The image above has no watermark on it. It has a decent resolution. You can steal it. You can post it to your favorite social network and claim it as yours. You can save it to your computer and send it to your favorite lab and have it printed however you like! I'll even wait here patiently while you do it......
Now that that is out of way I'll go ahead and take a guess that you did not actually download this image to your computer. Why not? On another wild guess, I'll assume you didn't do it because you are a decent person and have respect for other peoples' work, most people do(or maybe you just don't like the image). So why all this hubbub(yes, hubbub) about stealing my photo? Well, in the new digital/social media age taking someone's work has become amazingly easy and it gets kind of annoying. Photographers(all artists really) put in a lot of time, effort and money into their craft. So when someone takes our work and shares it as if it were their own - like this person on Twitter - we get a little upset. But that fake Twitter has nothing on this jerk - here - who takes Instagram images adds a comment, takes a "screenshot" and claims that it is his "art" and then sells them for tens of thousands of dollars(he's been to court before and has won).
Now to clarify, I'm NOT talking about using the "Share" button on Facebook or the "Retweet" button on Twitter - we love these - they give us credit!! I'm talking about downloading an image, cropping off the watermark, sharing it and not giving the artist credit. Not only is it annoying but it also happens to be illegal. It may seem like a small thing to do but it is in fact Copyright Infringement(learn more about copyright here). But as photographers what can we do about it? It seems not much. We can(and have) reported these practices to Twitter and Facebook and wherever the offense is occurring. The social networks do next to nothing to combat these folks and don't seem to care much if our copyright is being infringed upon. But let's face it, we're small potatoes to these huge corporations. We could, I suppose, call a lawyer and have them do whatever it is lawyers do, but lawyers cost money and we're artists - we're broke! We could act in kind and "spam" the culprit accounts with constant nagging and CAPITALIZED angry empty threats but that likely won't get us anywhere either and is simply stooping to their level. So unfortunately, for now at least, we are stuck with pretty much zero good options for keeping people from stealing our photos.
However, I like to look at things from more than one angle. Yes, it stinks that people are out there stealing my work and not giving proper credit but how much does it really effect me? There's realistically no way to tell if these people are making money off my work but I doubt they are. I think what bothers me most, or did, was the fact that the Twitter account I mentioned earlier(and there are others) has 40,000 followers. That's a lot. That's 40,000 people that are seeing my photography(and many other great Michigan photographers images as well) and have no idea that I'm the one who created that photo that they just favorited or retweeted or shared with their friends. That's 40,000 potential customers! But..... it isn't. If these people are willing to follow someone with zero credentials and an imitation account, then it's 40,000 people that were likely never going to buy anything from me anyway. It's 40,000 people that don't care about the craft of photography and have no interest in investing in any form of art. And since I am someone who does appreciate the time, the sweat, the miles driven, the miles hiked, the equipment purchased, the equipment ruined, the hours in front of a computer, the frostbit toes, the nights in hot tents, the nights in cold cabins, the hours spent on a layover, the hours spent on setting up and tearing down for art festivals(even when you make no money) - because I appreciate all these seemingly small(and almost always unseen) things that add up to be our craft is exactly why I'm not worried about those 40,000 people who have no appreciation for those same "small" things. They don't get it. They likely never will. Sure, I wish these fake accounts didn't exist and people didn't steal our images and people didn't follow or like those who do steal from us but they do exist and they likely always will. So as frustrating as it may be sometimes I'm going to try to not let it bother me(ok infuriate me) anymore. I'll let them do what they do and I'll just keep trying to create the best photographs I can for those that do appreciate all the effort that goes into my photography.
Thanks, I needed to vent a bit. Now please go support your local artists!
If you're new to the Fine Michigan Photography and want to stay up to date on future posts(they're usually much lighter than this) fill out the form below to receive email updates.