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Have you ever been a victim of photo piracy?

Have you ever been a victim of photo piracy?Back in February, I posted about watermarking and how I use this opportunity for advertising. I mentioned briefly the idea that if someone was going to steal your images, you may as well make them work for you with watermarks that are attractive and don’t get cropped out. At least then when Tight Theresa steals my images, her friends will know where they came from and hopefully get in touch. Although on second thought, do I want all her tight friends also scamming me for freebies? A subject for another day. But I digress.

I also mentioned in that post that I couldn’t believe the lengths people go to in order to steal my images and that watermarks make no difference when someone has their heart set on stealing your stuff. Ironically, it was only a couple months later that a friend many hours away called to say she’d seen some of my stuff being displayed on canvas in a printers near her. After some investigation, I found that the images (stolen off Flickr, cropped to oblivion) were being distributed on canvas by a large warehouse in this country. And they weren’t just any old images, they were four images of my son.

Now, some well-meaning friends who don’t understand the nature of piracy and the invasion I felt just said, “wow that’s so cool! You’re like…famous and stuff! You’re good enough to steal from.” Um…thanks but no thanks. I’m also good enough to get paid.

Through this event and hearing the reactions of people who really didn’t see the big deal made me realise that we are pirates. Some of us copy CDs, some ‘let’ our friends leave their pirate DVDs at the house, others copy images off Google to fill the corners of our blog posts, quote Wiki without attribution, directly steal concepts for our photography without giving props. In some way or another, many of us do something unethical with another person’s intellectual property once in a while.

And even more, I believe that we’ve all been the victim of piracy at some time or another, whether knowingly or unknowingly. Take that image stolen from me for instance. It’s being distributed by a massive warehouse in Birmingham. Who knows where in the world there are hanging photos of my little boy. But that’s the risk I take when I decide to share my work online. You have to do so knowing that once it’s out there, you can’t control what happens next. But please let me know if you see this image in a canvas printers’ near you! 🙂

This isn’t a list for how to avoid being a victim or piracy because clearly, I can’t control that in my own life. But I just thought it would be great to get the discussion going and hear stories of photographers who have had their work stolen. Even more interesting to know is how did you find out?

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Elizabeth Halford
Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

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