It is not o.k. to sneak into a store or home, pick up something that catches your fancy and slink away without asking or paying for it. Then why do people do that with other people’s work – their photos?
Like this travel writers site Road Junky had an unauthorized photo of mine on their front page. Not only did they not ask my permission, they did not even bother to give copyright acknowledgment. And I found out only because someone recognized it as mine and reported it to me. They wrote back asking – which one? How many stolen photos do these people have on their site? They finally removed my photo without so much an apology.
Usually that’s how we find out our work has been stolen. But last month, for the first time I experienced the direct shock of opening a magazine and seeing my unauthorized photo stare back at me. Someone had handed me the magazine, Kindle, a glossy new magazine that all the Barista cafes in Calcutta stock, and said, “It’s very progressive and targets a younger readership. You should write something in here about your 50 Million Missing Campaign.”
Well I did write ! An angry email to the editor demanding an explanation. The magazine has a disclaimer, which says any photo not credited is courtesy of Reuters. Reuters! Really? The editor hurriedly disclaimed that too. No – it was the sloppy work of some untrained intern who probably thought that stealing was one of the magazine’s policies.
O.K. – I was willing to buy that and give them a chance to make amends. So I emailed that if they reprinted the photo with proper credit, paid me for it and sent a complimentary copy, I would accept that as an apology.
There was no response.
Well – things can happen that held up the response. We’ve had fires and storms in this city. So after a while I sent a ‘test email.’ I said: The silent treatment won’t work with me. I am NOT going to disappear. I am writing to Reuters and I will circulate a blog on this extensively!
Bingo! An immediate response. This time accusing ME of “impatience.”
I retorted: BUT YOU HAVE ALREADY USED MY WORK. SO MY PAYMENT IS PENDING AND NOW I DEMAND YOU MAKE IT IMMEDIATELY. HERE IS THE SWIFT CODE FOR MY ACCOUNT.
Again the wall of silence!
May 25, 2010. Kindle put in an apology in their May issue and sent me a copy of the magazine along with the payment.
If you want to know how things end for me with Road Junky come back to this blog! For this isn’t the end yet! It is very important that all independent writers, journalists and photographers fight back against this kind of rampant unethical behavior on the net and by the media.
If you too have had your photos stolen, here are some tips on how to deal:
1. Put a notice on your site informing visitors that if they see any of your photos used on any internet site or magazine without copyright acknowledgement you would appreciate their informing you.
2. By the same token, keep your eyes open for other people’s photos. Often people in a photo community group like flickr do recognize each other’s works. For eg. this photo by Dutch photographer Mirjam Letsch was used in the Statesman newspaper in Calcutta. And I recognized it immediately and informed her.
3. Be wary of photos that are credited to ‘Reuters’ or ‘AFP.’ Some magazines do throw them in like a red herring!
4. Once you have located your thief, contact the internet site or magazine immediately. If they don’t have an email or respond to one, send them a registered letter at their mailing address with a return acknowledgment required.
5. Very clearly, point by point, state what exactly you require them to do.
6. If it is an internet site, don’t be afraid to tell them that if they don’t meet your conditions then you require that they remove your photo immediately.
7. If they start bargaining, and give you their sob story about being ‘non-profit’ and poor – tell them it is too late. You don’t bargain with thieves!
8. Make a blog on your theft and post it EVERYWHERE. On flickr, twitter, facebook, orkut – and tell your friends to circulate it extensively. Remember everything on the net stay on the net. So periodically do a recirculation. Make sure that every time some one types the name of that magazine, your blog about their theft shows up somewhere.
9. If a magazine has stolen your pictures it is likely to be a habit of theirs’ and there may be others they have done the same to. You might want to put a note in your blog asking others who have had this magazine steal their work contact you. That makes your circulation circle bigger. And where it is a waste of time taking a magazine to court over a one time theft of 1 photo – a group of people with the same issue with that magazine have more clout. Probably even a class action law suit!
10. If you find sites where this magazine is mentioned, post a link to your theft blog. They think that if they stay silent you will become silent too! Well don’t!
11. And if they say they will pay you and put an apology and acknowledgement, but you must delete your blog – don’t ever agree. That is BLACKMAIL! They do not have the right to do that. Also they will continue doing it to others then. Just tell them that the best you can do – is put in a note at the end of your blog telling your readers that they have paid and put in an apology.