Saturday morning I got to take a ‘Mom-break’ and I lounged on a chair in my living room while Navy and Tink played nearby. With my phone in hand, I did what every other mother does these days when they have a second: perused Facebook (what have we come to? LOL).
As I scanned and read about what was going on in the worlds of all my peeps, a photo slid into view. Someone had posted it on a friend’s wall and said, “Is this your son?!” It caught my attention because it was a picture I had taken. This picture, actually:
And this person found it, logo free, on a Facebook group’s page. It was one of those user-made pages where the admin on it posts pictures of people in the military to honor them and their families. Both myself and my friend (we can call her J) immediately clicked over to this military page and there was our little guy, K.
See all those “likes” and comments?! They were even higher before I had the image taken down. It’s incredibly humbling to read and see all that positive support and love for a photo I took. BUT. This photo was used WITHOUT PERMISSION. I sent a message to the page owner asking them to take it down and to please let me know where they obtained the image from. I also suggested sending a note of apology to K’s mother, who had already commented on the photo asking the admin to take it down immediately. Sharing, editing, printing, doing ANYTHING to a professional photo is illegal. This is a big deal. Copyright law is no joke.
Luckily for us, as I know this is not always the case, this page admin was very apologetic and removed the photo immediately. So, a big thank you to that person for doing the right thing.
The next step was finding out the source of this issue. The admin told me they found it on We Heart It. I went over to the site and tried to locate it but that site has an insane amount of photos on it and I couldn’t locate it using keywords or anything. So, I did a reverse image search on Google. If you’ve never heard of this, it’s pretty great. You upload a photo to Google and it locates it on the web for you.
And this is when my jaw hit the floor.
This image is EVERYWHERE. Everywhere. Like, whoa. If I had gotten credit for this picture, Mike could probably retire and we could have 5 houses if all the people who posted it on their tumblr accounts booked a session with me. But. there is no logo on it. There is no way to trace it back to me.
And it’s my own fault.
Those of you who have worked with me know how very seriously I take protecting you, your family, and your information. I am a wife, a mother, and I own my own little business in my own little spot of the world. I love what I do but I have no intention of becoming some giant corporation with lots of photographers working for me. Nope, my highest aspirations for my business are to have enough to build a studio on top of the garage where I can meet with clients, have portrait sessions, show off my work, and, (sometimes more importantly), store all my gear! And maybe get a high school or college student to come do some office hours for me now and again. That’s all. I read every day about ways to promote your photography business all over the internet. I don’t feel comfortable doing that – this little blog and my Facebook page are enough for me.
But, this one time…
I LOVE the image of K we’re talking about here. I was SUPER proud of it. One of those, “oh hey, maybe I AM pretty good at this whole photography thing” moments. So, I submitted it as an entry for Photographer’s Magazine. I read their requirements. I got specific permission from J to go ahead and try for it. I uploaded it, and we crossed our fingers. Then I pinned it to my Pinterest page to try to get people to go vote for it.
I pinned the image from the contest.
This whole viral photo was my fault. J and I have been in constant contact since this all came to light on Saturday morning. Luckily, she is so completely wonderful and understanding. Her concern was that you could see K’s last name on his uniform. I told her that luckily the photo uploaded was low quality for the contest so no one could zoom in to read it. (For the photo above, I deleted it completely). Her other concern was that I got no credit for it (bless her heart!).
So, here we are. I’m going to try to get credit for it and I’m hoping you can help. I can’t stop the photo that’s out there from being shared a jillion times. But MAYBE, just maybe, I can get the photo above out there with my logo on it enough to get at least some of the credit to come back to me. How can you help? Share it. Share this link. Pin this photo to Pinterest with a link to this post. Tweet it with a link to this post. Put it on your tumblr account if you happen to have one. Let people know I took it.
4/10/16 EDIT: I don’t want to remove content from this post as it’s been shared so many times in the photography world but I not longer wish for you to try and share the image around so I can try to regain credit. More importantly, if you want to share my words, I would prefer you did that. The image of K here is one of my favorites from many years ago. I love it. Clearly, it’s a good one. But my mission here is not about my getting credit, it’s about protecting him. It’s also about spreading the word about copyright infringement and ethics when it comes to internet sharing. If you want to share this post to spread the word, please do. You can also share its follow-up post. Because yes the issue is still popping up. Photographers run into it all the time. Please take care of each other and share only what you know is original content or properly referenced content.
For the rest of you clients out there: I assure you, this was the only time I ever shared an image in this way. And, this is a great reminder of why your images get posted on my blog and Facebook with my giant logo on it. It helps protect YOU by making people need permission to use the image. Now, of course some rebels could still post an image they found on the internet even with the logo (or without with some extensive Photoshop skills), but it at least makes it really really hard for them to do so. I’m in the business of making my clients happy with images they can love for the rest of their lives. Part of making you feel happy is making you feel safe and well taken care of. I hope I accomplish this.
4/10/16 EDIT: With all this being said, just because it isn’t watermarked does not mean it isn’t covered by copyright. This image is mine whether it’s watermarked to prove it or not. It’s my fault the image wasn’t watermarked but it going viral is a completely different story. It went viral because this image was stolen over and over and over. All images I take are my intellectual property and are covered by copyright. The bottom line here is, do not use images that you don’t have permission to use. Always credit the source. Crediting the page you found the image on does not necessarily credit the source… you should follow the trail back to the ORIGINAL source.
J had one last concern about the photo – all the thousands (seriously, hundreds of thousands) of comments say something about the boy in the photo and his dad. Well. It happens to be his MOTHER in that photo! While both of K’s parents have served (Dad is actually still serving), the boots, legs, and hands in this photo belong to his incredibly brave mom. Here’s the original post with further proof. When we’re all sharing the image above on our various social media platforms, let’s try to share that it’s Mom-and-Son, too!
In the end, the point today is, I’m doing my best to take care of you, folks. Always be sure and share images that aren’t yours with permission and with any logos or copyright information displayed. Don’t break copyright laws! Take care of each other and yourselves!
Thanks for listening.