To summarise the video above, a few weeks ago I get an email from a lovely lady letting me know that there is a man in her area who was using my photographs on his website, facebook page etc.. with his watermark on them and claiming that they were his own. Obviously I wasn’t too happy about it, but I mean – what was I going to do? Haha. He was obviously just beginning in photography and I honestly wasn’t interested in taking any legal action with him whatsoever. Howeeevvverrrr, I did want to get something out of the experience, so I proposed to him that we make an exchange. If he answered a few questions in the form of an interview, I would agree to not take legal action and would be able to post this interview anonymously on my blog. Bam. Win, win – right?
To give you an idea of the events:
1) Woman discovers my work on his page. She confronts him about it and emails me.
2) I get the email many hours later, by which time he has deleted every single image from his website and disabled his facebook page. However, I’m a great googler, and find that he has forgotten to delete my images from his Model Mayhem portfolio. I felt like such a detective. He had been caught red handed. Fail haha.
3) I decide to sleep on it.
4) I wake up the next morning to an email from him saying that “this has to stop” and that he wants to speak to me because his name is being ruined publicly. He gives me his number to call. I never call him.
5) Instead, I email him with details of this exchange I want to make with him which would result in this anonymous interview and in my agreement to never mention his name again in relation to this incident.
What I received was far from what I expected. Here is his response, word for word, for your entertainment:
“Good Afternoon Alex,
I have read your email and will respond in full. The lady that had contacted you has contacted me of course. I also do understand every corner of the copyright infringement area. I hope you do understand in my letter to you. Its not the decent thing I know but its the only explanation I could give as to why this was posted the way it was. I myself have fallen victim to image theft and understand your position. I do however like your approach with me as to learn more about why and possibly even how this could happen. The letter is as follows (I answered them in the question format so that I would not skip a detail. I hold this dear to my heart and want to give you everything I know on this matter)
1) A brief description of your background (nothing too specific- just a bit about who you are and what led you to photography).
I am a guy who spends his hours after work helping others. I am very giving. My charity hours exceeds my work hours. This is something I felt you must know about me before I tell you the rest. Ever since I was eighteen I worked in a professional environment and got real lucky when I worked my way up he ladder to be handed 3 stores to manage for the company I was working for. Of course it didn’t happen over night but I MADE IT HAPPEN. I made 130k a year before I gave that up to join the Army and serve my country. I have never looked back and neither has my family. I make a 100k less now and I am ok with that. I never got into photography for the money. Its something I enjoy doing weather I am shooting structures, people or nature. There is something about looking through my lens and telling my story through photos. I guess it just caught on when I took 4 years of photography in High School.
2) A brief description of your business (e.g., are you passionate about photography? What made you want to pursue photography?).
My business is quite small. I dont shoot a lot of people, and I definitely do not advertise that I am a great photographer. However I since I bought my last digital camera I switched over to Nikon and my pictures have been getting better. Must be the name. Just kidding. I first started off with a Canon AE-1 Program. Old film camera where in High School they taught us how to develop film. Thats where my love for photography began. Loved my film camera! Switching to digital I was lost but it caught on. Then my first computer I edited some images in MS Paint. I think everyone tried that at one point or another. I know you said brief but honestly I could talk a lot on my experiences and I think it better explains what happened.
3) An explanation as to what led you to take others’ images and display them as your own. Why did you do this?
When I first got into editing photos I never knew how to put images on my computer so my only option was to “right click” save as. I admit to taking peoples photos and editing them but not to make them mine. I know it still sounds wrong, and is wrong, however I was just trying to edit and get good at it. Right now I know Photoshop pretty well enough to say that I am still a novice because there is so much you can do with that program. I edited the photos not to make them mine but to devise a plan for a better work flow.
4)Did having a portfolio of images that were not taken by you help your business? Did you win more clients through taking others’ images?
I know nothing about building a website nor do I know how to control one. How your images even got posted was when I was in Iraq I asked my wife (20 years married this week) to come up with a Facebook site and a website by the time I get home. So that way I can display the images and give people a detailed view of my work. I took some great shots while deployed and loved them so much that I felt they should be displayed. I just got back a few months back and everything was done just like I had asked. My Facebook page was live and my webpage had zero hits after 3 months. I am not a big Facebook person, still do not use it. My wife controls it and she is the one who took down everything from the website and Facebook. Actually the person who accused me of stealing accused me of taking two other photos. However I have the proof of those plus all the raw files. Of course the one that was yours I do not. I counted all the images that were not mine in my image files and the ones that I edited before my deployment (your three or four) were the only ones I had that were not mine. So please feel assured this WILL not happen again. I have the know how now to post my own images and not have her post them for me. She doesn’t go to every shoot so of course she doesn’t know if those one I had shot or not. All in all I am still guilty I know. I feel guilty. As I am typing this I am heading to the hospital to photograph a 4 month old who isn’t expected to live through her surgery and her mother is a friend. The dad is deployed and on his way back. I want to capture their moments with their child before time is up for them. My lasting impression I want to leave you with is that I am a good sole. I have a heart and trulls would not steel anything that doesn’t belong to me. Before my wife deleted the photos she took screen shots of the conversations that went on so we could show the law what was going on. The person had every right to tell you about the photos on my page. I actually encourage this as I have had a thief take mine. At least I am a man that can confront and admit to my wrong doings. The person who stole mine also stole my website and took all my info and was working under me in california. Never responded to my emails and he changed his phone number. I guess that tells you how often I checked my website.
5) Do you feel at all guilty having taken other people’s work?
I think you already know I feel guilty because of what happened to me. I still have no clue as to why I saved your images on my drive after I edited them since I had a whole separate hard drive with all my other images. When I edit other peoples photos I save them to a local drive. I give classes to soldiers spouse on how to photoshop and use layers. So its not like I am using the photos I edit. If you look closely to the logo that is on the photos that were edited it doesn’t even resemble mine. Thats because it was just typed in to show how to add one and then make a logo placement file. Again do not know how it made its way into my uploads for posting. To answer this question, Yes I do feel guilty.
6) How does it feel being confronted about taking someone’s photographs by the person whose work you took?
Well I think this has happened to you before, because it kind of looks like these questions were well thought out and not compounded in the few hours it took you to respond. Also I confronted you with an email asking you to contact me. The person I tried to confront is still running and hiding from me. I agreed to answer your outline truthfully and it doesn’t feel good for someone to confront me at all. In fact my stomach has been turned upside down knowing not only did I have stuff that wasn’t mine on my website, but I did exactly what I preach against. I tell everyone to be very careful what you post. Even though you may own the rights to the photos there is still a persons who is in those photos who may not like them to be displayed and if you go about things amicably everything can get worked out. Just like you did with me today. I appreciate your values, as I am learning from this. I like to pinpoint how it could of happened but I still cant put my finger as to why they were in my folder. Then my wife even commented on the photos. I asked her why would you do that if they weren’t mine. She said “then why did you save them with your name on them” Then the blank stare on my face was priceless. I then told her “ok no more showing your friends how to put logos on pictures” Like it was her fault. I already apologized to her as well. Now I am apologizing to you.
7) Why did you remove all of the images from your website and disable your flickr and facebook account?
My wife was on at the time. I do very little with Facebook and the website. I dont go strolling through my photos. I put them in a folder once I am done editing and then my phone gets updates when I have something new uploaded. She is the one who disabled the Facebook account. I asked the girl who built my site if those images were on my site and she said no. She is making me send her a letter to prove my photos are mine so she doesn’t get any legal action from this. I dont blame her. I checked all photos and didn’t see any of yours on there. My Flickr account was never disabled. It took one phone call to kill my site. Now its going to take weeks to rebuild when I didn’t even have your photos on their.
8) In future, will you continue to take other people’s images and use them on your website?
This can simply be answered as NO
9) Anything else that you would like people to know about you or the situation.
Even though this is an admission of guilt I dont feel like I want my name even discussed back with the girl who contacted you. She is spamming my name still today. Which is fine. Talk is talk. I am guilty and it is black and white. No grey area. However I do feel like she is going over the line and I have made a few phone calls about her. I would appreciate you holding up your end of it and not talking about this to anyone else.
[His name here]”
And there you have it. I will leave it up to you to make a conclusion for yourself. And so … the discussion begins …Is the man telling the truth? Is he lying? Did I handle the situation properly? What would you do if someone stole one of your photos?