This is a hard post for me.
As a photographer, often we are taken advantage of and people rarely see a value in my time. To be honest, I’ve come to accept it, and I just try to not pay it any mind anymore. I’m often expected to donate my time for “exposure” without really donating it to anything of community value, or a benefit to me either.
Lately I’ve created a policy, that I only donate to non profits and so far that has worked wonders for me. I’ve successfully been able to donate time and resources to Minnesota 4H, St Paul K9 Unit, Eagles Healing Nest and North Dakota Badlands Horse. And that makes me so happy. Doing these acts make my heart happy, and even though I don’t have money laying around to donate, I do have skills and knowledge that I can share to help benefit others.
But, unfortunately that isn’t what this post was about. This post was about getting taken advantage of.
You see, there are laws. Laws that work to prevent this “taken advantage of” thing. But, if you legitimately don’t know about these laws, you might be blindly committing a crime. Yes! A crime.
But what the heck am I talking about??
I’m talking about stealing images off the internet, and using them for personal use and personal gain. I’m talking about stealing someone’s work and never giving credit, asking permission or paying for that image.
It is illegal. I own the copyright to each and every image that comes out of a camera I use. If I push that shutter button, I own that image. I don’t have to register it with the government. I don’t have to watermark that image. I don’t have to do any of that to own that image. My creation of it is enough.
And 90% of people don’t know that, and assume that if it is on the internet, that it must be available to use. And that is wrong.
And the thing is, if I say anything or speak up against this, I am a bitch. I am that jerk photographer that won’t let you use your image. What if I walked into your business, stole something, let’s say a painting off the wall, and just walked out. You’d be pissed, and you didn’t even make that painting, you just bought it somewhere for $50.
You didn’t spend years of education learning every tiny detail there is to know about photography. You didn’t invest over $20k in equipment, $10k in education and market yourself to thousands of people. You didn’t sweat your butt off in 100* heat taking the photo, or hiking 25 miles to get that photo. You just bought it, at some random store with no real drive to find that particular photo. You just saw it, liked it and bought it.
And yet, you’d be pissed if I took it from you, but if you take a photo of mine off the internet, and I get pissed, I am a jerk.
But I am a jerk with a legal leg to stand on.
Not all images are free to use on the internet. Just because they show up in Google search, doesn’t mean they are free to use. Just because you see it, doesn’t mean you can take it.
Now, I am a kind person. I understand that you don’t know that it was illegal, and that the gesture was made in good faith, with good intentions.
But the thing is, I will never get an apology without having to call each and every person out on this. I will never get reimbursed for their usage of my photograph, without having to invest in a lawyer, and more than likely go to court.
I won’t get anything, except a reputation of being a jerk, that I am rude, bitchy and selfish for not letting them steal my work, my work that I’ve dedicated the past 15 years of my life to perfecting.
So please, stop stealing artist’s work. Stop seeing something you like and saving it to your cell phones, computers and for God’s sake, don’t print it and gift it to someone. That is theft, and after this, I will never play the nice guy again.