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On Copyright Infringements, and Lost Respect

I came to a decision after quite a bit of thinking. As I announced on the last post, I decided to share my photos exclusively from this blog from now on. I’ll try to explain the reasons behind it on this post, but I touch on a huge subject (that of copyright and fair use) […]

One of the photos that got ‘stolen’, as the saying goes

I came to a decision after quite a bit of thinking. As I announced on the last post, I decided to share my photos exclusively from this blog from now on. I’ll try to explain the reasons behind it on this post, but I touch on a huge subject (that of copyright and fair use) that has many approaches and it can lead to a very lengthy discussion, so I’ll just explain what happened and simlpy express my personal opinion afterwards, and leave it at that.

Editor’s note : This is a syndicated article by Fotis Athanasopoulos that originally appeared on his blog  Through the Looking Glass. It is used here with permission. 

My main platform for sharing my work so far has been my Facebook profile. Not a personal page, neither a group that I created, but my own profile. I mean, look at all those albums! I never had any problem whatsoever when people shared my photos there, but I recently found out that two of my photos were used (repeatedly, during a period of 9 months or so before me noticing) in a couple of Facebook groups in a way that I was totally not OK with, and without my knowledge or consent.

To begin, when I say that my photos were “used”, I mean that the owner of each group had downloaded them (quite possibly from my Flickr page, thanks to the tags making the photo show up in a Google search) and then re-uploaded them on the group without him contacting me, or asking for my permission, or even crediting me (even though my name is both on my watermark and in the metadata). Some of those shots were also cropped, perhaps in an effort to remove my watermark.

To make things worse, the reason behind the repeated uploads wasn’t that they had simply liked the photo and wanted to share it. No no, you see, these guys had made a group *supposedly* about my city, where they kept posting nice images of it over and over again in order to gather as much like/followers as possible. After doing that for 6 months or so, boom, they started pushing their own blog. All of it was a clever scheme to get more traffic.
Bait, and switch. Clever, eh? This was not just a simple case of ignorance or laziness, this was done maliciously.

One of the photos that got ‘stolen’, as the saying goes
One of the photos that got ‘stolen’, as the saying goes

I got pissed.
I’m outside fighting heat, cold, sun, rain, wind, tiredness, I’m waking up at 5 a.m. in order to catch the sunrise, all of this knowing that I’ll come back with something usable one time out of ten….
I’m spending an immense amount of time poring over books and magazines in order to learn something new, something to improve me and my photography, some more time being online in site/forums in order to stay in touch and be up-to-date, and even more time in front of my screen processing photos, trying to inculcate life, style, and my vision in every shot…
I’m creating something that I’m proud of, first and foremost for me. Not for money, not for acceptance, not for fame, but because I fucking love it, because it expresses me, because through it I find meaning.
So, I won’t accept having a smartass exploit my toil, just so he gathers some more likes in order to easier promote whatever it is he wants to promote.

I was even more surpised by some fellow photographers expressing opinions like “Yeah, what are you gonna do? Just let it be, it doesn’t worth the hassle” or “Hey man, look at how many likes your photo got and quit the bitchin’”. That’s how you lose the battle and the war altogether, hands down. If your time and your work isn’t worth the hassle, then what does?

Needless to say, I filed a copyright infringement report for all of them and they got brought down, but the damage had happened already, either way.

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about my ego or lost profits or whatever. From my very first post I was saying “…because art is meant to be shared“. I am well aware of the fact that this is a digital age, where if something is uploaded it’s no longer under your control no matter what. Hell, I don’t even agree with the whole idea of “copyrights”. That’s why I support the Creative Commons licenses system (all of my material is covered by the CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license). If you dislike the idea of people sharing your stuff then don’t upload anything, period.
But exploitation of another’s work is a totally different issue altogether, one where you can’t be impassive about it. It’s wrong, and I won’t stop fighting it, especially if it wrongs me in particular.

(Some further reading material on the subject can be found on the following pages:
1. Copyright Fair use and how it works for online images
2. Is Facebook the new breeding ground for copyright infringement?
3. What every Facebook user needs to know )

One way to counter this phenomenon is by watermarking your work. There are strong cases for as well as against this practice, and all I’m going to say is that Picasso was signing his canvases.

Another, is to assign to your photos’ metadata with your name and web addresses (or even your phone number) so that anyone can right click an image and see to whom it belongs.
You can reduce your image size too. I used to upload full-blown pictures in all their 24MP glory (that is 6000×4000 px), but I’ve stopped that since the beginning of 2014 and I only upload with the large side being only 960px now. Harder to have a good quality print from the smaller image size, I guess.

My last step trying to counter this, is to stop uploading on Facebook and instead start posting exclusively on the blog. I know that less people will see my photos this way, that I (perhaps) lose the interactivity Facebook offered, and that anyone can still save my photos on his disk, but I’d rather have my photos viewed by the few people that REALLY want to see and fairly use them (and thus clicked on my blog’s link or had subscribed to it), than having a photo appearing at the feed of people that I don’t want to.

I‘m not really sure that this is going to work in the long run, but I feel that this is the right way to go, and I like the fact that through the blog I can deliver a more personal experience for the visitors.
On the plus side, I’m getting rid of the downscaling of FB’s compression algorithm for images, so my photos will appear in their best quality for you to enjoy!

Editor’s note : Given the fact that copyright infringement is a serious issue and that this article itself talks about that and the fact of giving due respect, if you liked that article, please visit Fotis’ blog here and encourage great content!


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