisers. When the station was contacted by the photographer, the image was removed but the two parties remain far apart on an agreement over compensation. You can read the ensuing (and acrimonious) email exchanges between photographer Barbara Ann and NewsCap Radio Vice President Scott Broderick on PetaPixel.

Another recent case of copyright infringement has ended on a much more satisfactory note for both parties, as reported by photographer Theron Humphrey on his Facebook feed. One of his canine images was used in an advertisement by So Delicious Dairy Free, without authorization or payment. Humphrey then asked his Facebook followers to post on the company's wall, asking that the company donate $10,000 to an animal rescue as compensation. The company agreed and is asking its own Facebook fans to recommend a suitable recipient of the donation.

After being contacted about unauthorized use of dog photographer Theron Humphrey's image, the company took the photographer up on his suggestion to make a large donation to an animal/rescue organization.

Two copyright infringements but with very different results. Which approach would you have chosen?

Comments

Total comments: 255
12
Clean
By Clean (Mar 6, 2013)

Canada has a spotty record of supporting intellectual property. Their supreme court just ruled against the patent system for pharmaceuticals and there have been other poor precedents in the creative arena. I am not sure why they have a problem with the concept that stealing ideas, images, and other creative output is just the same as stealing a moose or some maple syrup. It is sad that our closest neighbor is sliding into the mold of India and China when it comes to IP.

0 upvotes
nwind
By nwind (Mar 6, 2013)

Probably you need to visit Canada more often to judge it properly or better not judge it at all:)

6 upvotes
Paul B Jones
By Paul B Jones (Mar 7, 2013)

Canada has an excellent record of supporting the users, the creators and the owners of intellectual property.

I think what you mean to say is that Canada has a spotty record of bending intellectual property rules to only serve the greed of large corporations.

2 upvotes
LeonXTR
By LeonXTR (Mar 7, 2013)

No, its just like Europe, they respect and protect copyrights but they don't hunt-down 10-year-olds for downloading an mp3 from limewire.....
In some cases a copyright infringement can be made by mistake and/or unawareness of the technicalities of the law. The radio station behaved with respect once the matter was brought to their attention. Demanding ridiculous compensation just to "punish" them while they had no ill-intent is, like i said before GREED

0 upvotes
GraemeF
By GraemeF (Mar 6, 2013)

The radio station behaved despicably - they wanted a photo to use in promotional material to generate advertising revenue. They had two LEGAL options - 1. pay a photographer to take photos they could use, that would easily have cost $2000 plus. 2. License an existing image for commercial use, depending on volumes this could cost from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Getty Images may only pay a few bucks to photographers, but they sure as heck don't sell them for a few bucks.

So instead of a legal option, they chose an illegal option and used an award winning photographer's image without her permission. Had they asked her beforehand, they may have only had to pay a nominal fee. Because they didn't, the photographer is perfectly reasonable asking them to pay what it would have cost them to commission the image. If her rate for a day's wedding shooting is $4000, then requesting $2000 for commercial use of one of her images is reasonable in my view.

10 upvotes
Paul B Jones
By Paul B Jones (Mar 7, 2013)

Okay, read the email stream and re-post.

1 upvote
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (Mar 6, 2013)

Isn't dpreview violating copy right by posting that image?

2 upvotes
Richard Butler
By Richard Butler (Mar 6, 2013)

Reporting news is one of the fair use considerations.

7 upvotes
JordanAT
By JordanAT (Mar 7, 2013)

Yes, they are. However they would also likely prevail in court by using a Fair Use defense for using it as part of a legitimate new story. Fair Use is not a right, but a valid defense - a subtle but necessary distinction.

3 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (Mar 7, 2013)

What is sad is that even though dpreview is doing nothing wrong. They are presumed to be guilty first and would have to prove fair use in order to overturn a decision to take down the material that the copy right holder made and not the court system.

1 upvote
ncsakany
By ncsakany (Mar 6, 2013)

Station: in the wrong, putting forth a good faith effort to resolve the situation, all along behaving in a professional manner

Photographer: in the right, but coming across as both unreasonable and down right rude.

8 upvotes
StanRogers
By StanRogers (Mar 6, 2013)

Not exactly. The fact that I *can* license my images for use by anybody doesn't mean I *have to*. This isn't a simple recovery of lost revenue, it's more of a "you've hurt my brand, and I wouldn't have licensed the image to you in the first place" deal. It's hard enough raising yourself to a market niche above Herb down the street with his D3000 and kit lens without having some moron in a marketing department make you look like an "anything for a buck" practitioner. How willing do you think clients would be to hire you if they thought that their pictures are likely to be selling pizza next week? There is a LOT of room for punitive charges here.

3 upvotes
Paul B Jones
By Paul B Jones (Mar 7, 2013)

Look, someone at the radio station did a google image search for a particular company and when an image popped up as a result of that search they mistakenly thought it belonged to the company. When the mistake was pointed out the station withdrew the image, apologized and offered fair compensation. Copyright infringement is a serious issue and educating people about it is not helped by this trivial case.

2 upvotes
keith james taylor
By keith james taylor (Mar 7, 2013)

Oh the radio station thought they wear steleing from some-one else. and did not need to contact the Co for pemishon an example of a sytematic culture of low esteame for photographers that is unfortunatly far to comon

0 upvotes
leecamera
By leecamera (Mar 8, 2013)

EXIF data aside, if someone uses a picture for any reason, and it is not one they took themselves then they have clearly stolen the image.

I don't paste a sign on my car claiming ownership and I wouldn't expect to need to do so. If I leave it unlocked then it is not giving permission for someone to take it "because they didn't realise they shouldn't..."

I wish the world would stop treating creative works as freebees just because they saw them on the internet. Theft is theft and if a company has employees taking images without owners' permissions then time has come for an education.

As to fees...? I'd be looking for a day rate + useage % + 100% for unauthorised useage / time to recover money.

0 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (Mar 6, 2013)

We have much bigger issues in the world than copyright claims. I am not saying that we shouldn't try to stop it. I am just saying that it shouldn't be our number 1 priority.

2 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Mar 6, 2013)

At the photography site it is bigger issue than perhaps somewhere else, but generally it is a question of tolerance to theft (whatever other petty names it may have in lawyers lingo). And theft is a very big issue everywhere, encompassing and ruining many aspects of human activities, all the way from James Bond types to shoplifting. It's the act of stealing which should be concentrated on, and not the value stolen. Whatever the value, the act is always the same. And a crime (so far).

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 6, 2013)

Stealing? Theft? Shop lifting?

Its called Copyright infringement. And ... its a totally different crime than stealing.

Moreover ... its obviously less serious than stealing your car. Isnt it? Or beating up your kids. Or burning down your house. Or eating your cat.

5 upvotes
Delacosta
By Delacosta (Mar 7, 2013)

@Roland Karlsson

Yes, I would definitely consider someone eating my cat as way more serious than Copyright infringement. Forget notions of compensation. The death penalty would not be enough for such a criminal.

I sincerely hope that your cat is alive and well and has NOT suffered such a fate.

2 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 7, 2013)

I currently have no cat. But I am very fond of the furry things. So, I definitely agree on your opinion.

BTW - I think it is very healthy to set things into perspective. The usage was more or less internal in a company. It was a handful of copies when talking to selected customers. And they had a motivation why they believed it to be right. It was evidently just a mistake, or at least not a deliberate try to swindle the photographer.

There are more urgent issues for the law to concentrate on.

0 upvotes
Delacosta
By Delacosta (Mar 8, 2013)

Skönt att höra att ingen katt kommit till skada under denna debatt! (jfr. med Schrödingers katt)

Angående perspektivet på hela händelsen, så tycker jag Shakespeare sa det bäst:

"Much ado about nothing" ;-)

0 upvotes
nwind
By nwind (Mar 6, 2013)

She was very unreasonable and rude. Radio station behaves properly and very politely in they response to the situation.

Comment edited 59 seconds after posting
7 upvotes
Deleted1929
By Deleted1929 (Mar 6, 2013)

A polite thief is still a thief.

I don't see why the station should not be punished heavily for their theft. Companies cynically use any images they want and only act repentant when they're caught. It's no different from "Oh, I'm sorry, was that YOUR car I stole by mistake ?".

7 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 6, 2013)

Punish heavily? For using a photo? You have got perspectives on whats important in life I see.

3 upvotes
Delacosta
By Delacosta (Mar 7, 2013)

So copyright infringement is "no different" from stealing a car?

Excuse me, but did you graduate from Harvard or Yale? Your detailed knowledge of the law is amazing.

3 upvotes
rrccad
By rrccad (Mar 6, 2013)

even as a photographer, i've had web clients accidentially get caught by this, and it can be a horrifying experience for a small business owner who innocently grabs some images that are supposed to be copywrite free and later on the photographer contacts them demanding thousands of dollars for a mistake.

in one case, the photographer asked for amounts well in excess of $20K and the image was found and downloaded from a royalty free image library.

So there seems to be two sides of this case, as a photographer, i don't want my images used without my knowledge, but on the other hand, it's a little ridiculous at the amounts being tossed around as proper compensation.

To be honest, the more this happens, the more "professional" photographers become a dying breed.

3 upvotes
jyogan
By jyogan (Mar 6, 2013)

Royalty free images are not free. Once the license is bought, it is free to use over and over again, there are no royalties to be paid, "royalty free".

0 upvotes
JordanAT
By JordanAT (Mar 7, 2013)

I was caught by this, actually. My web designer used 5-6 small images on my site, taken from a couple of Royalty Free CDs she had purchased. 3 years later, Getty contacted her about several sites which she had made, and asked that the infringing images be taken down. Turns out the CDs didn't actually have the right to transfer a RF license to the buyer (her). She asked if there were any other images on her sites which were infringing and got no answer, so she sent me replacement images for all of the identified files. Yet another three years later, I received a letter from Getty for three images which had not been replaced (not in the infringing set, and from a different CD of art), demanding $2000. The actual licensing cost was ~$360 for the entire time frame at the resolution used. I was screwed - there was no affordable recourse (fight for $25,000+ in court or capitulate). I negotiated down to $1400, wrote the check, and learned a lesson. And I will never buy from Getty - ever.

1 upvote
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Mar 6, 2013)

There is no way to legalize theft, except in a (theoretical) community where thieves prevail. Until such time, any and all creative works and products belong to their authors, unless sold for money or some other means of recompensation has been arranged.
Yes, maybe the lazy, the uncreative, and freeloaders would like it different, but people still get paid for their work in order to live, and the World hasn't gone completely nuts - yet. :)

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 6, 2013)

Lets say - theoretically - just for the sake of an argument - that you did put some images in your gallery pages here at DPReview. Lets also say that I liked one of your images and downloaded it and used it for a party invitation to my friends. What would you lose? What would I steal from you?

0 upvotes
Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Mar 7, 2013)

OK, let's say I robbed the bank. It is insured, so the insurance company covers the loss. Simplified: I gain, no-one loses. And yet, if they catch me, I will be drawn and quartered (or maybe only thrown in a hole for several lives).
Since we live in the society which does not allow illegal taking of other people's property.
Such as money. And bread. And honor. And property, which includes intellectual property (representing a total of time, knowlege, resource and effort invested in its creation, together with its earning potential). This question has been regulated in Ten Commandments, also way back before that, in all civilizations. Funnywise, there was a code of honor among thieves, too, and heads were rolling for theft - even in such company.
I think you know it already, so there shouldn't be any new moments about it. And a theft is a theft is a theft, regardless of the fact that the whole caste of people live very well indeed by twisting and distorting that fact since Day One.

Comment edited 27 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Delacosta
By Delacosta (Mar 7, 2013)

@OldArrow:

The aggressive suing of everyone left, right, and centre for ridiculous sums of money is a very American pursuit. I would not consider it to be any part of "civilization".

0 upvotes
MarkInSF
By MarkInSF (Mar 7, 2013)

The Ten Commandments now? Sorry, they were talking about theft of tangible property, largely on the principle that you were depriving the owner the use of their goods. If you stole their cow, they had no milk.

Societies have had various ideas about the rights of authors to benefit from their works (the right to milk the cow), but the first formal statutes establishing the general idea of a copyright are only about 300 years old. Before affordable printed books there was not much need for a law, though governments and church authorities often tried to control the dissemination of dangerous ideas by restricting copying. Printing made that ubiquitous, with tbe exclusive licenses granted by censors to publishers (for fees, of course) being the basis for later patent and copyright law. The rights of authors to profit from their works isn't established until those later statutes

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Mar 7, 2013)

"Lets say - theoretically - just for the sake of an argument - that you did put some images in your gallery pages here at DPReview. Lets also say that I liked one of your images and downloaded it and used it for a party invitation to my friends. What would you lose? What would I steal from you?"

Lets say - theoretically - just for the sake of an argument - someone borrows your home while you're traveling, or sleeps with your wife or girlfriend. You never find out, and you never suffer any negative consequences whatsoever. Maybe it even helped in some ways. What would you lose? What would be taken from you?

1 upvote
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 7, 2013)

Sorry, but I find both parallels to totally bogus. In both cases you did or might harm someone, physically or mentally. Robbing banks definitely hurts the people involved and is a big problem for the society.

If you think me using your images from the net for a birthday invitation is in the same ball park, then you have very strange priorities IMHO.

BTW - just for the record. In the case of my girlfriend sleeping with someone else, I dont know if that really is illegal in US. Is it? Its more of a moral and trust thing.

0 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Mar 8, 2013)

That's part of my point, Roland. An action can be clearly wrong without being illegal.

0 upvotes
Vibrio
By Vibrio (Mar 6, 2013)

radio station was wrong in the first place and photographer was being greedy.

Comment edited 24 seconds after posting
4 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 6, 2013)

Very good summary.

0 upvotes
Delacosta
By Delacosta (Mar 7, 2013)

Agreed. 'Nuff said.

0 upvotes
JohnyP
By JohnyP (Mar 6, 2013)

I think the laws should be amended: any content posted online by copyright holder should lose copyright protection and should be open to reproduction, modification and derivative works.

If you don't want others to be exposed to your work - open a gallery or travel and display your works on tour.

time to clear our courts of these nonsensical cases.

3 upvotes
mpgxsvcd
By mpgxsvcd (Mar 6, 2013)

I think the laws should be amended: any content posted online by copyright holder should lose copyright protection and should be open to reproduction, modification and derivative works.

If you don't want others to be exposed to your work - open a gallery or travel and display your works on tour.

time to clear our courts of these nonsensical cases.

Then I will be the first to just steal your idea and post it as my own because I think it is a good one.

11 upvotes
Vibrio
By Vibrio (Mar 6, 2013)

oh dear

2 upvotes
Edwaste
By Edwaste (Mar 6, 2013)

I can see why someone would feel that way if they had nothing worth protecting, or sharing.

7 upvotes
GraemeF
By GraemeF (Mar 6, 2013)

That's the most ridiculous comment I've ever heard! So if you're a photographer who runs a website as part of your business to advertise your work or sell images to customers, it's OK for me to steal them from your website to make money from them?

7 upvotes
Fatality
By Fatality (Mar 6, 2013)

@JohnyP

Are you mental? You're seriously out of touch with reality..

I presume you never paid for a shooting location, a model, never invested any money in the gear, and most importantly -never took the time to develop skill in your art..

5 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 6, 2013)

The original proposal has its merits.

Of course ... those living on photography will defend their rights with beaks and claws. Thats understood. But ... that does not mean that they are right. Think about it and let it sink in. Even if you dont agree fully. It has some merits. That things put on a web with billions of viewers that can download it without problems cannot really expect all of them to not download the images to use it. That would be naive.

So - if you dont want anyone to use your image - dont put it in sufficient quality on the net. It will be downloaded and used.

0 upvotes
Fatality
By Fatality (Mar 7, 2013)

@Roland

What you don't get Roland, that there is a HUGE difference between personal use (desktop background photo on your PC) and commercial use (photo selling a product/service).

Think about it and let it sink in.

Reading posts on here I find it creepy how many people lack intelligence and common sense..

2 upvotes
graybalanced
By graybalanced (Mar 7, 2013)

"If you don't want others to be exposed to your work - open a gallery or travel and display your works on tour."

And how do you propose that such a photographer promote their galleries and tours of amazing images? By describing them in text only so that they can avoid posting images? "Come to my show, I can't show you any pictures, but trust me, they're really really awesome pictures!!!"

1 upvote
AlphaWill
By AlphaWill (Mar 7, 2013)

Another taker calling the rules for the makers!

2 upvotes
JohnyP
By JohnyP (Mar 7, 2013)

Oh yes, all of you crybabies are world renowned photographers, recognized for your contribution to the art form. That's why you waste your precious living moments on some website arguing with text on your monitors. Way to go!

Your pictures of cats and crows in flight taken with $10,000 setup are definitely worth protection, because no one else with a camera phone has done anything similar. Oh wait, paid photographers are shooting Olympics with iPhones now? Go justify your camera purchase to other "photographers" who don't take pictures.

AlphaWill - takers? I suppose you are a "maker" who has produced something worth taking? Have i seen your photo exhibit somewhere?

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
richygm
By richygm (Mar 6, 2013)

I have to say that in my opinion the radio station behaved reasonably, and the photographer seemed to me to be unpleasant - and greedy.

Comment edited 17 seconds after posting
11 upvotes
LoganVii
By LoganVii (Mar 6, 2013)

The first one, sue the hell out of them and make sure everyone finds out.

6 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 6, 2013)

Why? They used the photo for a more or less internal promotion material. The explanation why they thought it was OK to use it was a little bit dodgy, but not unreasonable. It was obviously a mistake. BTW - dont you have made one of those in your life - mistakes that is?

The law shall be used to catch criminals, and not for harassing clumsy citizens.

BTW - that photographer seems to be a real nasty chick. I dont think she get all that many points from all this.

2 upvotes
okephoto
By okephoto (Mar 7, 2013)

Copyright issues are a huge problem for photographers, myself included. It can get very frustrating trying to deal with the issue and most of the problems I have had are with professionals that should know better.

I wrote an article about this issue in Canada where I live <a href="http://www.kevinokephotography.com/photography-the-internet-and-copyright-infringement/">Photography and Copyright Infringement</a>

I'm sure it's the same everywhere!

Comment edited 49 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
Roland Karlsson
By Roland Karlsson (Mar 7, 2013)

Copyright infringement that hurts the photographer´s business is a huge problem. The infringement that does not, canr be a problem. In this particular case, the radio station would never buy any images from that photographer as she is too expensive. So, the usage can never hurt her.

She might not like it, but thats another business altogether. People do lots of things I dont like. Things that are perfectly legal.

In this particular case, the usage was illegal. But, you can´t claim it hurt her.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
Total comments: 255
12