Are you Stealing Photographs? - top 10 lame responses - photography, copyright, social media & the internet

Are you stealing photographs for a blog, twitter, instagram or facebook page? Is your employee stealing photographs? You don't know? Well, if you don't know where the photograph or image came from, or you don't have written permission from it's owner to use it, DON'T - period! I agree, stealing might be too strong a tone, but I wanted to get your attention, and I also wanted to make it more clear that if you're using images that are not yours or you don't have permission to use them, and you're using them to help generate likes, or build your brand, you really are stealing. Every week, for the past several months someone emails me a link to a website or social media platform where one of my images is posted without my permission and without a license. I'm grateful to have so many friends who know my work watching out for me. I'm even more greatful that my images resonate with so many, but I'm alarmed by all the people who are really stealing photographs. By the way, I think most don't realize is, or if they do, they don't know how to deal with it - the urge to post to social media is too great today and few have access to quality content. Here's an example the most recent photograph used online - that I know of - without my permission . . .  It was used by a person on facebook as their cover photo. They used excuse number 9 in my list of top ten lame responses for stealing photographs.

rutting bighorn sheep ram lip curling teath showing (Tony Bynum)

What's even more surprising are the responses I get, even from people who call themselves professionals in the outdoor media world, when I contact them about unauthorized use. Most of the people stealing photographs are using them to illustrate a story, or get more likes to their facebook business page. I'll tell you how you know you're stealing a photograph after I give you a list of the top 10 reasons people give me for stealing photographs, starting with:

10. I would have given you credit if i knew where it came from.

9. I don't even know where we got that photo.

8. Our social media person found it some place.

7. I thought since it was on the internet it was free.

6. There was no copyright mark on it so i though it was free.

5. It was on my computer when I got this job.

4. I have to license images?

3. You dont own them if they are online.

2. I did not steal it, someone gave it to me.

1. I did not know it was yours.

Okay, so they said they didn't know it was mine. I love that one! Does that mean if they did they would have asked me if they could use it? That reply makes me wonder. Suppose they they really did not  know it was mine, did they think it was therefore okay to steal photographs from someone else?

Stealing photographs is a crime. What's with people these days?  Do people really think that property rights exited stage right with the advent of the computer screen, social sharing and digital files? Did any of the people that choose to steal photographs ever hear the saying, "if it aint yours, dont touch it?" What happened to the good old days when you knew that if something was not yours you left it alone?

Today, it seems like if it's not bolted down, or have a no trespassing sign on it, people think it's free . . .  Why is this? Is our society not teaching our children to keep their hands to themselves, or in the very least ask before taking something that does not belong to them? If you don't know who something belongs to, the default is to leave it alone,  not take it.

The "I did not know it was yours," excuse reminds me of the reality TV show where the cops leave car on the street or in a parking lot with the keys in it and sit and wait for some idiot to walk up and drive it away.  After the perps are caught, the police always ask, "is this your car," and the perps always say, "no." Then the crook proceeds to argue that they did not steel it because they were just moving it . . .  It's the same with photographs on online. If you dont know who owns it, or where it came from, and you don't have permission to use it, DON'T USE IT!  It's that simple. It's not complicated, it simple, if it's not yours don't use it, even if you can not track down the creator or owner.

Think about this. If someone works for you - your social media or web person - is caught stealing photographs, it's your butt, not theirs that will get in trouble. I mean real trouble, not the kind of trouble that will make you pay for it's use, but the trouble like your website comes down - that kind of trouble - the "you're out of business" kind of trouble.  It's your site that will be taken down by google, or your facebook page that will be suspended. And in some cases, it's your wallet what will have to cough up the cash to pay for the ignorance of your employee . . .  Gaida Zirkelback in this recent online article explains the law and how stealing photographs can really hit business owners in the pocket book.

So, I recommend that if you don't know where the photograph came from, or you're not sure if it's okay to use it, DON'T!  Go get your own photograph, pay for it, or use a photograph that's already been made available though a creative commons license (more an that subject in a future article). In an upcoming post I'll share with you how to tell if a photograph is owned, and where and how you can find "free" photographs.

Sincerely, Tony Bynum