The best policy ?

I’m going to relate this story because it’s one of those situations where you may wonder what you would do in the same situation. I’m not going to mention the company or the product they retail, suffice to say they sell very expensive items to a wealthy clientele.

A few years ago I received a phone call from a web design company. They were coming up on the deadline to publish a website for a client and had been badly let down by photographer, who was supposed to have produced high quality images of some of the more exclusive items to go on the landing page.  What he had produced was very poor, to the extent of being a laughable.

I assured everybody that I could not only produce the goods but do so in the time remaining, and they gave me a piece to photograph as a trial. When, a couple of days later, I showed them the end results they immediately commissioned me to photograph the six pieces which were to feature on the landing page.

I spent the next week producing 18 images of the pieces, and delivered them in time for the website to go live.  I got paid, they hit their deadline, and the client’s website was completed on schedule. Everybody was happy.

A few weeks later I received a phone call from the client asking me would I be interested in photographing some more items for him on a regular basis. We came to an arrangement and I spent the next three months photographing new pieces as he received them.

Then, out of the blue, I received an email from the client telling me that he had seen some photographs on another website which he was interested in using on his own. Would I be able to remove the background and the watermark from the images?  I replied that it would be possible to to do this, but I would only do so if he had permission to use the images from the copyright holder. He replied that it was not a problem and asked how long it would take me?  I gave him a timescale and reiterated that I would not do it without the express permission of the copyright holder.

I’ve not heard from the client since, and he hasn’t replied to any of my emails or phone calls,

I can only assume that he found somebody else to carry out the task for him. Also, on checking the website I can see that the style of photography has changed, so either he’s found someone else to do the photography or is doing it himself.  (Given the quality of the photography now I would assume the latter).

Many people don’t fully understand the idea of copyright, or choose to ignore it.  When you buy an image, a music track, a video, or software you don’t actually buy the file itself you simply buy a license allowing you to use it. In essence you are renting it.  The copyright always remains with the creator.  It is surprising how many people think that because an image is on the web the rule of copyright does not apply, and the image is free to use for any purpose by anybody.

A couple of times a year I use a piece of software which trawls the Internet looking for my images, and gives me details of where they being used. It is not often I have to write to somebody to tell them to remove an image from their website but it has happened on a few occasions in the past. When contacted those using the images are usually willing to take them off-line.  I’m happy for charities or educational websites to use my images free of charge, but anybody using them for self-promotion or profit wiil receive a email.

My unwillingness to steal another’s work has cost me a lucrative commission.  It would be nice to think that the gesture is being reciprocated.


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