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Are you Stealing Photographs? – top 10 lame responses – photography, copyright, social media & the internet

Are you stealing photographs for a blog, twitter, instagram or facebook page? Is your employee stealing photographs? You don’t know? Well, if you don’t know where the photograph or image came from, or you don’t have written permission from it’s owner to use it, DON’T – period! I agree, stealing might be too strong a tone, but I wanted to get your attention, and I also wanted to make it more clear that if you’re using images that are not yours or you don’t have permission to use them, and you’re using them to help generate likes, or build your brand, you really are stealing.

Every week, for the past several months someone emails me a link to a website or social media platform where one of my images is posted without my permission and without a license. I’m grateful to have so many friends who know my work watching out for me. I’m even more greatful that my images resonate with so many, but I’m alarmed by all the people who are really stealing photographs. By the way, I think most don’t realize is, or if they do, they don’t know how to deal with it – the urge to post to social media is too great today and few have access to quality content. Here’s an example the most recent photograph used online – that I know of – without my permission . . .  It was used by a person on facebook as their cover photo. They used excuse number 9 in my list of top ten lame responses for stealing photographs.

rutting bighorn sheep ram lip curling teath showing (Tony Bynum)

This is the most recent photograph stolen and used by a facebook business page. Photograph of a rutting bighorn sheep ram, lip curling with teeth showing. (© Tony Bynum)

What’s even more surprising are the responses I get, even from people who call themselves professionals in the outdoor media world, when I contact them about unauthorized use. Most of the people stealing photographs are using them to illustrate a story, or get more likes to their facebook business page. I’ll tell you how you know you’re stealing a photograph after I give you a list of the top 10 reasons people give me for stealing photographs, starting with:

10. I would have given you credit if i knew where it came from.

9. I don’t even know where we got that photo.

8. Our social media person found it some place.

7. I thought since it was on the internet it was free.

6. There was no copyright mark on it so i though it was free.

5. It was on my computer when I got this job.

4. I have to license images?

3. You dont own them if they are online.

2. I did not steal it, someone gave it to me.

1. I did not know it was yours.

Okay, so they said they didn’t know it was mine. I love that one! Does that mean if they did they would have asked me if they could use it? That reply makes me wonder. Suppose they they really did not  know it was mine, did they think it was therefore okay to steal photographs from someone else?

Stealing photographs is a crime. What’s with people these days?  Do people really think that property rights exited stage right with the advent of the computer screen, social sharing and digital files? Did any of the people that choose to steal photographs ever hear the saying, “if it aint yours, dont touch it?” What happened to the good old days when you knew that if something was not yours you left it alone?

Today, it seems like if it’s not bolted down, or have a no trespassing sign on it, people think it’s free . . .  Why is this? Is our society not teaching our children to keep their hands to themselves, or in the very least ask before taking something that does not belong to them? If you don’t know who something belongs to, the default is to leave it alone,  not take it.

The “I did not know it was yours,” excuse reminds me of the reality TV show where the cops leave car on the street or in a parking lot with the keys in it and sit and wait for some idiot to walk up and drive it away.  After the perps are caught, the police always ask, “is this your car,” and the perps always say, “no.” Then the crook proceeds to argue that they did not steel it because they were just moving it . . .  It’s the same with photographs on online. If you dont know who owns it, or where it came from, and you don’t have permission to use it, DON’T USE IT!  It’s that simple. It’s not complicated, it simple, if it’s not yours don’t use it, even if you can not track down the creator or owner.

Think about this. If someone works for you – your social media or web person – is caught stealing photographs, it’s your butt, not theirs that will get in trouble. I mean real trouble, not the kind of trouble that will make you pay for it’s use, but the trouble like your website comes down – that kind of trouble – the “you’re out of business” kind of trouble.  It’s your site that will be taken down by google, or your facebook page that will be suspended. And in some cases, it’s your wallet what will have to cough up the cash to pay for the ignorance of your employee . . .  Gaida Zirkelback in this recent online article explains the law and how stealing photographs can really hit business owners in the pocket book.

So, I recommend that if you don’t know where the photograph came from, or you’re not sure if it’s okay to use it, DON’T!  Go get your own photograph, pay for it, or use a photograph that’s already been made available though a creative commons license (more an that subject in a future article). In an upcoming post I’ll share with you how to tell if a photograph is owned, and where and how you can find “free” photographs.

Sincerely, Tony Bynum

32 Responses to “Are you Stealing Photographs? – top 10 lame responses – photography, copyright, social media & the internet”

  1. Ira New Breast says:

    How many copy right infringements have you successfully pursued? If not many there must be a better way to guard your work. Remonds me of open range when slick (non branded) calves were up for grabs. Sorry this is happening to you.

    • Tony says:

      In most cases, people who use images without permission stop once they are asked. Usually people will do the right thing. In most cases, having their facebook page, or website restricted, or in some cases taken down, gets their attention. Also, these days, with social media, it’s not hard to brown beat them quickly into doing the right thing. I’m finding that a little pressure from my community goes a long way. So when I find a violation I post it on the web and you’d be surprised how quickly the conversation on their page or their blog goes from the subject of the blog to them defending themselves against stealing photographs. It’s not log before the pressure mounts and the images come down. I’m surprised by the number of people who don’t just ask or try to turn a bad situation into a good one. You’d be surprised how quickly how an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure! I have a good track record of chasing down the bad guys and getting them to pay. . .

  2. Daniel B. says:

    Put your copyright on it. Done… solved. Quit whining.

  3. Tony says:

    Thanks for the comments . . . it’s always amusing when people shoot the messenger . . . punting a copyright on a photo – I’m thinking that Daniel was referring to adding a watermark to the photo, is fine, but it’s easily removed, and often is. . . The lager point is that people should just recognize that getting ahead is often better done though working with people, not against them . . .

    In my next pose on the subject of “stealing photographs” I’ll explain how to get good photos for your FB page and how doing it rights works better for everyone!


  4. Ryan says:

    Thank you Tony. There is quite a bit to digest, but here are my thoughts. Fundamentally, this comes down to whether you recognize a distinction between private property and intellectual property. In the spirit of disclosure, I fully, without wavering wavering support the former and categorically reject the latter.

    The issue is rather simple, but not for the reasons you explain. As a matter of fact, you seem to have added more confusion to the topic. Case and point, in the first paragraph you wrote, “if you don’t know where the photograph or image came from, OR you don’t have written permission from it’s owner to use it, DON’T – period!” You used the word OR there, when I think you intended to use the word AND. Otherwise I could say, “I know exactly where I found the image…in a Google image search, thus by Tony Bynum’s standards, I am safe.” I know for a fact you don’t believe what you wrote. The word AND is what you were looking for.

    Per the image you display, I am so pleased to hear that you were able to recover the stolen goods. How long was it out of your possession? While it was gone, did you leave a blank space on the wall to memorialize your loss or did you place a different photo there as a place-holder until the original was returned to you? What is that you say? It was never out of your possession? You mean to tell me that a theft took place while the item fully remained in your possession? How is that even possible? You throw around terms like “stealing”, when the better word would be copying.

    “Stealing photographs is a crime.” Duly noted. Of course, the word “stealing” is used in a very loose sense, but that is not my point. This country has a long history of criminalizing things that in fact should never have been. Harboring a fugitive slave was a crime. Selling alcohol was a crime. Being of Japanese descent was a crime. Being black and marrying a white girl was a crime. Being black and drinking from a “white’s only” fountain was a crime. Smoking a plant is a crime. Having lower prices than your competition is a crime (predatory pricing). Having higher prices than your competition is a crime (price gouging). Having the same prices as your competition is a crime (collusion). Lying is a crime (Martha Stewart). Owning gold was a crime. Being anti-war was a crime (espionage act 1917). This country forcibly removed tens of thousands of Native Americans from their homes. It has interned tens of thousands of Japanese for no other reason than their being Japanese. When it comes to understanding what a crime is, you will have to forgive me if the US Government doesn’t get my vote of confidence. But you claim “this is the greatest country on earth”. Great. That is like being the least terminally ill in the oncology ward. Not much comfort.

    This issue is bigger than current legislation and the ability of artists like yourself to lobby Washington for tough protectionist policies. In essence, this is a crime because the MPAA et al, had really good lobbyist that were able to purchase that distinction. Not because it is philosophically sound.

    There is so much gray area around this law and around your position. For instance, can I use your image if my plan is to parody or critique your image? Yes. So it is fine for me to use the image as long as I hate it and think it is the single worse piece of photography ever presented, but somehow if I like it and want to help spread the word–I am a thief. Nonsense.

    Can I take a picture of the bull on Wall Street and not get sued by the bull’s owner? Yes. Can I even publish the picture of the bull on Wall Street on my blog and not get sued? Yes. Why? Because it is in public and the assumption of privacy is removed. But somehow, in your world, Google Image search is not public. Even though your picture shows up there, it is still yours. Nope. Not buying it. (pun intended?)

    Apple will no doubt release a new iPhone. And a gazillion blogs will find and post pictures of said phone. And you know what? Apple will not only NOT be pissed (hey! That is my picture of my iPhone), they will LOVE the publicity. Search for the pictures, they say. Find the one you want, they say. Post it where you like as often as you like, they say. Because they know the value of publicity. But not so with the likes of you. By your definition, Apple enables theft.

    And what of the fashion industry? They too, like you, are artists. But they didn’t have good lobbyist, like you. So they can’t own the designs, like you. All they can own is the trademark. But the design is immediately open to the market. And do you see what happens? The market keeps winning. We keep getting new and innovative fashions. We also get clothes that are less and less expensive. But it were left to you and your lobbyist and your name calling, every knock-off shirt produced would be labeled “thief”.

    Brilliant as you are in photography, a philosophy 101 class could have gone a long way (think ethics, law, private property, what is crime, what does it mean to be free). An economics 101 class may have gone even further (think economic sophisms, broken window fallacy, Frederic Bastiat, etc.)

    By the way, you may want to fix the OR in the last paragraph while you are at it.

    • Tony says:

      Thanks Ryan. I usually do not allow posts by people who do not identify themselves, since usually cowards tend to like to hide. I’ll make an exception in your case.

      Moving on, lots to think about there, I appreciate you stopping in and taking the time to express your very narrow mind. I’ll answer your first simple question the best I can. The reason for the OR, is because many many people, including my clients, know if they have permission to use a photo and for what it can be used for. A lot of people also may know where a photo came from and so they would know if it’s available to use or not. Even employees of other companines that have licensed my work may know what licens’s they have and how they can use the photo without having my written permission. Some of my images exists online in what’s called the “creative commons” and therefore they don’t need written permission directly from me to use it so long as they follow the terms of the license (read Getty’s newest photo give away, again you might actually learn something new there too) – Google it.

      Moreover, the point comes down to this, do you have a license to use the photo or not? If you do not, don’t use it. Little to nothing else matters, and philosophy and morals are both irrelevant. Okay, now, I think you are confusing an object you can hold in your hand that you own, and property that is not in your hand but still owned, call them “rights,” one is virtual and owned, the other is in your had and owned, both are protected by the law. Don’t confuse selling a vhs tape at a garage sale for selling something you dont have a right to sell . . . If you own it, you can sell it, unless it unlawful under the terms of sale – I retain all rights to my images, third party use, or sale is not allowed. If you want to buy that right you can buy it, but most do not. It’s really a bundle of rights, kind of like property, you can split them up. What you cannot do, is steal photographs and use them without the permission of the owner. You may not like it, and you may even disagree with it, but you face prosecution if you fail to follow the law. Ignorance or disrespect of the law is no excuse and usually is not a plea . . .

      On to your “bull” photograph example. If you use a picture of that bull on wall street, that’s not yours, and without the owners permission, you would be stealing. . . However, in your example, congratulations for spending your own time and resources on getting that photo, you’re now following the law, and contributing to a civil society. Let me as you Ryan, what protects feature films? What protect anyone from using what other’s pay dearly to create? Are you suggesting that no matter what, once something goes on the internet it’s now public domain and therefore free? If you believe this you are among the hand full of people who should find your own island to live on, or go create your own country where you can be the dictator.

      BTW, What do you actually create? Do you own a business or do you draw a wadge and work for someone else? Of course you’re not drawing a paycheck and allowing someone to subsidize your life on earth, right? And yes, you do have to pay taxes, and no the constitution does not exempt you as your own sovereign from paying them. Cuz if you were you’re own sovereign, you’d have been taken over and squished by now. So, go take on the day! Cheers! Tony Bynum

      • Ryan says:

        Thank you for your response Tony. I identified myself to the degree that the form required AND that thought was consistent with the other comments. Maybe Ira’s last name is New Breast, and maybe Daniel B.’s last name is B. I am not sure how giving my real, legal first name, as your form requested makes me a coward. So I am not sure that an exception was needed.

        The OR leaves an out is my concern. Since I can state where I found the picture, the rest of the statement becomes superfluous. I was only looking out for you, but if you don’t mind the loophole, who am I to judge?

        “…and philosophy and morals are both irrelevant”. That will be a sad day indeed. Maybe we are already there. Clearly that is why my post comes off as very narrow minded, I guess because I tried to base it in philosophy and morals. Not in pretend legislation and sophistry.

        I am not confusing on object that you can hold (private property) with one that is virtual (intellectual property). That, in fact, is my indictment against you. For me, crime is nothing more than the violation of private property. The photographs that you take are private property to long as they remain in your camera or in your gallery or in your computer. The moment that you share them for the world to see, they are no longer private. Clearly, stealing your camera is NOT the same thing as copying an image from Google. In one case there was an unauthorized reduction of inventory, in the other, there wasn’t. The first is theft, the second is not.

        Regarding the license, it is nonsensical to make such demands post facto the purchase or acquisition. This is all too common in software. If I purchase windows 8 from Best Buy, the exchange was between best buy and myself. The terms of that exchange are listed on the receipt. However, when I get home, Microsoft will insert themselves into the transaction and make demands of me…demands that were not laid out when I entered into a free exchange with Best Buy. This too is ludicrous. I noticed on my CD, which I purchased, that I am not allowed to lend it out. But those terms were revealed AFTER I made the purchase. Had I known those terms before hand, I would not have bought the CD. Getting an image from Google is very similar. Google offered it to me. I copied it. Google’s inventory was not reduced. Nor was the artist’s. But Google and other ISPs went in with the MPAA et al to get indemnification. Nonsense. But my guess is, you know that facilitating the transaction is equally culpable as copying the image. But you wont stand up to Google. It is the law, after all, and therefore must be infallible.

        Yes, once something goes on the internet, it is silly to think it is safe. Can I own a chord progression? Even this very comment is not safe. Others can take it and claim it as there own. It wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all. If I wanted my thoughts to remain mine, I would not have shared them. They would have remained in my “very narrow mind” where they would be safe. But I expressed them, digitally, and now they are there for the taking. “What protects feature films?” Theaters. There, that wasn’t so hard was it?

        There are more than a few of us that reject the notion of intellectual property. And I have zero interest in being the dictator. I am not sure from my post what would give you the indication that I am even interested in being a dictator. Because I believe in freedom to a greater degree than you do?

        Before casting me off to an island, do you have any interest in addressing the specifics that I raised? Can I use your image to scorn your image? You know that answer, but you did not address it. Why? Can I use your image to parody your image? Yes, but again you remain silent. Fashion designers are not afforded the sweet luxury that you photographers are, but why aren’t you defending them? Oh, because the law is not on their side? Of course it would be nice if your philosophy and morals dictated that all artists were protected, not just your cute little fraternity.

        I create training documents and modules for my employer. I also facilitate those training events. I also blog and write content for public consumption. Or at least for my island’s consumption. But I am not sure I know what a “wadge” is, so I am not really in a position to comment on that. I work for someone else, it is a free exchange of goods and services. I am not sure what subsidizing my life on Earth even looks like. I provide a service, and in return, I am compensated for my service. When I don’t provide the service, per the terms of my contract, I no longer am compensated. Just like you Tony.

        Why the name calling? In this post you refer to me as a coward and very narrow minded. Why is that? Did I disrespect you by bringing up some counter points to consider? Was I rude to you? It seems to me that we should be able to discuss the issue based on the merits of the arguments, not on the size of my cranium or whether or not I lack a spine. But I guess I am assuming that morality should play a role in such a discourse. In my case, the golden rule. So I don’t pick on you personally, I address only your argument. Maybe morals (for you) are irrelevant in this arena as well.

        • Tony says:

          Honestly “Ryan,” there’s no tea leaves to be read here, I’m short of time and lack enough of it, in enough quantity to address your issues to your satisfaction. My logic tells me that you wont change your mind no matter what I or anyone says. You’re a “believer” and there’s no amount of anything that will change your mind. That said, you have raised some great points, you’re wrong and the law at least for now agrees with me, but this is no doubt an area that will continue to receive more and more scrutiny and litigation. I’ll leave it at that, the rest is simply orbiting . . . Yes, you are/were rude, and yes you were condescending. I do appreciate that you will not steal my photos based on me asking you not to. Thank you for taking the time to comment. We will just have to agree to disagree and you will have to just follow the law, unless of course you want to wrangle with it, that would be your choice. As far as morals, again don’t read too much into the tea leaves, the truth is, don’t steal photos and you’ll be fine. If you want to change the law, you’re barking up the wrong tree, go talk to your legislator, or your representatives and get’r done . . . Did you forget that this is my blog and I run it? So what I say gets to go here, and what you say goes here only because I let it go here. That means I get to answer the questions I answer based mainly on how much time and how much difference i think answering them might make . . . I dont own you anything, you came to me. Now you’re welcome to stay or go, that too is up to you. Finally, If you have your own blog, or a complete name with a link to who you are, I invite you to share it here and maybe some people who believe as you do, or who want to know more about how you think, will follow it and find a new place to orbit. . . You might even get some good google juice too! Take care “Ryan”

  5. Jon Erdmann says:

    Obviously Ryan has not read the law on this.

    Great article Tony, and I hope more people heed the warning.


    • Tony says:

      Thanks Jon, he’s well aware of the law, he just wants to play in his own sand box . . .

    • Ryan says:

      Thank you Jon. Tony is correct, I am aware of the law. And this may come as a shock, but I even try to follow it. I have no interest in copying Tony’s photos, brilliant as they are. But not because the law stops me, but because Tony has asked me not to.

      My issue is whether the law is coherent with reality. I posit that it is not for the reasons I referenced in my post. I would like to think that in a “free” society, we can get together and discuss the merit of various ideas.

      Regarding my own sand box. The truth of the matter is I love the idea of each of us coming and going, voluntarily, in each other’s sand box. The free exchange of goods and services is what makes for a healthy economy and happens to also be a leading indicator of peace. People are far less likely to engage in war if they are exchanging goods.

    • Ryan says:

      Wow Jon. You too are a fantastic photographer. And it appears that you are also a Christian. In that, I hope that you can see that I am bound by a greater ethic than what is laid in and that under no uncertain terms does this conversation make morality irrelevant.

      • Jon Erdmann says:

        Thank you Ryan, I have to look at myself every day in the mirror, and when I do, I want to see a man that is ethical in every respect.

        As they say, ethics is a thing we do, when we think no one is watching us. The truth is, I know I am being watched all the time, and someday will have to account for what I do now.

        We as photographers open that window in time, that moment that we could capture for all eternity and can say, we were in the moment.

        Tony gives me great insight, and to pursue my passion into uncharted places.

        Have a good one my friend

        • Tony says:

          John, thanks for taking the time to comment! I do appreciate your support and the thoughts and ideas you share with all of us. Keep up the great work, or should I say, keep working hard so other people devalue you and what you do to a point that it has no value . . . BTW, who needs to make a living and why follow the laws when you can just say, “ah, that’s bullshit, I don’t think that’s the way it should be so I’ll do something different.” And contrary to what “Ryan” thinks, this is not anything close to civil rights or antitrust . . . Sorry “Ryan,” you lost us again with that whole argument.

  6. Grace Kane says:

    Your photography skills are awesome. Bravo to your passion being expressed with such beauty and finesse. (I had never seen your work before, but a fellow photographer posted the blog above to our fb photography page)

    I had an idea as to why this blog post seemed to lead to heated exchanges… Suppling facts is admirable and helpful. A shift of having your lead into this article being informative and embracing, instead of condescending would have changed its demeanor completely. The general public I assume is not out to steal from you, but were uninformed. Honey and compassion bring good to one more often than an attempt at scolding your audience. Kvetching, with perfect tempo, brings more of the same back to one.
    Grace Kane (gkdesign) – Apparel designer and amateur photographer

    • Tony says:

      Great points Grace. Thanks for taking the time to comment. You are correct, the public does not now any better, and that’s all the more reason to address it this way, no one will forget and they will realize that they are actually stealing. So, why would I discourage people from getting excited and heartfelt about things that make them feel passion? I’ll let you in on the back story as to why the comments read the way they do. This guy (Ryan) began trolling me on twitter, then came to my site to express his views. You are correct, I could have written this in a slightly different tone. That blog post, regarding this subject, as announced in the blog post itself, is forth coming. My follow up to this blog is “how to get the photos you want for your own use.” I’ll include some links and some ways to get free photos and also some thoughts on how to find more information about the one’s you find online and want to use. . . Thanks for your thoughts. Again the reason the comments went the way they did, over the last three days (I made this blog post many months ago) is because the guy trolled me on twitter and until I sent him the link, he never even knew this blog, let alone this subject existed. As an observation, it is interesting that you are reading this post in the first place, did the title compel you to check it out? If so, it worked. Finally, compassion and honey does not pay the bills, good solid lawyers going after people who steal my images does.

      • Grace Kane says:

        Alright then. I read this because it was posted as interesting to our photography fb page. I will ask my friend how he found it in the first place.
        I assumed this was an open blog you post to your public – since I had access to its content. If you thought you were having a private conversation to iron out some differences – you were mistaken:)
        This was my first encounter with you and your artwork…so…to have it accompanied by a tit for tat emotional confrontation, was not a very positive public persona presentation.
        It seems like you could still be pleasant as you enforce the legalities aimed at worthy events of poaching of your work. I for one would respect your poise in doing so.
        My first thought was that a 72 dpi copy of your work used as a FB entry was really a innocent occurance and easily delt with as you explained. If someone was using a full raw digital file without having purchased it THAT would be a different event and most likely easily tracked down.
        Because I am a fledgling photographer who does not protect myself at all from copy (beyond a huge signature on them)when folks have asked to share my photos occasionally I say “SURE!”. If I was to be in your position I would not do that so often…but then if I was in your spot, maybe I WOULD to those who merely loved the photo and only wanted to use it as a feel good moment etc. I would not really want to have a poor quality photo with my signature on it as all they were to ever see – so that would be my moment to let them know where to find my website full of my prized shots. Haveing then made a friend with my compassionate attitude (always in front of my potential next step to reign in poaching if needed)since I was going to be spending energy toward the process why not have it be optimistic and confident. But that is just me;) Good luck to you and may your days be full of grace and beauty no matter what your surroundings.
        Grace Kane

        • Tony says:

          Grace, it is an open blog, to the extent that I want it to be, and so far I’ve allowed every post to stand as submitted. Like my photos, I own the blog and I get to say what goes here and what does not, no different than any other publication for which you are the editor. I’m sorry you dont care much for my persona. You’re right, I could be more pleasant, but I’m making a choice to not mince my words, and to call them like I see them. As per the size of images, you meant to say PPI, not DPI (dpi is a printing term, ppi is “pixels per inch) and used to describe digital files, dpi is “dots per inch,” the two are not interchangeable, but often are confused and misused. Everyone makes choices, feel free to do whatever you like with your photographs. Take care, and again, thank you for posting. . . The fact that people break the law should not be the reason honest people are forced, or discouraged from using the www for it’s intended use. The www did not create the copyright laws, in fact there are laws that protect work on the word wide web. So, do what you wish, share your thoughts, ideas and opinions as you see fit! Thank you again. Take care, Tony

  7. Bill Kinney says:

    If Ryan’s identity was stolen, would there be a blank space on his face? If you did recover your “stolen goods” (identity), the following thoughts would come to mind:

    Per the identity you display, I am so pleased to hear that you were able to recover the stolen goods (identity). How long was it out of your possession? While it was gone, did you leave a blank space on your face to memorialize your loss or did you place a different identity there as a place-holder until the original was returned to you? What is that you say? It was never out of your possession? You mean to tell me that a theft took place while the item fully remained in your possession? How is that even possible? You throw around terms like “stealing”, when the better word would be copying.

    Just sayin’….

    • Tony says:

      Bill, glad you dropped in and made a comment, thank you! You call it whatever you want. I’m from Montana, we’re maybe a little more simple in that we don’t parse words and we call things what they are. When you take something that is not yours, even if it looks like the one “over there,” it’s stealing. It is a violation, either way, to take without permission, copy without permission, use without permission, you make up your own words for it if you like, the point is, if it aint yours, leave it alone . . .

  8. scott says:

    Tony, I spent a bit of time reading g through your post and the sequence of replies. Most notably the exchange between you and Ryan. I have come to make a living out of social media and marketing. I don’t steal photos or content I have a team that creates or finds (legally) what I need. But why would you not address Ryan’s question on the difference between some one using a photo of yours in a parody or critique vs some one using a photo of yours as site content? I am interested in your explanation of why one is ok but the other is not? My own question to you is this. If I write a book it is perfectly legal for me to use the thoughts and theories of others as long as they are credited. In your mind does this differ in the circumstances of crediting artists while using their work to explain or demonstrate a point?

    • Tony says:

      If one does not have a license from the owner one is in jeopardy of violating his or her copyright. I’m not saying one is or is not okay. I’m saying, one more time, if you dont have a license for it, you are not authorized to use it. Finally, I’m not in the busienss of defining every detail of copyright law. I’ll dabble around the edges, for the purpose of this blog, but you should, if you really are interested in the question you raise, head on over to a legal blog, like the one produced by my friends over at the

  9. Ron Spomer says:

    Tony, Ryan et al..

    Ah passion! It’s good to see in the form of Tony’s photos; it’s ugly to see, in the form of many internet “comments.”
    We, being humans, are prone to all the passions and foibles of our species. Who can resist the instinct to jab, poke, insult and verbally skewer another? Especially under the cover of anonymity? Been there, done that. Trying to not do it again. While Ryan makes some fascinating observations and asks probing philosophical questions about morality, he taints his message with arrogance and insult.
    Much of what is being questioned here amounts to the number of angels dancing on a pinhead. The main point is rather obvious to us all, and I believe we feel it when we “borrow” someone else’s intellectual property, whether it be words, films, painting, photos. We don’t copy Hollywood films and sell them on our websites. We don’t print fresh copies of Jared Diamond’s books and sell those. We don’t photograph modern paintings in a museum and sell prints outside the museum door.
    We instinctively know that things created by the hands of others are not ours to milk for profit. I’m happy to investigate all philosophical sides of this issue, but let’s acknowledge that our culture/society has instituted these standards. Must be a reason. And fairness/honor/respect/integrity seem likely.

  10. somsai says:

    I came here on a search of your web site looking for the info on copyright and reusing photos. I take photos on a different subject and only use my own on my blog. I’ve seen my photos many times elsewhere and frankly I could care less. I and everyone else with an iphone can take photos and post them on the web. I find the idea of getting peeved at someone elses use of my photos hilarious. At some time the law will catch up with what every school child knows. Anything on the web is public, if you don’t want it to be so don’t post it.

    • Tony says:

      Somsai makes a good point. There are some people who dont really care who or what happens to the images they create, in fact, as Somai points out, getting peeved at someone else using one of their photos is hilarious. I’ll have to say, that’s not un common, and one of the reason’s I wrote the post and titled it the way I did. It was written exactly for Somsai, and other’s that share that philosophy. Remember, the laws are the laws. People can have their own opinions about whether they like them or not, and that’s the great thing about our Nation, the freedom to have your own thoughts. I would have to agree somewhat, that things that are found on the web are public to look at, but using them for your own personal or commercial gain is a different matter. Somsai, try copying and pasting mark twain into your own word document, then post it online as your own and see what kind of reaction you get. Maybe you think you want to be Mickal Jackson so you copy the song “bad” and put it out there, on the web, as your own. Moreover, what about when someone pays lots of money for an advertisement and puts in on line and you, or someone like you who is mostly ignorant, takes the image and uses it for their own purpose? Should I or you be able to use the coke, or pepsi logo as we see fit? Feel free to not care about your own iphone photos. Because you like or think something is wrong doesn’t mean it is. Sincerely, Tony Bynum

  11. Kimi Wei says:

    What an interesting discussion … I do appreciate Ryan’s thoughts on copyright as he raises many issues that have run through my own mind as well, over the years, and does a good job of it.

    On the other hand, I completely appreciate Tony’s position as an artist defining the law for the benefit of individuals whom are largely ignorant of what copyright law is, as pertains to images.

    An issue touched upon only tangentially, is that Tony and other professional photographers derive their incomes from taking photographs – doing so is their job. And they both want and need to be paid for the work they do, like anyone else does. It can take hours, days, weeks to get a single poignant shot like Tony’s ram … and alongside the time needed just to shoot it, an investment of years goes into building the cumulative knowledge of subjects and mastery of craft and equipment that leads to being able to capture stunning wildlife or action shots. You have to actually own the equipment too and good cameras are not cheap.

    Over the purchase life of a photograph, or of her complete body of work, a photographer hopes that her investment of time, equipment and acquisition of skill will result in her being eventually able to claim a living wage for what she does. This is not a given, though, and many professional photographers do not earn enough from their craft to dedicate themselves to it exclusively, without holding down another job that pays the bills while they execute their craft in their “free” time. And that may be true throughout the artist’s entire life.

    Professional, by the way, isn’t a term that refers to a level of skill – it merely means that an individual gets paid for performing whatever craft s/he is dedicated to.

    As for the matter of the obscene amounts of money that professional artists, athletes, art traders, producers and the like are able to make from producing, copyrighting and licensing big revenue producing entertainment, sports events and trademarked wearables and brands … well, I stand in complete philosophical opposition to this entire mode of money generation.

    But, I do respect the right of an artist who produces visuals and statements other people in the world enjoy, to earn a comfortable living while practicing and sharing his/her art. After all, we benefit from what they do … so doesn’t it stand true that we should want to make it possible for them to continuing doing what ultimately, pleases and informs us?

  12. […] came across a pretty interesting discussion on copyright law today, which was sparked by photographer Tony Bynum’s post on the illegality of using […]

  13. Having had many of my images taken, I related well to this thread.

    Thank you for bringing up the topic; shedding light on it; and educating about it.

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