Of Theft and Serendipity

As a photographer , how many times do you think your images have been stolen and paraded online without appropriate credit? Do you feel ripped off, that that particular image has benefited another while you have not reaped the rewards of said image? We know of many such images belonging to us that have been posted on other sites without so much as a link back or credit let alone permission to do so. The ones we know of have usually been reported to us by others who have happened to stumble across the image by chance. I suspect that this may be the tip of the iceberg. There was a time when we would name and shame every single one of these sites, demand a take-down or create polite but quasi-threatening emails. Then we grew tired, others would say complacent, to the point where these days we usually shrug our shoulders and simply join the site in an effort to control content. Is this a little too relaxed a viewpoint? I’d like to share a story which perhaps has changed our point of view slightly.

It all started in August last year. An email from the editor of 500px blog contacted us with regard to writing one of those ‘A day in the life of…X…photographer’ features. We were excited. We weren’t going to be paid but heck, guys like Marc Adamus were doing this for 500px so I figured , what could we lose? I then clicked on a few examples to see how people had framed their discussion. After a while, I realised that it was just the same theme with varying levels of epic photographs thrown in and varying levels of discomfort and hardship reported with doing the ‘landscape-photographer’ gig. You know what I mean, got up 3am , drove 2 hours with coffee on board, froze ass off at 5am waiting for light, nearly got disappointed , had epiphany when light BLAZED , ate at super secret awesome breakfast place only I know about close by, slept during day, did similar thing for sunset etc. We all know these hardships even if the general public doesn’t. We landscape photographers can all relate to it but did we, as ‘everlook photography’  really need to saturate the viewpoint any further?

I wrote back to the editor with a simple question. “Why don’t I just write something about photographing with kids instead?” Several days passed and I thought perhaps the idea was too frivolous but started writing the article anyway as something to post on our blog. Finally the email returned stating that they would love that article to go live and so the story had its birth.  The original article in the link below received a reasonable reception in terms of blog responses but we were glad that we had sent a message out there that may inspire parents to take their kids out rather than feel trapped at home.


500px article

After a week or so, this article outlived its social media half life as it was ultimately forced off the front page with newer and undoubtedly more original content. It was interesting to note that many of the images on the 500px article were lifted from our other sites which we assumed they had screen-shotted. I didn’t bother making an issue of it. Then , out of the blue after returning from our New Zealand trip in November we received a ‘nonymous’ facebook tip-off from a friend that a site called ‘bored panda’ had republished the article. Having not heard of bored panda before , we navigated to the site with some difficulty and found that it had received an extraordinary amount of views. Then came email after email. Most of them requested free use of the article, oh wait, the compensation was ‘exposure’. We had assumed that ‘bored panda’ had lifted the article from 500px without permission , the original article of which already had lifted content. Can you ask for recompense for using and reposting a stolen article with already unauthorised content?? We had given the original article for free to 500px so our initial responses were that they could use the same images from the original article providing they had asked 500px. A few more of these articles appeared in the same format with the same lifted images in low resolution which then spawned even more inquiries. I doubt any of those sites, including Huffington Post, bothered to ask 500px.  Heck it even spawned a tweet from Captain America!


bored panda article

evans tweet

Then there were emails from press agencies. Having had no experience we turned to an awesome source of advice. Not wiki, but facebook! Lincoln Harrison was able to give us some advice about how to approach this and off we dived into the deep end. We provided a rehashed version of the article with high resolution images to ‘rex features’ exclusively on the proviso that we receive 60% of the profits. Only time would tell as to how this would all end so we waited somewhat hopefully for the article to be sold. Our first known hit appeared soon afterward in Daily Mail UK! As an aside, we now can empathise at least a little with celebrities who deal with misquotes and misinformation. Much of the content was either fabricated or modified heavily and our children miraculously aged up by a year or two! Interesting to be called ‘Toh’ ; I haven’t been called that by anyone since my militant high school teachers!


daily mail article

Our first royalty statement appeared last month for the princely sum of $23. Curious as to why an article sold to Daily Mail would only net us $23 profit, we googled ‘everlook photography rex features’. The links extend well past 5 pages of results. If the royalty statements continue to be as low as our first, there will be some serious questions asked regarding the going rate of an article with numerous high resolution images!


How has this impacted on our general activity and exposure? To  be honest, we have had no additional print sales and perhaps a handful of inquiries regarding workshops and tutorials which we may not have otherwise had. How does this relate to the original question asked about image /article theft? It seems that on this occasion , the original theft from bored panda led to an explosion of exposure for us. This doesn’t mean that I condone those who steal images from photographers but it does make me wonder if the occasional ‘free act’ may actually benefit one’s business. There’s no substitute for creating quality images  but the time involved with achieving adequate exposure for those images to sing their own song in the wider world continues to be problematic and time consuming. In the interest of limited time available on any given day, I wonder if the time spent policing stolen images might be better spent on sending those images on their social media voyage of their own accord. The feeling of angst and outrage is being replaced slowly by apathy and acceptance. At least I’m calmer, but the bastard thieves out there are getting away with it!!!

What are your thoughts?

Posted on February 3, 2015, in How we..., M&D Corner, Photography, Publications and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. Great article as always. To put it in a few words ‘screw them, you should be paid’.

    You guys are at a stage where yes publicity is good but you are very well viewed and put in a lot of hard work for which you should be rewarded for. I bet boredpanda and Daily Mail don’t allow ads on their sites out of the goodness of their heart in the name of free publicity?

    This is one reason why I am reluctant to post images of my work on Flickr and to an extent Facebook which I occasionally upload to.They get lifted then there are tears.

    All the best from Melbourne.

    • Thanks Andrew. I agree but it’s just so time consuming to confront these sites with follow up emails and proof etc. I wonder if an online ‘thug’/debt collector equivalent could be employed to chase these issues up for photographers lol!

  2. Great article! I guess it depends on how you view it. Some togs demand full Credit and compensation, while others let it go. It’s good that it worked out for you like that. For me I would be off the moon if someone even bothered to think to steal any of my photos. But then I don’t have the level of awesomeness that you have. 😛

  3. I chase my images online constantly. It’s a weekly task I set myself. I send emails and invoices – sometimes up to 5 a week and most get paid. The only ones I bother to chase are those who use my photos for commercial use. If a photo is shared, pinned or blogged and I’m credited and/or linked back to one of my online profiles, then I take it as good exposure.

    • That’s good that you do that and even better you get a response with the invoices sent! Thankfully most the image theft isn’t usually for commercial gain that we’ve noticed. Perhaps we haven’t hit that market with our images lol

  4. 500px can license your images through their distributors and you receive as little as $15 for them. ZTE is DISTRIBUTING phones with my image of Mt. Shasta as their default wallpaper and using it in their global advertising. I got $26 because I failed to “opt-out” of 500px global distribution network. It’s shameful and a scam.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: