Welcome to Colorado Springs Daily Photo!

Hi, I'm Tamera, a professional wedding, portrait and boudoir photographer in Colorado Springs. But this blog isn't about my professional work; no, it's a daily love note to my beautiful city, where I've lived for most of my life. I love it here and I hope you enjoy seeing Colorado Springs through my eyes and lens!

*ALL CONTENT ON THIS SITE IS COPYRIGHT COLORADO SPRINGS DAILY PHOTO. This is not a stock photography site. Please do not copy, save, "screen grab" or otherwise appropriate or steal any images or text. Reproduction without my written permission is prohibited. Please contact me if you are interested in buying a print.*

22 January 2015

In defense of copyright

Well the last 24 hours have certainly been interesting. I noticed on Monday night that a photo of mine was grabbed from this blog and used to create a “meme” that was posted to a very popular Facebook page that’s all about Colorado Springs. My watermark and URL had been cropped out. You can see the photo above, and the original post where the photo was featured can be seen HERE. The meme was actually very sweet. It expressed what a lot of us probably feel about the barn, how much we all loved it, and how much we all miss it. I loved that barn too, and for the record I agree with what the meme said. But here’s the thing: the picture was used without my permission and that made me uncomfortable, especially in light of the fact that it was watermarked, like all of the pictures on this blog, and there is a copyright notice at the top of the page. I really wish whoever had created the meme had just contacted me about it first!

After some thought, I contacted the owner of the FB page and pleaded my case, asking him to please remove the photo. Anyone who reads this blog regularly or knows me personally knows that I am articulate and polite, especially with written communication. I took great deal of care in my message to him, trying to state my case without offending him or sounding accusatory. Here’s a screen shot of it, so you can judge for yourself (please note that the first two sentences are boilerplate, automatically provided by Facebook when you report a photo):

I know it’s hard to communicate effectively without the benefit of vocal inflection, and it’s possible that he was taken aback by my request because it seemed rude to him. I also understand that people don’t like to be challenged, which is perfectly natural. In the afternoon I had the following response from him:  

I provided the proof, along with a link to the blog post from January of 2010. He agreed to take the photo down (and if he’s reading this post:  thank you for doing that!). I told him that in the future, if he wanted to use any of my pictures, to just contact me so we could talk about it. He told me that someone else actually created the meme and submitted it to his page, wished me well, and I thought it was all over and done with until I checked the page and saw that he had posted a screen shot of my message asking him to take the photo down (initially it included my name and profile photo, but was quickly corrected -- thank goodness!). I see in retrospect now that I should have asked him to keep our communication private. There was an immediate negative backlash in the comments, and it went on all day. Understand that this page has over 42,000 “likes” and is very popular with people from here. (Deservedly so, it’s a very funny page and has a lot of wry commentary about Colorado Springs.) Along with posting a screen shot of my message, he asked people for pictures of the barn. A few people stepped up and shared pictures. A few people came to my defense and pointed out that I was polite and that I own the rights to the photo. But the majority of the commenters mocked me or maligned my character. Here are some of the names that I was called:  “dumb”, “loser”, “idiot”, “lame and petty”, “sourpuss”, “rude ass”, “greedy”, “selfish”. The spelling and grammar on this blog were also called into question, which actually made me laugh out loud, because I do not know anyone who is more scrupulous and exacting about spelling and grammar than I am! One person demanded to know my name because it was mentioned that I'm a professional photographer ("Can we get her name to avoid her work since she doesn't want us to see it?")
. That kinda freaked me out, not gonna lie.  What really came to light, though, is how little understanding people have of copyright, so I’m just going to directly quote a few of the comments here so that I can respond.
  • First things first:  “How can she prove it's her photo?” I published it on January 10, 2010 right HERE, and, according to the metadata, I took the picture on January 8th at 12:50pm. I actually remember taking the picture.
  • “Who gives a crap? It's a pic OF A BARN lady.” Agreed, it’s just a picture of a barn, and not even a good picture at that. But it’s my picture of a barn, which is my point.
  • “That was not even you who painted that picture on the barn, if anyone would have rights to copyright to that it is the actual artist not you, it is a public viewing (sic).” (Followed by an insult to my intelligence which I won’t include here.) Okay, this is a point that many of the commenters seemed to really latch on to. Actually, according to what’s called freedom of panorama, it’s okay to take a picture of a building that has a mural on it, and post it online, otherwise a lot of us would be in trouble for taking pictures of buildings, cityscapes and whatnot! Think about those vacation pictures you took at Disneyland. Disney is zealously protective of their copyright, but taking a picture of your kid and Mickey Mouse standing in front of Cinderella’s Castle isn’t a violation of that. (If you tried to sell that picture, that'd be a different story.)
  • “Did she have the owners (sic) permission to take the picture?” This is also a really good question. The answer is no, but I didn’t need it. You can take a picture of anything that’s out there in the world (or at least in the U.S.!), as long as you are standing on public property -- that is to say, the sidewalk or street. The only exceptions to this have to do with Homeland Security. I took the photo from the sidewalk and did not trespass on private property. Think about your local newspapers  and news stations. They do this every day. Heck, YOU do this every day.
  • “Who cares who took the photo.” I do. Obviously. :-) It’s hard to explain why I care, so I’ll make an analogy here: let’s say you live on a piece of property that's easily trespassable upon but clearly marked “no trespassing”, and yet people routinely walk through it anyway – that’s how it feels. How I feel about it is my own thing, and you may disagree with me or even think I’m a petty asshole, but it’s how I feel and that’s that.
  • “If you put it out on the Internet, you should expect people to use/see it. It should be considered consent for others to use as soon as you upload it.” This is how the world at large seems to see it, but the way the law is written clearly protects the copyright holder. The image was watermarked; whoever grabbed it cropped the watermark out. There is a very succinctly worded copyright statement at the top of this blog. Just so we're clear on this: I’m definitely not putting photos on my blog as a stock photography thing! Thanks!
  • “When they're on the internet, they're the internet's property. If you're not using them for monetary gain (like on marketing materials) It's free reign (sic).” This is absolutely not the case. Not even a little bit. The internet is not an entity and it doesn't own property. Seeing a picture on the internet does not grant you any rights to it.  I could link to a bunch of boring copyright stuff to explain at this point, but I’ll spare you. Google it!

Let's get to the long and short of it all. U.S copyright law may be tortuous and labyrinthine, but it’s very straightforward on this particular point: whoever took the picture owns the copyright, even if it’s a crappy picture of an old barn. If you have used a photo without permission and the copyright owner asks you to take it down, just do it. It’s their right. Always ask before using a photo that isn’t yours.

I think that’s enough about all of this. Suffice it to say that it has been a pretty rough day for me. I realize that this is just another internet tempest in a teapot and a small one at that, but yes, the comments did get to me. It’s not a good feeling, being called a selfish, stupid, greedy, jerk/loser by a bunch of complete strangers and to have to hold your tongue. Pat was especially angry (how would you feel if a mob insulted your loved one all day long?). I'm sure my mom will read this post first thing in the morning and be extremely distressed too. One of the commenters actually knows me personally, but didn’t realize that the blog in question is written by me, and thus didn’t realize she was inadvertently disparaging me, her friend! (Honest mistake there!) At any rate, I learned some things from this brouhaha:

  1. If you plan to stand up for yourself on an issue like this, be prepared to take a lot of flack. But stand up for yourself anyway, because you're in the right.
  2. Most folks don’t understand copyright very well.
  3. People can be downright horrible when they disagree with you online. I guess I knew this, but I’ve never been the focus of it before. It took my breath away.

And finally, the beautiful irony of this has not escaped me. Take another look at the barn and read the immortal words inscribed upon it: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”  Thank you Mr. Lennon and Mr. McCartney! I am taking your words to heart today!

I will close this long, looooong post with a lovely photo taken by Pat recently at Monument Valley Park -- used with his permission, of course! To all who commented on the dreaded Facebook post, whether unkindly or in support of me, your opinions have been duly noted and appreciated (some more than others!).  Have a wonderful Thursday, everyone! Onward and upward!

UPDATE 11:57AM: I received a private message from the owner of the group. He apologized very sincerely, and it's apparent to me that he feels badly for what transpired. He removed the thread from his page. I'm inclined to be circumspect, as always. I have no hard feelings toward him. We are all human, even the people who insulted me in the heat of the moment. Let's all just move on, shall we? Nothing to see here! Carry on!


Lois said...

I'm so sorry you had to go through this Tamera. You are a class act and I'm happy and proud of you for standing up for yourself. I can't believe how rude and mean people can be when they are sitting behind a computer. They say things they would probably never say if you were standing right in front of them. It's sad really.

Allegra said...

some people obviously have nothing better to do with their lives. You did NOTHING wrong Tam and I'm sorry you had to go through this. :(

Tahiti Daily Photo said...

It's great to have your experience and feedback. Thanks a lot. Even if I'd prefer this not to happen ...

Autumn said...

I'm sorry that you had to go through this. I applaud your strength and courage, and your ability to handle it all with grace (and with such eloquence!)

MadRat Productions said...

It was hard, that's how you know it was the right thing to do.

Gerald (SK14) said...

absolutely with you on this - have had similar things happen to me - had a few backlashes myself when I've pointed out to folk that when they use my photos respect my copyright - that is all we ask - a lot of my photos (low res versions) I release with a creative commons license -but when folk take the time to actually ask me then I'll often provide them with high-res versions or additional unpublished photos.

Anonymous said...

I'm the admin of the page in question. I really didn't think through posting her takedown request, which indeed was very polite and didn't rub me the wrong way at all. I have had numerous people ask me to remove something just because they didn't like it, claiming ownership, which is why I asked for some kind of proof. Honestly, she could have said "it's mine because I say so!" or really anything, and I would have bought it. It's really just a mechanism to get the trolls to go away.

We have had a very polite and open and frank conversation, and we're all good, but I felt compelled to come here and express that. I have no problem with copyright, this blog (I've actually followed it for quite some time!), or anything. I just wanted some more pics of the barn.

I too have learned a great deal from this whole experience. Thank you for an insightful and well thought out post.

Stefan Jansson said...

All he had to do is ask. People are weird. I let people use my photo every now and then if they ask nicely.

William Kendall said...

Yikes. It's some of the vindictive commentary towards you from others in the original thread that would really get under my skin. There are times when the anonymity of social media brings out the worst in people.

Jane Hards Photography said...

I'm with you %100 on this and had many battles myself. Not just individuals, international companies. I have forgive the odd genuine mistake, but blatant theft is different. Not a overlong post at all. It's a subject relevant to all us bloggers and those of us who photograph professionally too. Glad the situation has been resolved and lesson learned from those taking prior to permission.

Anonymous said...

@Stefan: True enough. :) As noted in the original post, someone else created the meme and submitted it to my page. I always ask for permission if I know that it's a copyrighted work. Since the person who made it had cropped out the notice at the bottom, I had no way of knowing who took the photo. If I had I would have asked for permission. If I had not gotten it, I surely could have found another picture to use. I'm not interested in taking credit for anyone else's work. :)

Linda said...

Well said. Many people on the Internet are like people who get behind the wheel of a car and become rude. They think they are anonymous, especially if they comment behind cover of a pseudonym.

Jacqi Stevens said...

Oh, Tamera, what an awful thing to have to go through...but I'm glad you did what you did.

While you are being kind to frame this as merely someone who didn't understand copyright law, there is an added layer of intention demonstrated by anyone who chooses to go through the effort of removing watermarks and copyright labeling to use someone else's material. That is unfortunate.

The whole thing could be doubly precarious for you in that you are not only an artist, but a business person. You do not survive on thin air. This photograph is representative of your livelihood. Removing your identification--one way that you demonstrate to others what you can do in this service--is, in a way, stealing from your income. People who have never had to survive on the earnings from their own business that they have created do not understand the critical impact something like this could have had.

I'm glad the site owner was, in the end, understanding. Above all else, business people cannot survive without the good will of their own community. Let's hope this turns into an episode of building bridges rather than tearing people down.

Randy said...

Love both shots.

bettyl-NZ said...

It's a shame that these things happen, but that's the internet for you. I, of course, agree that your personal work should not be used without permission. However...that's what happens in our selfish society today.
I suppose you can just be happy that they liked your shot! (I know that's not a lot of help)