As a photographer the idea of someone wanting to use my photos is almost a dream come true. When I say “use” I mean several different things. Wanting a photo for print, for say a newspaper, magazine or book. For posting on the internet, a blog or news sight. It not only can make money for the photographer, but it gets their name out there.
That’s how people like Annie Leibovitz, Steve McCurry, Andy Warhol and Tim the Tooth Ninja got their start. Now they have photos that are posted in news websites, magazines, National Geographic etc. They have thousands of followers on their respective websites, Twitters and Instagrams. For the most part people know their names and if your someone like Annie Leibovitz they know your work.
If you’re someone like me, who very much isn’t like Annie Leibovitz, you love photography, you do it as much as you can, but you a full time regular job until someone says I want to pay you for some of your photography.
Now if you’re reading this, saying to yourself ‘I don’t know who these people are.’ I’ll give you an example:
Everyone knows who Annie Leibovitz is, wether you realize it or not you do. This is the amazing photographer who took the Rolling Stone cover of John Lennon and Yoko Uno. She’s pretty much photographed damn near everyone whose anyone.
Needless to say using Annie’s photos, attempting to pass them as your own, isn’t going to go over very well. More than likely if you were to use someone else’s photo you’ll ask, then give credit and possibly pay them. So why choose to not give credit or payment to a lesser known photographer? Chances are you wouldn’t, but there’s always that one person who doesn’t have the common sense or conscience to be honest.
It has happened to me, twice now. Years ago when I did a lot of local band photography, I a promoter use some of my photos without asking. Not only did he not ask, he claimed them as his own. When I asked him about it and told him that I didn’t appreciate it, he responded by telling me that I was no longer allowed to come to a show that he was promoting. Not only was I now allowed to go to the show I wouldn’t be able to photograph in the places that I had been, because he had that much pull with people. I happened to know several people in the various bands who stood by me after finding out what happened. They stopped using the promoter and let me in as a guess of theirs to photograph. I was truly grateful for their faith in what I could and their support in backing me after the incident.
Before that I time I never tagged my photographs when posting them online. After that I started to tag them, as much as I didn’t want to, I didn’t see any other way for it not to happen again.
Sadly has. Usually I would just sit back and complain to a friend, but this time I have decided to do something about. Granted I know that not very many people will this post, but I have taken other steps about this as well. I do feel the need to share this regardless.
I won’t lie, I am a huge Taylor Swift fan, so of course I have been to a couple of her concerts, the RED tour being the first one. Someone on twitter, by the name of Kelly O’Brien (Twitter @SpeakSwiftlyNow, roughly 4500 followers) chose to make 2 memes using one of my photos from the RED tour. *Original tagged photo posted below*
I am certainly thrilled that Ms. O’Brien is also a Taylor Swift fan. I’m also thrilled that she likes the photograph. What bothers me, is that she took this photo, cropped off my personal tag, made a meme, then retagged the photograph as if it were her own. I first saw the meme Christmas day 2017 while looking through the Swift Life. I had to do a double take, I wasn’t sure if it was my photograph or not. When I found my photo I compared the two, which is when I noticed that the meme had an ’S’ ‘D’ and a ‘W’ clearly still visible. I was heartbroken and furious at the same time. This meme has been floating around since I first posted the in 2013. It took me this long to see because I was never asked about the photo, or given permission for the photo to be used in any way.
Not only was the photo cropped for use in a meme, but she tagged it as her own with “SpeakSwiftlyNow” and has entered it in 2 competitions. She entered one for Cambio (Website, Twitter @Cambio – roughly 200K followers) and Diet Coke (Website, Twitter @DietCoke – roughly 318K followers). Cambio who used it for one of their gossip stories. I’ve posted everything below, for you to see.
I know that it’s harsh to name Ms. O’Brien in this, and went back and forth on wether or not to name her. I have decided to go ahead on principle. I don’t know if she’s done this to any other photographers. I don’t know if any other photographer or publication would or do care. I have also since reported the photos on Twitter, Tumblr and the Swift Life. As far as I can tell most of them have been removed. I know that this may seem a little excessive, but by not leaving the original tag on the photo she has taken away my credit. It has also taken away one of the many ways for people to see my work, and go ‘I want to see more.”
If you’d like to us any of my photographs please ask. I usually say yes, pending on how it is wanting to be used. I don’t even have a problem cropping it different if needed. If you’d just like to us the tag photograph that’s fine as well. Give me full credit and link back to my website. Not hard.