I’m not the first person who has had their work taken off photo.net or some other web site and used without permission, and I’m certain I won’t be the last. My experience may help someone deal with the problem if it happens to them.
A passion that has developed over the last 10 years is horse photography; I’ve gone from being quite scarred of the huge beasts with their big teeth and iron shod hooves to being very fond of them. I’ve even learned to ride so that I could have a better understanding of the equestrian world.
Visiting a local stable in 2009, the horses were generally quite excitable and running around much more than normal. A couple of the horses showing classic Flehmen responses, after detecting an interesting scent and I managed to shoot off about a dozen frames of one particular horse.
I posted one image to Flickr and Photo.net the same day.
Sometime later, I spotted the image with “hurrr I’m a hoers” on it. And before I knew it, it had gone viral; it had become a meme.
Wikipedia defines a meme as “an idea, behavior or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.” In effect what that means is that everyone who wants to, pasts the image somewhere or writes (mostly inane) comments under it. There seem to be a fair number of web sites that deal with memes and a fair number of people who put together a collection of them on a third party web site. At one point, I did a Google image search on the meme and retrieved several pages of the image, an absolute nightmare.
At other times, I’ve also found the unmutilated image on various web sites, including one that likened Katherine Heigel to the horse.
I wasn’t too happy that someone had taken my work and, I though, trashed it and so as far as I could, I wanted to get the images taken down. Looking at the sites that display the image, I realised that several of them were forum web sites and others that suggested that the chances of getting anything done about it were slim. However, there were a number of sites that I use and I decided that the battles I should fight were the ones I knew I could win (yes, I have read the Art of War). So where people have posted the photo or the meme on sites like Facebook, DeviantART, Flickr, Photobucket and a few others, I would contact the sites and get them taken down. The only web site that failed to remove the image as soon as I contacted them was hollywood.com, which needed some “encouragement.”
Here are a couple of examples or how to get photos taken down
The people responding to the DMCA notices at some sites may get back to you for clarification and I’ve had contact from Facebook and Flickr asking for further details and they have been very helpful.
Not everyone is helpful, six weeks after serving the notice on one web site, I’m still waiting for images to be removed from DIYLOL and I had to send a big invoice to Hollywood.com site before they removed the shot.
After removing the image, one person replaced it with an image saying “stop SOPA.” I took the screen grab below after getting the meme removed from one Facebook page. Clearly upset.
Should I be upset at seeing my work spread around like this and if so why? Well, for one thing, Getty Images who have taken some of my equestrian work and have not touched that one, so I’m potentially out of pocket. The chances of selling that image are probably gone. And without wanting to sound like a dog in a manger, I don’t want someone taking and, I think, trashing my work.
How to find an image that’s been used (and/or misused)
There are a number of options available, probably the best known is www.tineye.com who have browser plugins for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer & Opera. You right click the image and click “Search on Tineye”. In Google Images you can upload an image url or even the image itself.
I’ve also found a fair number of other images being used without permission, simply by looking for a credit “photo by Peter Meade.” I appears that a number of people genuinely believe that if you give credit for a photo, then you can use it. This may well stem from the creative commons license. Other people simply believe that if it’s on the web then it’s available. At least those are the “reasons” people have used.
This has just been a single case, one of many. Over time Iâve discovered that people taking and using others’ photographs isn’t just restricted to the odd shot on a meme website or on Facebook; in the first half of 2012 alone, I’ve had to deal with everything from small travel web sites to a major national newspaper. Of course if you are happy to let others use your photos and you like the idea of them being seen by a wider audience, then this is all a non story, but if you want to maintain control of your intellectual property or copyright material then itâs useful to know what to do. Hopefully, my experiences may help when you find someone using your work when you don’t want them to. The price of peace (of mind) is eternal vigilance.