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Copyright Violations in Blogging

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In early 2009, I wrote a tw0-part article which appeared on WATCH TALK FORUMS about The Lack of Ethics, Morality, and Legality of Blogs in the Online Watch Enthusiast Community (click here for Part I, and click here for Part II).  In both articles I talk about how “bloggers” tend to be some of the worst offender of copyright laws specifically, and common decency in general.  Today, I discovered yet another copyright violation.

Now, before I “out” this individual, let me provide a little back story.  A friend and community member of WATCH TALK FORUMS (Thanks Chip!) alerted me to the copyright violation which existed on the site called Monochrome – here’s a screen shot

Screen Capture from monochrome.nl

To those who are familiar with my Rolex photography work, that photo of the green bezel LV Submariner above is a photo I took years ago (2005 to be exact):

Now, I’ve never previously heard of or visited Monochrome or its owner, but I sent the following email to the owner who lists his contact information on his website:

Frank,

I’ve been made aware that you’re using one of my copyrighted photographs without my permission.  It is of the LV (green bezel Submariner) located here:

http://www.monochrome.nl/the-deep-sea/

If you wish to continue to use the photo, we’ll need to make payment arrangements.  Otherwise, please remove it immediately.


John B. Holbrook, II
President
WATCH TALK FORUMS, INC.
www.watchtalkforums.info

To his credit, Frank wrote me back, and he did apologize.  That’s better than I get from the dozens of counterfeit watch sellers who tend to steal my photos, and better than many eBay sellers who also steal my photos.  However, Frank’s story is pretty much the same as any other blogger I’ve run into.  Here’s his response:

Hi John,
I was unaware this is one of your photos and that it is copyright protected. I found it on the net and thought it would be ok to use it. I’m sorry for this.
Payment is unfortunately out of the question, since my website is a hobby and there’s no source of income. So i’ll remove the photo today.
Sorry again,
Frank

OK, first Frank states that he was “unaware that it was my photo and that it was copyright protected.”  Further he “found it on the Net and thought it was OK to use.”  Let’s take Frank at his word on this point (despite the fact that my photos all have my copyright notice on them, which is mysteriously cropped out of the photo used on his website).  That being the case, there’s still several problems.  Firstly, Frank’s ignorance of the law does not make it right – he’s clearly in the wrong.  Frank sure as heck knew that photo wasn’t his, which means he had an obligation to seek out the copyright owner and obtain their permission prior to using the photo.  Second, what’s with this attitude that anything you find is free for you to take?  What if I went to the Netherlands and just happened to find Frank’s car on the street?  Side note:  You might counter that Frank’s actually suggesting that because he found it “on the Net”, that he thought it was free to use.  Intellectual property on the net is no more “free” than property in my garage and I don’t see the distinction.

You’ll also note that Frank states that his website is strictly a hobbyist website and that there is “no source of income” so paying me for the roughly two years he’s been using my photo is “out of the questions.”  Now, if you look in the screen shot of Frank’s website above, to the right of my photograph you’ll see the word “Advertisement” with a banner for a watch dealer.  This would seem to be a pretty clear indication to me that Frank does indeed generate revenue from the website.  When I asked about this rather obvious contradiction to Frank’s emphatic statement that there is no source of income on his website, I got this response from him:

My website indeed has 1 ad, the other ad is of a friend’s store. This one ad covers parts of my costs, but hobbies may cost some money.

So first Frank’s story is that he makes no money.  When I pointed out that he obviously does gain ad revenue, the story changed to him earning some money, but not enough to cover the expenses of his hobby.  Ah, well I see then.  Let’s some up Frank’s apparent ethical outlook toward copyrights shall we?

  1. If you don’t know who the owner intellectual property is, you do whatever you want with it!
  2. If you find it, it must be free!
  3. You don’t have to pay someone to use their intellectual property on your website if you aren’t making any money on your website.
  4. You don’t have to pay someone to use their intellectual property on your website if you’re making enough money to cover some, but not all the expenses of your hobbies.
  5. It’s perfectly OK to lie about whether or not you’re making money on your website when you’re trying to avoid paying someone you’ve ripped off.

As absurd as the 5 points are above, they really aren’t too far off from reality in how many bloggers operate.  There are simply too many bloggers out there who are simply thieves.  They take the property of others and use it for their own gain – that’s a thief in my book.  Too many times I’ve heard bloggers cry “but I don’t take good photographs so I have to use photos I find on the net.”  To these people I say “you don’t have to blog.”  If you don’t have the talent and/or wherewithal to acquire the tools and training (like I did) required take decent photographs for your blog, then either partner with someone who does, or find something else to do with your time and energy.  And stop ripping off the hard working, talented, and honest photographers out there who, like myself rely on their photography as a source of income.

The only way this problem will stop (until they come up with a cure for laziness and dishonesty) is for people out there to stop patronizing blog sites who clearly have no respect for copyrights.  Don’t give them your mouse clicks folks – just say “no” to the Frank’s of this world.

About John B. Holbrook, II

John B. Holbrook, II is a freelance writer, photographer, and author of ThruMyLens.org, as well as LuxuryTyme.com and TheSeamasterReferencePage.com.

*All text and images contained in this web site are the original work of the author, John B. Holbrook, II and are copyright protected. Use of any of the information or images without the permission of the author is prohibited.

  1. Interesting take on a common problem – “Frank” is not your only culprit – I suggest you do a search using the TinEye plugin for Firefox – there’s 7 websites and blogs using the same photo! (http://www.tineye.com/search/9225347188cae1c14bb978dc37b1c4c694f305c3/)

  2. Yep – and that’s just a single photo photo of mine. 🙁

  3. Frank I couldn’t agree more. I recently had a client call me and point out a competitor of theirs was using one of my photos on their web site, that I had shot for them! Wondered if I gave it to them! They took it off of my web site. Here’s the killer. Their President was at a trade show and was handed a brochure by his competitor that had my (their) photo printed on the cover! Same shot. It was a Chinese company and I managed to get it removed but I’m told this happens all the time in China.
    Cheers…
    TBenko

  4. Good article and thanks for maintaining awareness of copyright infringement. As a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, this is one of our top missions. We also encourage photographers to register their photography with the copyright office. Doing so provides stronger legal ground for pursuing infringement. Learn more at http://asmp.org/content/registration-counts

  5. Maybe it would be time to add watermarks to your photos? It surely doesn’t look as good, but atleast you would have lesser changes of being ripped.

  6. If you look at the photos on this site, you’ll see I do use a copyright watermark. 🙂

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