Monday, 13 January 2014

7 Reasons Pinching Other People’s Photos For Your Website Is Just Not Cool

The rights and wrongs of photo copyright online

A year or so ago, we noticed a lot of our web traffic was coming from people searching for a shop with a vaguely similar name to ours. Out of curiosity we Googled that shop and found their website – there, right on the homepage, was one of our photos. Taken by Laura, in our house, for our website. The nerve!
The site had other photos that had clearly come from various sources around the web – and the company’s Facebook page was the same (they were also building Likes by offering competition prizes they didn’t have – pictures stolen from US Etsy stores, that sort of thing - but that’s another story – though it did help us to build a mental image of the owners as either unscrupulous liars or simple idiots).
We immediately contacted the owner and asked them to remove our photo from their site and Facebook page.

The photo we found on someone else's website

In their defence, they replied within minutes to apologise and they took the photos down (replacing them with a photo lifted from another site…).
Their excuse? “We found the photo on Flickr and because there was a tin of Annie Sloan paint in the photo, we thought it was Annie Sloan’s copyright”
Where do we begin?
1. We couldn’t find the photo on Flickr anywhere, but that’s by the by…
2. How would it be Annie Sloan’s copyright? Does that make every photo of a bottle of Coke the property of Coca-Cola?
3. Even if it was Annie Sloan’s copyright, why would that make it ok for you to use?

Maybe it’s because I’ve worked all my adult life as a journalist and therefore am well-versed in copyright law and avoiding being sued at all costs, but it just seems completely bizarre to me that people think it’s alright to just steal photos for use on their own business website.

Painted by Laura, photographed by Laura, lifted by me

Here are our seven reasons stealing photos of other people's work is not okay.

1. You give a false impression of your business
Customers will automatically assume that the photos on your site are examples of your work – and if you’ve chosen particularly nice pieces of work to decorate your site, it’s unlikely that your work will live up to your customers’ expectations.

One of our most shared photos. Sharing's cool, stealing's not

2. You might get sued
Pinch a photo from the wrong place and you could be in trouble. Big companies take their intellectual copyright very seriously. We once used a piece of wallpaper featuring a well-known design and found ourselves on the wrong end of a solicitor’s email asking us to remove all images from our website and never do it again. Expect the same treatment if you nab the wrong image.

3. Someone else worked hard to make that thing
To you it’s just a photo of a chest of drawers, but to the person who created it, it’s the result of hours of work, financial input and creativity. They worked on it, they photographed it, they put it online to show off their work. And you just dragged it onto your desktop. 

I never noticed that wheelbarrow until now

4. It’s lazy. Quit being lazy.
Seriously, if you’re painting furniture, or making cushions or painting faces – whatever it is you do – how hard is it to take a photo of your work? Not happy with your camera or photography skills? Pay a local photographer to do it for you. Maybe you could even offer them payment in furniture/cushions/face-painting.

5. A great photo is the result of years of training and expense
Swiped a photo from another website because the photography’s great and better than you can do? Why not just break into your neighbour’s house and steal their TV because it’s bigger than yours? Good photography comes from years of practice, investment in a good camera, time spent setting up the shot and than editing it until it is just right... or you could just steal it. Your call.

One of our earliest pieces, complete with mini bunting

6. It’ll probably look a bit crap
A good website has consistent photography. The images all knit together and create a satisfying whole – because they’ve been taken by the same person, with the same camera and had the same post-processing applied. A bad website has images pulled in from here, there and everywhere – different shapes, sizes and resolutions. The site we mentioned earlier had photos lifted from a minimalist  apartment in Japan and a French farmhouse – and tried to pass off the furniture in both as examples of their past work!

7. It’s just not polite
It’s very rude to just take a photo from someone else and use it for your own benefit. Even on Facebook, where seemingly anything goes, it’s just plain ignorant to take a photo of someone’s work and post it on your page without tagging your source. Ask first, and even if you can’t ask/don’t get a reply/can’t tag – use your fingers and your keyboard to type in the name of the page or website where you found the photo. It’s just common courtesy.

What do you think? Have you had your photos stolen? Do you disagree and think it’s harmless to borrow images from other sites? Let us know here or at