When does a photo cost $12,000? When it is stolen from you and that’s the estimated value. The photo was stolen by six extremely popular social media sites, one garnering over 64,000 hits for the photo and it was retweeted on twitter at least 299 times as well. How much credit did I get for my photo? Zero, zilch, none. So needless to say, I am extremely distraught. What started as a fun photo has disseminated into sadness for me.
(This is the photo that was stolen, numerous times.)
Perhaps you say I am being a little dramatic? Let’s crunch some numbers while we look at the biggest offenders. My typical rate that I use to sell the usage rights is a flat fee of $2000 per use. That’s an across the board price.
The first image use was by Heavy.com. They have a fair number of likes on their Facebook page, which number 99k. The first screen cap is the photo as seen in their website. The second is the “editor’s” response to my question. Shouldn’t editors be sourcing their photos before they post them? I used reverse image by Google to find these and mine was on the first page, as the owner. He obviously didn’t try that hard to source much of anything. You’ll also see he claims he found it that way. Obviously that makes the fact that he used it ok since he found it that way. Editors need to have some ownership when it comes to properly sourcing images and making sure that the owner is consenting to its use. A simple rule of thumb should be that if there is no consent, the photo doesn’t get used.
Total for use of this photo? I would’ve charged them $2,000 for use of this photo.
The second use of the photo was by a website called Bromygod.com, which has 127k followers.
I would’ve, again charged $2000 for the use of the photo.
The next use of the photo was by theChive.com. According to their parent website, theChive has over 26 million unique viewers each month, and 170 million page views per year. I would have charged this company substantially more according to the sliding scale. This would have been another $2000.
The next use of the photo and one that seriously makes me angry, for more than one reason, was done by chacha.com They changed the title of my photo and placed their own caption underneath of it. Then it was picked up by what is self-purported to be the “World Famous” radio station, CFOX 99.3 FM, who then shared it on their page. Between these two instances, I probably missed out on about on an unknown amount of revenue. The ChaCha gallery itself was viewed over 69,000 times, as you can see in the screen cap below.
Look at how many people follow this page. 81,101! All of that is potentially missed revenue, in addition to the article being shared over 23 times. I would have charged this company $2000, as well.
The next use of the photo was by the Boston Egotist, which is an advertising and marketing blog. These people are in advertising. I have no idea how many people have seen this particular photo on their page, as they don’t have a Facebook following that I can use to judge that.
The Egotist credits the contest I entered my photo in, but not my name, which was attached to the photo at the time of the contest and still is. This would be an additional $2000.
Let’s move onto twitter. The screen cap below shows the person who initially stole the photo. Trust me when I say that this is someone with vile and vitriolic language that I never would have sold this image to. Anyhow, it was retweeted approximately 299 times, as of yesterday. If the original poster was charged, it would be $2000. However, if we multiply $2000 x 300 uses (including the original post), we get $600,000. Below you can see the person who originally posted it, with the number of shares and like at the bottom of that photo. I also included a screen cap of some of the times it was retweeted, which shows that it exponentially grew our from the original 299. This would make it far more than the original $600,000!
So why is this so important to me? I became a wedding photographer eight years ago. Six years ago I began volunteering with a charity called Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep. A short time after that, I began working at a hospital, in the Labor & Delivery unit. My position allowed me to provide quality portraits for close to 300 parents, free of charge, who would never get to take their children home. My position also ignited a fire in me to become a nurse, to be able to help those patients further. There’s a point to all this….I swear! I have one year left in nursing school. My family has been scrimping and saving money wherever we can, as I won’t be allowed to work in that final year. This theft of these photos has taken away income from my family, my schooling, and my dream. It seems so benign, but image theft really does affect all of us. Media outlets think that they can just use our photos and offer us credit later on, as if to pacify us. Can we live off credit? Can we further our education by paying our tuition with that credit? My bursar’s office at my school would laugh if I said, “How about I just give you credit for putting me through school? How does that sound?”
I did send out DMCA notices to all of the ISPs. I have yet to hear back from anyone but the guy above who tweeted back to me. By all of the sharing of this photo, I missed out on money for my family and schooling that we need….money we will never get back. If each of these sites that willfully used my photo without permission were charged under copyright law, it would be $150,000 per infringement. The grand total from all offenders would be $900,000.
UPDATE ———-> 12/27/14 at 19:54
I have checked the websites that were listed here and found the following.
Boston Egotist – photo is down, but comment has been deleted, no apology issued for theft
Heavy.com – photo is down, see above discussion with editor
ChaCha – photo still up, comments are now disabled for this gallery
theChive.com – photo still up, my comment is still up with no response
bromygod.com – photo is still up, comment has been deleted
I have been making screen captures of everything that has been going down so I have a full timeline. At this point no one at all has apologized for using the photo without permission.
This is sad Courtney. But it is great that you are calling out the violators and educating the public who often has no idea how copyright laws work. These large sites do know, or at least should know. They should pay.
When these sites start getting hit financially, other sites will pay attention as well. No doubt the practice of stealing photos will continue, but hopefully people who profit from the use of your photos will either pay a reasonable fee, or pay a much higher fine.
Musicians, artists, actors, software developers, etc face the same battle.