Photography theft and how to protect your work.
by Peter Zack
We’ve had a lot of interest in this topic and if you have a situation where you hired a fake photographer or had your content stolen, send us the details. Get clear information, screen shots of the site, email and if possible physical addresses and phone numbers. Record any data on professional organizations that they claim to belong to. Proof is key! Send us an email through our Facebook page with the information and any attachments. We’ll create a group on that page and also here on the main page for everyone to see. A public record of these thieves for both photographers and clients to check. Remember, some of your content might be stolen but as in the Meagan Kunert case, she stole from many different ones and by exposing the thief here, you can help the entire community.
A colleague has begun a blog post t make these fake photographer’s sites and names known. You can visit it here -Photo Stealers- and if you have something to submit there, just follow the instructions above. I’m also going to add this blog site to our main index so it doesn’t become lost in the archives.
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To follow up from our earlier article on Meagan Kunert’s theft of multiple photographers work that she posted on her web site. Photographers are checking to see if the same thing has happened to them. In my case, I found a wedding planning site that was using one of my images as their own and have had them attribute it to me. Now a colleague has also found a direct and large scale rip off of his work on another photographers site. I’ll show you that further into this article.
First how do you protect yourself? Go to Google images and you’ll see a way see if your published work is posted elsewhere on the web. You will see a small icon that looks like a camera in the right hand corner of the search box. Click on the camera and then you will open a new window where you can check your images. Post the image URL in the search box or upload a published image from your computer. Other than Internet explorer, you can drag and drop the image to check it and use smaller web sized images to speed up the process, just make sure the EXIF data is intact as well.
You can do exactly the same thing with a site called TinEye. I would recommend trying both as Google images tends to look for ‘similar’ images and you might get a bunch of green grass shots that look similar to your green grass shot but are not the same. Another tool you can use with Google Image search is here and it works very well.
Second to check text, go to Copyscape and put your web page URL in the search box. It will check to see if your content has been copied. If you are using a WordPress Platform, you can use these various Plagiarism tools to protect your work. You could also use Google Alerts to check for certain content keywords. Yet another would be Digital Fingerprints for WordPress.
Sadly the other partial protection is to clearly watermark your images. It’s not foolproof, as a person who wants to make the effort will remove the watermark if they have the Photoshop skills or recrop the shot if the watermark is only along an edge of the shot. Also put unique keywords in your text. If you have references to XYZ photography somewhere on the page so if it’s copied, it will be more easily found.
Digimarc. If you want to take the extra step to protect your images, you could use Digimarc which is an Adobe Photoshop plugin. From the web site: allows you to embed imperceptible, persistent digital watermarks into your images to communicate ownership and other information, wherever the images travel across the Internet. A digital watermark embedded in your image carries a unique ID and can link to contact information or a website for viewers interested in learning more about you or purchasing your artwork. The watermark stays with your image regardless of the path it travels across the Internet. No matter where your digital image ends up, others will be able to determine your copyright ownership and find you.
Another case of a Professional Photographers work being stolen
Ashton Lamont is a colleague and excellent photographer based out of Reading, Berkshire UK. With all the theft of real professional’s work happening, he decided to check who might be using his work. He used some of the tools I mentioned above. Well unfortunately another photographer based in Victoria BC copied his work and posted it as his own. Really what a dumb move. The photos are clearly taken at old world locations. Victoria BC is pretty far from old world. It’s blatantly clear who owns the work.
The work that was stolen is samples of albums that Ashton has made for his clients. Creating these albums cost a huge amount of money, takes hours of design work for each album and takes time to properly photograph to present in an appealing way on his web site. To just go and rip this off is frankly appalling. What’s even worse is the photographer who stole the work is a member of several professional photography associations. A direct quote from their site:
We take our photography seriously and are bound by standards of practice and performace by being charter members of the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC), Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) and Canadian Association of Photographic Art (CAPA).
So here is the work that’s been stolen in Ashton’s Album section. If you click on his link (it will open in a new window), you will see the originals that are identical to the screen shots below. The screen shots are of the pages from (how ironic is that name) Noble Photography. Now a couple of the really dumb things about this theft is, because Ashton embosses his albums with the names of the bride and groom, the thief has to use the same names in the descriptions. Very hard to hide from that. Second is the quality of the work. Ashton has a solid high quality body of work that is very consistent. If I were to assess the Noble samples, I’d recommend they get a job flipping burgers and sell their gear. They are in no way capable of matching Ashton’s work.
Now, it’s clear Ashton’s work has been used without his permission. The penalty in Canada is $1million and/or 5 years in jail per occurrence. I would hope the aforementioned professional bodies would support Ashton’s claims and strip this thief of any accreditation and also assist him in any prosecution he decides to follow. As has been discussed before, Gary Fong received a $240,000 award in US federal court for a very similar offence. Let’s hope Canada’s copyright act is equally enforced.
I’ll save you a step, share this article on Facebook on the Noble Photography Facebook page here and tell them what you think of these actions.
Yet again, another photographers work stolen.
In this case, not only the photos but the text and 95% of the entire site. Martin Leckie is a multi-award winning photographer (see below) who just discovered his site was stolen. I don’t understand the thinking of these thieves, Martin has a high profile and his site and work would be easily recognized. These people will be found and I hope face either jail time, big fines or both. I guess it’s a case of ‘So you want to avoid all the work and learning of getting to this level? Steal his entire online portfolio and jump the years of hard work it takes to be a professional.’ If you steal from someone with that type of profile, you will get caught, I hope no matter what your profile level, you are not faced with someone stealing your work. We will continue to publish articles like this to help the photographic community find and expose these thieves.
The link to the stolen work is here. Martin is currently taking actions to have this removed and is speaking to lawyers with the intention of further action. So I suspect the site will disappear shortly. Here are some screen shots of the offending site and Martins to compare. You can see more of his work here. Click on the images below to see larger versions and use the back button to return to this article.
Martin used Copyscape to discover the site and it found the fake site in about a minute. If you think your website host or designer will check if the material you are submitting is stolen, think again. Swiftcreations used this web site as a portfolio example on their site until they were notified by Martin’s lawyers about the stolen content and the example was removed.
Martin A. Leckie L.B.I.P.P. L.M.P.A. L.S.W.P.P.
Sim 2000 UK Wedding Album Designer of the Year 2009
SWPP 2 Gold Awards for Wedding Photography 2008
SWPP UK Children Photographer of The Year 2007
SWPP Runner Up Overall UK Photographer of the Year 2007
MPA Scottish Portrait Photographer of The Year 2000
MPA Award for Avant Garde Wedding 2007
MPA Gordon McGowan Award for Innovative Portraiture 2004/ 2007
MPA Complete Wedding Award of excellence 2007
MPA 33 Awards of Excellence 1989 – 2007
BIPP Scottish Photographer of The Year 1997
BIPP 17 Awards of Excellence 1989 – 2005
I never ask a reader to do this but I feel this is an issue that needs as much exposure as possible. Copy the article to your blog, post it to a sharing site like Stumbleupon or Digg. Share it on Facebook and any place you think other photographers might see it. We need the community to find out if their work is being copied and go after these thieves.
If you have tried the tools we posted above to protect your work and found cases where someone has stolen your work, we want to hear your story. Please post a comment below. It’s important to “out” these thieves who are not only stealing your hard work but your income and very likely tarnishing your reputation and the reputation of all photographers who do an honest days work (7 days a week!)
Cheers and good shooting
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Tags: Copyright theft of photography, Image theft, Meagan Kunert, Photographers, Stolen photos, stolen photos. copyright protection, Wedding Photography, Weddings
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