As a mostly amateur, but sometimes pro photographer, I struggle with finding the perfect balance between being able to share my work and also protect it from being misused. I’ve blogged about people stealing my photos before, and I’m certainly not alone in having this happen (this guy’s story is particularly unbelievable). But as I begin to sell more of my work online, I’m finding it increasingly frustrating. Half the time when I find my work ripped off, I would have gladly let the person use my photo had they simply asked permission and then acknowledged me as the creator of the work.
The latest case of this blatent sort of copyright infringement that I’ve discovered is a site called weheartit that is copying and indexing millions of photos, many of which have been clearly marked as copyright, and even worse, many of which are copied off of sites offering them for sale. This isn’t the first site to do this, as Tumblr has already been driving many a photographer crazy for years, and there are plenty of others out there, but this site is particularly malicious in that it doesn’t seem to have any other purpose aside from ripping off people’s work.
The agency that I have some photos licensed with, Getty Images, will go to bat for photographers and have their legal team contact these sites to remove photos that they represent. Unfortunately, beyond this, it’s up to individual photographers to use reverse photo search engines like TinEye and to keep a close eye on referring site statistics to try to catch their work being misused. The internet is kind of big though, so it’s impossible to catch everything.
As educators then, I feel it’s incredibly important that we instill a strong sense of ethical behaviour in our students when it comes to using work that they’ve found online. There are fantastic sources like Creative Commons that students have available to them to legally access and use creative works, and we as teachers need to be making the use of these sorts of tools a standard requirement. Whether it is written, sung aloud, painted, danced, or in a photo, work created by someone else must be acknowledged and ethically reproduced. The medium does not matter, and any other sort of behaviour is plagiarism.