This morning I awoke to a message from a client. The same message she’s had to send me a number of times. You see, an image I took of her son has become very widespread on the interwebs, but not in the right way. Here’s the link to the original story.
This time, someone turned him into an internet meme. And not a nice one, either. I’m flabbergasted.
Since my original post on this issue, the stolen post has come up a number of times. And every time I have to stop what I’m doing and write cease and desist pleas to the person who is spreading the image. Then I have to report said image to all the powers that be (Facebook/Pinterest/etc). That’s when I’m “lucky” enough to have the image posted on forums that have a course of action. I don’t have such luck and then I have to rely on strangers doing the right thing. Sometimes, as in the case noted in the original story linked above, people realize it’s an issue and take it down immediately. Other times, people aren’t so nice.
I don’t watermark images to get my logo noticed. I do it to help deter people from stealing said images and using them inappropriately. A photographer acquaintance was driving down the highway one day and saw a billboard (a billboard!) for some sort of horrible disease that takes the lives of children. And on that billboard was the image of HER child – an image she had taken. The child was alive and well and the image had been used wholly without permission. She was flabbergasted that someone would do such a thing. It’s awful.
I used to watermark my images with a big colorful logo on it in the negative space of the image (somewhere where it was out of the way). Then I had an image of MY daughter stolen that had had such a watermark and someone went ahead and edited it out before claiming it as their own and spreading it all around the internet. So now, I use a smaller, lower opacity watermark (because I don’t want to ruin my images with a big honking logo) but I place it somewhere where it’s always ON the person somehow (usually around the jaw/neck). It makes it less easy to edit out. Of course, people still do.
I’m such a stickler for privacy and for protecting my clients that sometimes I want to get rid of my online presence all together. To expand a photography business (or any business) in any way, the pro’s suggest sharing all over the place, entering photography contests, and using social media. It was entering a (reputable) contest that got me into this mess in the first place with my now famous image (haha, not famous enough to win the contest though!). I stopped sharing images directly onto Facebook a long time ago, though there’s the rare occasion that I share something like a group album from an event (such as the photobooth at the N.I.C.E Conference I just attended). And it’s only been recently that I’ve braved having a public Instagram account. I’ve really been enjoying the sense of community that comes with it. And now I want to close all of these accounts down and hope people call me without ever being able to see any of my work.
In this day in age, I would go out of business immediately. So, I do everything I can to protect my work and I hope for the good in people. Most days, people are good. Some days, even my clients don’t listen and I have to have uncomfortable conversations about taking cell phone images during sessions and why that’s against the contract they signed. Or I have to spend hours tracking down the best course of action for strangers who steal images of little kids. It’s exhausting and debilitating and sad.
My work is my passion. I’m one of the lucky ones who’s making a living out of doing what they love. I am honored by all the people I work with. It’s also the way we pay for the extra’s around here. It’s dance lessons and swim lessons for the kids, clothes and shoes when we need them, etc.
I feel very trampled on right now. And of course, the mother involved in this story is beside herself with rage. Her son is now an internet meme that’s been shared thousands of times. The person who did it thinks its hilarious that the mother is upset (I haven’t actually made contact with him yet…I’m leaving that up to the officials so far) and refuses to take it down. I’ve reported the images to all the powers that be, I’ve done my due diligence (yet again). I am talking to a lawyer (I can’t believe I have to do that). No matter how many times we feel like we have this situation under control, it comes back and rears its ugly head.
Friends, if you see an image of a child and it’s shared without any sort of credit or original location (such as in a meme or one of those random “how cute is this kid” posts we often see), please don’t share it. That’s someone’s child. An innocent. That image itself is someone’s intellectual property. Unless you can be sure it’s being shared with permission, don’t share it. Be the change you wish to see. And always credit the professionals who are doing right by you. Or trying to, anyway.
Thanks for listening.