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    • In 2019 twice that I know of my images have been STOLEN, and I don't use that word lightly by a For Profit company for their gain.

      I received zero remuneration in either case, one company was small and I would call the other mid sized, but a global operator. In both cases I was not contacted by the companies or their agent for use of my property, but it was used regardless.

      Invoices were sent, not paid, images were taken down, in one case I was blocked across social media by them, so now I have to rely on other to recognise my images and send me a screenshot if any of my images are seen in places they seem out of place, and no credit is given, or a watermark seen.

      This reached a point that annoyed me so much I wrote an article, just to vent, and posted it on my website (HERE) it got shared, more than a few times, and was read a lot. Since then it's all been quiet.

      Right up to this week...

      This week a photographer friend of mine, Tim Burke, had an image stolen by a large, a very large corporation, from here I'll let him explain - (some of this is screenshots)

      I didn't want to do this. I really, really didn't want to do this. I begged and pleaded with this company, for days, to speak with me diplomatically about paying me for the work that was stolen from me.

      It's one thing, as a massive for-profit company, to use an artist's work without reimbursing that artist... It's another to go through the vagrant effort of downloading that image, conscientiously editing that image and rebranding it as your own, using your own logos.

      It takes a whole other level of apathetic-disregard to respond, justifying their actions, by telling me, "Everybody steals your work... I'll offer you the same price that the thieves are selling it for"

      (I'm not making that up... Read the email response)

      Many of these companies know that barely-scraping-by artists can't afford intellectual property rights attorneys so they take the gamble and steal it anyways.

      This is like me stealing your car and selling it BACK to you for whatever the market value is ...for stolen cars!

      I'm attaching a bunch of images to this in hopes that you share it. The first image is a screenshot of the original stolen and rebranded photo. The second is the email response that I received from the company.

      The third is a screenshot of MY stolen photo that SOMEBODY already stole... That they are using to make their offer

      Please friends, feel free to let this company how you feel about this unethical behavior.

      OZtrail SA OZtrail Australia

      Director of Marketing OZtrail

      Director of Marketing Seagull Industries

      Company Chairmen

      I really hope you got this far and didn't dismiss it as TLDR

      This isn't the first time this has happened to Tim, this is why he is so irate, before this BMW, not a dealership, the big one, BMW Motorrad stole and image from him

      He contacted them, they asked what he wanted for the image. He replied "some brake pads."

      Their response was, "we don't give out free product."

      His response, "Neither do I."

      Their response...they blocked him across ALL social media and then still used his image in an international advertising campaign...they settled out of court

      @Chris please tag in as many photographers as possible from Cake, to give this some leverage

      @Chris is as the founder of one of the worlds largest photo hosting sites (SmugMug) you must have come across this more than a few time in your career?

      What is the solution, is there a solution?

      How do we stop this?

      Can we stop this?

      Do we trust in metadata, watermarks, small lo-res images, integrity of people employed in marketing to actually search for the owner of a shot before using it, or what?

      Is this a thing? Is it really possible?

      In my article I refer to another great article about this issue, I'm tagging it HERE so ideas, thoughts, resources are on one conversation

      If there are other resources please link them so other photographers will be aware, this is becoming a growing problem, not just in the US but worldwide...interested to see some of the responses

    • I had one of my images stolen by a Televangelist Church for a Billboard. Cruel irony for an atheist I tells ya.

      But in answer - I don't think you can beat it.

      No amount of watermarking or meta data will stop someone who doesn't care or has no morals - and there are plenty of those. All of it is very easy to beat.

      Best you can do is go after them for compensation. Some you might win - some you won't. I've had some taken down, one offered compensation and some - like the Church - never responded. My attitude now is if I don't want it stolen - don't put it online.

    • Why isn’t there a professional photographers union? (Or is there, in which case what are they doing?) that would give some clout to the industry.

      What steps does Cake take to protect posted images? I asked in another thread if the content from deleted posts was stored elsewhere or were those also deleted, since photos are re-sized by another company, but I don’t think anyone knew the answer.

    • Why isn’t there a professional photographers union?

      I guess for the same reason there's no software engineers union. I stumbled on a very good explanation on Quora recently, will see if I can find a link.

      Update: there it is -

    • Hmm. I don't find that argument very convincing. Even if 20% of the people earn 80% of the income, 100% of the people don't want their work stolen. Furthermore, a photographers organization (maybe it's called a 'guild' rather than a 'union') doesn't necessarily need to fix prices, which seems to be what that opinion is focussed on, It needs to protect people from being taken advantage of. An enterprising lawyer or an insurance company could do it. But perhaps the issue is that photography has the impression of being cheap, and that therefore photographers as a group don't have a lot of money, and there are more lucrative places to direct one's efforts.

      Online photography theft is a common problem, though. Complaints show up almost weekly on Peta Pixel and F-Stoppers. I'd have thought more solutions would have presented themselves by now (apart from @DangerDave 's sensible but unsatisfying one).

    • Why isn’t there a professional photographers union?

      I’ve belonged to teachers’ unions for the sole reason that they provided phenomenal liability insurance if a student’s parents ever sued you (the schools either have their own insurance or self-insure).

      If there were enough professional photographers willing to kick in money for a law firm to aggressively go after the companies with the deepest pockets, you *might* make it more expensive for companies to cheat you versus paying you what you deserve. Emphasis on might.

      I know of a business owner who was given a letter from Getty Images’s law firm and he ponied up the required money post-haste and made sure to never use one of their images without permission again.

      @Jain do you know anything about this?

    • Everything on the web wants to be free, remember??!! I said, sardonically.

      You can only upload small size files - less than 600 pixels or so, but that also limits how they look too. - and with the latest round of AI-built up-rezzing software, like that offered by Topaz labs that may not even help much.

      You can do reverse searches for your images somewhere on the web with, but that does one no good for images used in hard copy printed material

      I have a faint memory that wxwax had a image poached for use in a bill board several years ago, but I am having difficulty digging the links up on the web yet. Anyone here remember anything about that? Since it was a county council or something, I think they finally paid him to avoid the bad publicity, but my memory may be in error about the whole story - I found the link with some help, and it turns our wxwax was in error, it really wan't his image. Ah well!!

      I know there has been some discussion of the use of block chain style software to mark ownership of digital files, including images, but one would still have to have some method of enforcement of digital ownership rights.

      Here is a link with specific steps to take to try to prevent theft and to deal with theft and recover financially.

    • Even if 20% of the people earn 80% of the income, 100% of the people don't want their work stolen

      Agreed, I was responding solely to the union question (with union meaning the thing most often attributed, that is, a labour union (I am not well-versed enough in US law to fetch a proper legal definition of one).

    • Yep - I think 'Getty Images coming out with all Lawyers blazing' is one way. If you have a killer image - license it with them or Photodisc or similar. You lose some of the rights and most of the profit - but it's less likely to be stolen and at least you get 'something' for it. Not exactly a fantastic solution though is it

      Another way is put it on and hope (probably in vain) that somebody donates for it.

      >>(apart from @DangerDave 's sensible but unsatisfying one). << I've always promised quantity not quality :-(

    • The big issue is, in a lot of people's minds, if it's on the internet is free game to take and use whatever you want.

      All photographers in most cases are asking for is; credit, and bigger projects for people to pay fair market value for their work.

      People who are not creators have a standard response - 'it's just a photo, what's the problem?'

      Moral values are diminishing because the world is becoming faceless

    • I hate to say it, but it reminds me of porch pirates who steal packages and the people who smash car windows to steal stuff. When it happens to you it’s completely enraging, but law enforcement rarely does anything about it if you file a report so the thieves keep thieving.

      I do believe Getty’s dominance is largely due to their lawyering tactics. I just gave a TEDx talk with some images that weren’t mine. I wanted to make damn sure I was covered, but I couldn’t fully understand Getty’s terms so I avoided them because I fear their lawyers might come for me.

      With SmugMug, we default pro accounts to lower-res images, try to make it easy to add a watermark, and to pay for digital copies, but beyond that the Internet is a dangerous place to post your best, high-res images...sadly.

      I love to post images on Cake that I discover on the net of spiders or whatever, but it can be really tough to find out who the photographer is to give credit. Copies of the images multiply like rabbits.

    • Yes. On unions, there isn't an American photographers "union" but several associations provide advocacy and legal support to members. NPPA, ASMP and APA are typically the leaders in lobbying, along with DMLA. ASMP has a legal action fund that helps its members with specific copyright cases.

      The Copyright Alliance is made up of many associations including photographer associations.

      As for the Getty "cease and desist" letters, I have sent out the same type of letters for photographers and agencies who found violations, as well as helped businesses on the receiving end negotiate back licensing fees.

    • I'm one of those photographers who has been with Getty since it took over Tony Stone Images, and I produced many, many Rights Managed images for Getty, which provided me a fine living (note the past tense). I still have a lot of both RM and RF images on Getty's website, but I couldn't afford to buy film and have it processed with what I make now. Some sales give me -- no joke -- $ .04 (yes, that's four CENTS). I changed careers.

      However, be advised that when Getty finds an unauthorized use, my experience has been that they have gone thru all the legal paperwork to get the violator to pay up, but then do not follow what used to be the 3x the usual fee standard. Their interest is to turn the violator into a regular client, and they do that by charging the client the normal fee w/ no additional penalty.

      Of the half-dozen times I have been contacted by Getty legal for verification that the image illegally used was mine, I cannot recall a single time when I saw any extra money when the sale was finally paid -- if it was paid for.

      As someone else said, do not DO NOT DO NOT post an image on the web unless you are willing to have it stolen and used for who knows what. Yes, you can pursue a company to the ends of the earth, but unless you have a LOT of money, forget it.

      Most uses of images are small, so even an iPhone photo can serve a client, and up-rezing files is not that difficult.

      And to all those who are happy to give their photos away for the thrill of seeing it published, consider this: if the potential user likes the photo enough to want to use it, then they will pay for it. Don't give it away. Call a working photographer or go online and search stock prices.

      good luck

    • I had one of my images stolen by a Televangelist Church for a Billboard. Cruel irony for an atheist I tells ya.

      Very fine psychology involved in that line of work, eh?


    • Hi HBE and welcome to Cake. 🎂 Fascinating post.

      I was just on the phone with the head of marketing for one of the bigger stock agencies, and she said the only ones who make money on stock anymore are studios in Eastern Europe. They keep their costs low and churn out the images, using a lot of analytics to figure out what sells.

      Is that true?

    • I think you kind of hit the nail on the head with the part about SmugMug on the pro accounts only showing low res images.

      This was the issue with Tim's photo it was a hi-res image just out there, and a good one too. This doesn't make it OK for it to be stolen and used but it does most likely make it the reason it was stolen.

      I guess the moral of the story kind of is - only share lo res images, regardless how good it is, more than phone sized, it wouldn't be good enough to quality to steal, but tif they really want the image they MIGHT contact you for a hi-res version and pay for it

    • @HBE, you are absolutely right about the $.04 royalty on statements. Last year, I analyzed 15 years of sales from one prolific stock shooter, and from 2003 to 2017 the average price-per-sale went from $117.00 to $7.41. The license types were 85% RM / 12% RF / 3% video.

      I also agree that agencies no longer seriously apply the "3x the usual fee" price for violations that we set as an industry standard for stock in the 1980s. That language was clearly listed in every delivery memo and invoice, and probably still is, but it's ignored. Earlier in this thread, I mention Permission Machine that digitally tracks violations and attempts to collect fees on behalf of the photographer for a percentage of the amount collected (and there are several companies doing the same).

      As a test, I ran 57 of my blog post images through the machine (which is based on Google's reverse-image tracking software) and was quite surprised to see the many violations. Of course, most were not worth the time and effort it takes to track down the responsible person and collect. The systems are focused on identifying cases that the company is the most likely to recover damages from / sell licenses to. 

      The "remedy" for the violator is typically to just remove the photo, as a DMCA Takedown notice gives violators a chance to do. The DMCA includes the "safe harbor" provision which protects websites from taking blame when it comes to copyright takedowns.

      If thumbnail reference images (served up via link to the original) could be tracked so the photographer could be paid for display usage, that would help. We see this constantly when an article's featured image is shared with the snippet via social media. But since the user isn't hosting the image, case law has ruled that this is not copyright infringement. And the publisher, who paid a flat fee license for a single article usage, is not paying the photographer extra for those impressions.

      BTW, I know many of the original Tony Stone photographers (Darrell Gulin, Art Wolfe, Frans Lanting, Stuart and Michelle Westmoreland, Tom Bean, and Bob Daemmrich come to mind) so I'm sure we have friends and colleagues in common! Welcome to Cake!

    • It came from hard experience. We used to default to larger sizes, thinking pros would want the best displays, and then pros got their images stolen. We discovered that Hell hath no fury like pros whose images are stolen.

      We also provide a way to choose embed sizes.

    • We Getty photographers, in frustration at some of the dealings of Getty images around our images (=our money), formed a group to address the issues. The problem is that freelance photogs are individuals all running their own businesses in their own ways; we could never really get enough momentum and cohesion to deal with it. The same is true of non-stock photogs. And, there are some serious laws about pricing (the issue for stock photographers at the time) and unions, etc.

      ASMP was a fine organization, but never had the clout or interest or money to address these issues.

      Photogs' union great idea, but never worked.

    • the only ones who make money on stock anymore are studios in Eastern Europe. They keep their costs low and churn out the images, using a lot of analytics to figure out what sells.

      Chris, I have no idea; stopped shooting stock because not worth the costs any more (tho it was great in the salad days..). I have a hard time believing that those guys in "Eastern Europe" -- can do it: cameras are expensive. Model costs may be much less (most porn comes from "eastern Europe), but they still need art direction, props that work anywhere in the world (appropriate clothes that don't look like cheap junk).

      Here's an ad for a business presentation company I found in a British biz mag I found on a flight to London on BA. Example of crap art direction in every way possible.


    • Absolutely have common friends via TSI/GI.

      Bob Daemmrich? funny; he was a newspaper staff photog; never really thought of him as a TSI/GI photog, but he did have some out there. My direct email is now heart.before.ego at gee mail (dot) com if you want to talk outside of CAKE and will give you my real name, which I don't use here because of GI.