You stole my photo - Episode 8

Just off to the right of the camera during the report on the new cultural archive announced by the Culture Ministry, was, yes, my photo of Mungal Patasar. Stolen again for the exhibit created to launch the collection of cultural artifacts called Remember When.

I am reliably informed that I wasn't the only person to puzzle over photographs and video that they hadn't remembered licensing to the otherwise commendable effort at launching an online cultural museum.

Here's the thing, if an image, or a video, or a story or any other intellectual property is still owned by its creator, whether or nor it's being actively exploited, the right to make use of that work remains with its creator until a license is negotiated for its use. If you don't do that, you're stealing people's work and it really doesn't matter how noble the cause that you espouse.

So let's get this clear. That photo of Mungal Patasar that you're using in your exhibit must be licensed from me. You have no rights to it and you are stealing it, plain and simple. It isn't even that hard to find out who shot it. You could just ask Mungal, who has had a long relationship with your Ministry.

It isn't as if you're the only people to steal this photo, but don't feel good just because National Geographic did too. A Ministry of Culture and Multiculturalism should begin by having respect for the people actually creating the culture they purport to represent, shouldn't it?

Of course, this might just be a pipe dream. I've seen what you've done with your scans of Jeffrey Chock's photos of a Nrityanjali Dance Theatre. Since all old grayscale negatives need hands on retouching, it's particularly appalling that you felt comfortable posting images of the dancers performing in the snow of technical slackness.

You stole my photo - Episode 8

This isn't the first time that this photo of Modupe Onilu has been used without my permission, but the first time was for an event I had some sympathy for. Onilu's been working hard to raise funds to continue his education as a musician and tossed this photo into a promotion for a fund-raising show.

We had a little exchange of e-mails about it and I gave my blessing for its use that time. Now the photo has showed up again, the identifying copyright information cropped out of it in an advertisement for shows being held as part of the Emancipation celebrations by the Emancipation Support Committee.

This is, in a word, kind of shitty.
Millions of dollars are being spent on this event. People are being flown in to perform. Hundreds of yards of African material are being ironed even as I write this.
Nobody, apparently, has the time to engage in a simple matter of rights clearances for images being used in a television advertisement?

The ad is one of those hastily thrown together things that makes use of clips and stills obviously gathered from myriad sources. It's one of the wonders of our modern age that a Google search can find so much material so quickly and another that almost anyone can create a broadcast quality clip out of it all.

But this sort of nastiness, outright theft of someone else's property with no regard for their rights to the material, will continue until two things happen.

One. The people who commission advertising of all kinds recognise their liability when copyrights are infringed and insist on rights clearances for the material being used in their promotions.

Two. When performers get their acts together and commission photography for publicity use that they can legitimately allow the producers of advertising materials to access when it's time to include their images in this sort of broadcast.

Someone, somewhere, grabbed this photo, originally shot for the online magazine, Outlish, stripped the identifying watermarks from it and made use of it. I don't care how short your deadlines are, nor does any court of law. You clear the works with the rights owner or you don't use the material.

Emancipation Support Committee, I demand to be liberated from this kind of oppression of my civil right to exploit the rewards associated with my hard work. Until then, you stole my photo.

You stole my photo - Episode 7

Okay, Wayne's gone. It's tragic and we all feel a sense of loss. I liked the guy and his dedication to his work. I even photographed him this year, working on the costume that would be his last creation for Trinidad and Tobago Carnival.

But you know what, TV6? That's my photo. I'm guessing that the image was made available by Wayne's family and friends, because when there was a plan to do a Carnival exhibit of the Oval Wall images, I asked his permission to use that image for my submission and I gave him a copy of it.

Of course, if you got a copy of that photo, it's got my sticker on the back of it, but it's likely that you found it somewhere online or in a copy of Caribbean Beat, because that photo's never appeared in the Express.
So while it was all in a good and noble cause, after all the man's work and career deserves a good photo of him at the peak of his powers, you know what? You Stole My Photo. Just sayin'.

You stole my photo - Episode 6

Friends, colleagues...
Yes Ella is a wonderful, impressive woman, and at the risk of calling down some of the power in that voice, she hasn't negotiated with me to give you the right to reproduce my photo of her.
Not that I think that Ella Andall, who walked away from recording music at the height of sidewalk piracy, would knowingly allow a copyright infringement of her own image, of all things.

So let's assume that you grabbed the photo online, or perhaps from the issue of Caribbean Beat it was commissioned for. Now that hardly seems fair, does it?
Particularly since I shoot for not just your competition, but in this case, your specific competition in the women's-issues-in-print-on-Sunday market, Womanwise.

Put that way, just grabbing my photo and using it without either asking or giving credit just seems nasty and spiteful, doesn't it? Particularly since I've allowed you to use other images, for free, in the past with a lil' tiny credit.

It seems like a cruel thing now, doesn't it, to know that you so casually stole my photo. Welcome to the club, you have some quite infamous company here.

You stole my photo - Episode 5

Really, International Soca Monarch organisers?
A two million dollar prize and no budget to pay for image assets to use in your advertising? No attention to copyright clearances and image licensing in an event that's all about the kultear?

Where do I even start with this? Which low-level dude with a pirated copy of After Effects putting together this butchery of graphics do I send an invoice to? Which creative consultant approving this crappy piece of promotion do I brace for a fee?

Really, if you don't care enough to do a decent ad for your big competition what chance do I have of getting paid for this infringement of my copyright?

You stole my photo - Episode 4

I got the link from someone who knew this photo well and kind of suspected that it was being used without authorisation.
They were right.

Posted by to YouTube, the video was Destra's new song for Carnival 2011 and my photograph of her, shot for Womanwise while she was pregnant, for the entire duration of the track.
I e-mailed the poster of the video, Julian's Promos and explained my position.

I don't pursue these kinds of infringements with a view to financial recompense. There's no clear revenue stream for anyone involved, though everyone who participates can benefit from the exposure if appropriate credit is given.

That credit should be negotiated at the time of production, when all the elements are being sourced and assembled. According to the producer of this video, he found the image in a Google image search and saw no credits. I ran the same search and found the image with my copyright notice embedded in it, so that made no sense to me, particularly since the photo is artfully cropped to get rid of my copyright notice.

This was the verbatim response from the IslandMix representative...
"I really wasn't aware of this, the photo showed up in Google and Yahoo photo search with no labels. If it is ok with you I can add your credits over the whole video, or I can delete the video for you."

The terminally curious can run their own Google search and view the results.

My response was as follows...
"Credits would be acceptable. Asking first would be exemplary.

Even found through Google, there would be a watermark on the image and contact and copyright information embedded in the file, so it's not as if the picture was floating around with no home and no owner.

I just ran a search on Google and the copy of the image that it finds is both watermarked and clearly linked to my website, so, not to be contentious or anything, but that response rings a bit hollow. I respect the work of fellow creators and I only ask that they respect my rights in turn.

Finding an image on Google doesn't absolve one from doing due diligence on ownership and negotiating fairly."

Photography theft discussion

Made some contributions to the very interesting comments thread on this post by Aka_Lol on the theft of his image by Newsday.

You stole my photo - Episode 3

This was the image theft that made me realise that everything was stacked against me as a photographer trying to promote work using the Internet in a world where everyone thinks it's okay to just take your stuff and use it.

What would I have to do to pursue my rights as the creator of creative work visible on the Internet?
I'd have to track down the people responsible for the infringement.
I'd have to explain to them that what they had done was wrong and that I expected redress.
I'd have to follow up that with a formal letter and request for payment.
I'd probably have to hound them down for days, weeks or even months if, and only if they actually agreed to pay the requested fee.
If they didn't, I'd then have to institute legal proceedings, quite likely at a cost entirely out of proportion to the value of the infringement, mostly to make a point.
So, I decided to just make the point.

I thank Edmund Prince Nurse, RPA Production of the Downtown Carnival Magazine and even the former Mayor of Port of Spain, Murchinson Brown, who gave his blessings to the project, for helping me to realise that the only approach worth taking would be to learn from the small merchants who have had to deal with microfraud for years, and to pin their crimes to a virtual wall.

Nurse and his artist at RPA Production directly engaged in the theft of my photo of Destra, done exclusively for the Guardian magazine Womanwise, by failing to exercise due diligence over the ownership and rights to the image they so casually used.

In addition, my image had a watermark, identifying me as the author and copyright holder and my web address, which would allow anyone interested in contacting me to do so, purposefully removed.
Former Mayor Brown, you are culpable for endorsing the work of thieves of copyrighted works.

You stole my photo. This is what happens when you do that.

You stole my photo - Episode 2

So I find this out when I get the complimentary tickets for the show.
What do I find? My photograph of Mungal Patasar, done for Caribbean Beat at his home.
Why am I pissed? Because if someone from the San Fernando Jazz Festival had asked, I would have given them permission to make use of the photo, probably in return for... complimentary tickets?
What's going on here is a simple thing that's almost impossible to fix, I think. If you're producing a print project and you don't know where the photographs came from, then as the client, you have a responsibility to ask, because they came from somewhere.
Because when people like me come calling full of righteous anger, we aren't going after some scrunting graphic designer with a heart full of drop shadow, we're coming after the people who earned the real money from the project, we're coming after you.

You stole my photo - Episode 1

It took a couple of months for me to find this, but find it I did, along with another bit of theft in the Downtown Carnival Magazine which I don't have a copy of to scan.

This photograph of Nikki Crosby was done as a promotional image for Gayelle the Channel and while it's quite easily found on Facebook and Flickr, it's clearly watermarked, so the artist who put together this, um, creative collage would have had to remove my clear notice of copyright before merrily carrying on with stealing my work.

Shame on you, and shame on Randy Glasgow, who in promoting creative talent, shouldn't be allowing his artists to steal it so handily. I'm pretty tired of folks who casually steal my work. It's a terrific hassle to chase after miscreants, who for the most part don't want to pay, so I'll happy hang their efforts in this little gallery of copyright infringement shame.