How much, I mean this, how much do you respect yourself, your work, your practice... - everything you do.
This week I've been through the wringer with a stolen image - cut the semantics, cut the definitions, there's some lessons here for all of us.
^My image "A Thing Called Love" clearly displayed, complete with instagram slice - a blatant screencapture
As you probably already know. I posted one of my prized images on Instagram. It's a work that is dear to me and I never (ever) imagined that this kind of a mess would spew forth from the bowels of the darkest, dirtiest parts of the internet. After all, the front door looked so nice...
My first mistake was that I didn't watermark the image that went up. Opps. A moment of naivety. It weighed on me after that, I forever wondered. Days, a week went past before anyone of any note saw it. And then it happened. Loads of people started sharing it, tagging it, reposting it, whoa, it was crazy. I was loving it.
Out of the mystery and intrigue, #tasmania liked it, shared it... #nikon_australia liked it, shared it... oh wow... simply how good is this.
And then this started. January 29, I was alerted to a digital article in The Mercury, Tasmania's local, but big, Newspaper. The online edition promintently featured my image, along with those of my contemporaries in Australia, promoting not my image, but Tasmania's Instagram page that had reached over 100,000 likes.
I was conflicted, but it was only online, my Instagram tag was still able to be tracked back, but i wasn't getting any further traction from it. Instagram on a whole wasn't feeding people to this very website, it was just kind of its own little universe. I let it slide, I mean, while it was in the digital realm, what harm was there.
I tweeted this to Twitter, I was happy, I thanked them and they thanked me back.
On the Monday, I got alerted to the fact that on Friday past, it HAD gone to print. Now I was angry, ropable, even.
IT HAD CROSSED THE BOUNDARY OF BEING JUST A "HARMLESS" ONLINE ARTICLE, INTO FULL BLOWN PRINT, for anyone, whether they use instagram or not, to enjoy. The article was exactly the same. They're meant to ask for photos, not get an intern to find the best one via Google search.
They HAD my contact details, I had been tweeting, I had been Instagramming, to say that my contacts were not available is a lie.
For those of you that want to have a read of the "terms" that we're talking about: A trusted source dug out the terms relevant to me (Thanks heaps William)
You may not use the Service for any illegal or unauthorized purpose. You agree to comply with all laws, rules and regulations (for example, federal, state, local and provincial) applicable to your use of the Service and your Content (defined below), including but not limited to, copyright laws.
The Instagram name and logo are trademarks of Instagram, and may not be copied, imitated or used, in whole or in part, without the prior written permission of Instagram, except in accordance with our brand guidelines, available here: http://help.instagram.com/customer/portal/articles/182487. In addition, all page headers, custom graphics, button icons and scripts are service marks, trademarks and/or trade dress of Instagram, and may not be copied, imitated or used, in whole or in part, without prior written permission from Instagram.
In reading it, it had nothing, NOTHING to do with my image. My beautiful, rare, once in a lifetime of a capture, was just decoration and a hook for people idly browsing the pages. It was enough to get you to stop and have a read.
What angered me the most is that I wasn't notified of ANY of this happening. And this is where opinions are split.
Apparently, I put it into a public realm, therefore, I released it into the wild like an repatriated possum to resume its life...
I spent Monday stewing in a spicy pot of anger and contempt for firstly not knowing better of the internet, and for the internet for being so low and dodgy. That large corporations can brush off the little woman and go about their theiving ways... that the blame can be passed like pass the parcel or hot potato and it'd end up being nobody's fault. My poor image was decreasing in value before my eyes, I still have a print sitting here, begging for a home.
So I did what was recommended to me, I emailed the Mercury, complete with invoice, for an amount I will not disclose.
And then I waited.
I contacted Tourism Tasmania in this waiting period, wondering if since they were getting such joy out of it, that they'd want to licence it for future use. I emailed two addresses, one of a library and that of reception which was touted at being the better choice. I was elated to find a response came in so quickly after I had sent it off.
I wasn't quite sure of what I was reading... I really was dumbfounded by this response:
WHAT? I saw red, fire burned in my eyes, I sat in my seat, mouth agape, feeling the colour drain out of me like an empty sink. What, how, who, responds to a professional email LIKE THIS!
I got a response not long after that from a person who could actually speak legible english, but once again a non-committal response:
"Thanks for getting in touch – and thank you for tagging #discovertasmania on your photos and for your support of our @tasmania Instagram feed. We couldn't have reached our milestone without sharing photos like yours!
My name is (name) and my role includes overseeing the day-to-day operations of our V Library and your inquiry was forwarded to me.
Thank you for your proposal – much appreciated. We are currently in the process of reviewing all content in our V ibrary to identify image gaps and develop guidelines around image selection/acquisition. We will keep your correspondence on file though ."
I decided to sleep on it, I just couldn't collect my thoughts after this rollercoaster.
In the meantime, the Facebook feed was going nuts. No doubt if you've seen it then you'll understand.
What started out as a legible, easy to follow post turned into 7000+ people seeing it later, and some local trolls who decided to get in there and fudge some shit up. I had to block them, my sanity was beginning to wear thin.
So many strong opinions, so many misguided opinions, so many that just commented without reading what had been posted there beforehand. Enough to drive one crazy and question the state of the very world...
After another day of waiting, I get a response late in the afternoon from The Mercury:
"Thankyou for your emails, which were forwarded for my attention this morning.
We receive more than 500 emails a day to which we need reply to about 95%, so you may understand the delay.
With regard to the use of the image in question, it was provided to us by Tourism Tasmania - a business of the Tasmanian Government - with permission to use given by them. I believe the image was originally posted on a Tourism Tasmania's instagram site?
It was stipulated by Tourism Tasmania at the time that we should credit the picture with its Instagram handle, which we did.
It was provided as a one-off for the story in question - the promotion of the Tourism Tasmania instagram site and the most popular postings - and was deleted from our archives soon after.
It is my understanding that you will need to contact Tourism Tasmania about any further copyright issues."
Once again, shaking my head, they had indeed done the Dragon Ball Z to me:
"Instagram" seems to be the magic word in media that means they can have whatever they want, whenever they want, without having to pay anyone at all for it.
With heavy heart, realising that I'm not going to get anything from these people, not even an acknowledgement of any wrongdoing, knowing that the editor of the publication is probably still the one at fault here, I replied to the girl who had thanked me for keeping my details on file. With a little mention of the professionalism issue with the receptionists response.
And this is where we're at now 4/2/15
10/2/15: Updates and a lack of closure, but this is what has happened since.
I spoke with a very well-respected Intellectual Property QC who basically advised me that it's such a grey area it'd require significant funds to chase up.
Yes, The Mercury fudged it all up, ultimately their editor is at fault, however as they won't have a beef of it, I'm left with jack all options except to drop it.
Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, I got a response from the Tourism Tasmania CEO, of whom I had emailed to bring to attention the appaling response from the receptionist. Here's bits of the response...
"...I agree with you that this is neither an appropriate nor professional reply from Tourism Tasmania and her manager has spoken with her about the response to you. It is unfortunate that they mistakenly believed they were responding to an office colleague, which lead to the unusual reply you received. She was aghast when she learned that the recipient of her reply was someone outside our organisation..."
and then at the end
"...However, I have noticed other recent references to Tourism Tasmania supplying a local newspaper with your image. This is in inaccurate...For your information, the newspaper approached us to find out what were our most popular Instagram posts, which we provided the links to for their information. They also requested a hi res image for their story, which we offered to provide (after contacting the relevant photographer to seek permission and access). Yours was not one of those images we considered. The newspaper subsequently advised us that they already had other images they could use from a photographer that we knew had provided permission, so no further transaction took place..."
Oh my gosh, it just happened again...
So, basically, someone farted in the elevator, but nobody is owning up to it.
I kind of wish I could email all involved now that I have these addresses, post each persons' response and say that someone among this group is responsible for not contacting me for permission. Someone here is lying. The end of all this is this:
INSTAGRAM = GET RIPPED OFF WITH THE IMAGE LIFTERS HAVING MORE RIGHTS THAN THE PHOTOGRAPHER.
NEWSPAPERS = ALWAYS KEEN TO AVOID THE LEGALITIES THAT THEY'RE BOUND BY
CORPORATIONS = KEEN TO MAKE MONEY BUT NEVER PAY THOSE WHO HELP OUT
PHOTOGRAPHER = $0
Welcome to the Internet kids, it's a hard lesson to learn.