Mar 9, 2014

Copyright violation issues

Some time ago I was browsing the website of a large international sailing equipment manufacturer, when I noticed an image of one of their products, which somehow felt very familiar. I did a quick check from our photo archives, which confirmed that it was indeed the same image that I had taken and published in this blog almost three years ago.

In my opinion, it was not a particularly good photo, but it was showing one of their products in detail. Nobody from the company had contacted me and asked a permission to use the photo, so the case was clear: they had used the photo without permission. I know that the internet is a dark place when it comes to copyright issues, but I was surprised to find my photo being used by a well-known global company with multi-million turnover.

I can understand that when building the company website for example, there may be a temptation to google images if some image that is needed is missing. It is all too easy – just a few clicks and the photo is added to your website. It is also easy to forget the whole thing. However, the google search works also the other way a round, since the image search is a great tool for a photographer to track down his/her photos that may have been used illegally. Just drag and drop your photo, that you want to test out, to the google image search field and just in a few seconds, it will tell all the websites where the photo is used. 

I tested this feature with some of our photos, and just in five minutes I could find a couple of more websites which had used our photos without permission. Therefore, I would like to recommend all of you who keep a blog or share photos in the internet to check regularly if your content has been used illegally. It may not be the photos that you consider as your best ones that are used, but the ones which are showing products for example. Pay attention to photos that you think might have a commercial value. On the other hand, some general sailing photos may be used as well to illustrate the commercial website.

A whole another story is a website called Like Sailing, which publishes our complete blog posts on their website as if they were their own. I can see those blog posts appearing on their website just a few hours after they have been published in this blog. Problem with this kind of trash websites or 'splogs' (spam blogs) is that it is often difficult if not impossible to contact the owner of the website. Thus, the pretty much only option is to file a DMCA complaint against the website. Here is more information about sending the DMCA takedown request.


Just to make things clear, sharing someone else's photos on your blog/website is not legal, if you do not have the permission from the copyright owner. Contrary to common belief, writing the name of the photographer or linking to the photo source does not make things any different.

Personally, I would not mind if someone would like to share our photo in his/her private blog with a proper photo credit. I can also share my photos in a commercial website, if I like the product and how the photo is presented. But what I do not like, is that the content, which is created for free is used commercially by someone who is just too lazy to create the content by himself and dishonest to pay for the use of it.
/Antti