The Photographer’s Challenge: Profiteering Off Digital Piracy

rebekka's Photographs

Pictured above are eight beautiful scenes photographed by an Icelandic photographer, Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir. Her photographs were recently resold — not under her identity, of course — and the company has profited nearly $5000 off her work without her knowledge.

From her Flickr page:

They were all taken , without my permission, by the London based print-selling company Only-Dreemin. This company prides itself on offering its customers only the best quality canvas prints of the finest photos , by top artists.

What they fail to mention is that some of the photos they’re selling prints of have been illegally obtained, and are being sold without the artists consent or knowledge.

As photographers in the digital photography realm, we are faced with challenges by people lacking ethics who wish to profiteer off of the work of others. This is not the first time I have noticed this. Another extremely talented photographer, Trey Ratcliff (aka StuckinCustoms), has had his photos resold at a Kodak store.

It is never right to profit off of someone’s hard work. We photographers need to take extra care of our work to ensure that they don’t end up in the wrong hands. However, when such things happen, there’s always recourse.

This story made it to the front page of digg.com, a social news site. After several disgruntled users complained to the company, they wrote back with the following:

Can I start by saying there are 2 sides to every story and I will try to tell you our side.

In August 2006, we were contacted by “Wild Aspects and Panoramics LTD” a company based here in London, they offered to show us some imagery, that they stated would be high resolution and we would have sole reselling rights.We were visited by a salesperson from the company and we liked what we saw

Anyway 2 weeks passed, emails were sent back and forth,basic research was done by us to enable us to resell them and then the paperwork was signed and a considerable amount of money was paid(£3000.00)by us , for us to start selling these images in the form of canvas prints.

6 months later we had a letter from a law firm in Iceland, stating we were using someone’s images, we googled the claimants name, lo and behold we found we had been duped!.

As requested we immediately removed the images from the internet and destroyed any copies of the images we had.

We emailed the law firm to state we had dealt with these requests and to apologise to their client.

We took legal advice, they told us say nothing more than we had, not reccomending we contact the claimant and tell her what had happened, by the way we were very keen to do that, but we were told to avoid all contact.

In the meantime we started our own investigation into the above company’s contacts and sources but have since found nothing more because the telephone doesn’t get answered, mobiles are permanantly off and emails are getting bounced back, it seems we were conned too.

As digital artists and designers, we know the importance of integrity, hence the immediate halt and removal of images from the internet, if we had no morals, surely we would still be selling them to recoup our costs?.

As Rebekka has now decided to make this public, we can set about explaining to her why this has happened and of course, to apologise.

Many thanks O-D

I’m sorry, but “told to avoid all contact?” An apology was definitely in order from the start. My guess is that there are no two sides to the story as they claim but they needed to cover themselves after they got caught.

The Internet age makes it easy to “profit” off of someone’s hard work, but it’s also easy to bring these issues into the forefront. Besides this blog, there are numerous other blog posts, thousands of page views about Rebekka’s photo theft, and this is just the beginning.

In any event, it is never right to steal a photographer’s hard work. But it looks like there will be consequences to those who do.

Update: In case you were wondering where Rebekka’s photos and flickr post went, Flickr apparently removed itThomas Hawk has more.

10 Responses to “The Photographer’s Challenge: Profiteering Off Digital Piracy”

  1. [...] to its flickr location or give me credit for the pic in your post. Anything less would be an act of digital Piracy as told by [...]

  2. sigh

  3. What about when photographers profit from an image they took of someone else, without their knowledge or permission? It wasn’t the photographer doing the tricks on the bike, it was me. I was doing all the “hard work”, yet photographers take my photo without my knowledge or permission, publish them on the internet, then sell them for their own profit.

  4. Bobby, you can usually issue a DMCA takedown when that happens and inform the associated service/web host of the theft. Use a service like tineye.com and find out where the stolen images reside. It’s a pretty cool service!

  5. I think you misunderstood me. They didn’t steal any photos of me, they took a photo of me with their own camera, then put it on their own website for sale, without my knowledge or permission.

  6. Ah, sorry Bobby.

    Well, sorry to say but that’s perfectly legal if you were in a public domain.

  7. Well that’s just horrible, somebody making money off my hard work and all they did was push a button? It took me years of practice and injury to perfect my skills, I guess there is no copyright in that huh? Well then, I will offer pictures for free so this person with a camera hopefully won’t profit from insane fees

  8. Erm, what was your hard work? You said they took a photo of you. What kind of work were you performing?

  9. Street style BMX riding. Kind of stuff you see on X-Games. A few friends and I were doing our thing at the bike park. We saw someone taking photos of us, but never thought they would be selling them.
    What gets me is, “photographers” that snap photos want their name on the picture so “proper credit is given”, yet they don’t care about giving credit to the person they’re shooting.
    That and charging me, the guy in the photo, $15 for a 5×7 is a freaking joke.

  10. It’s totally not uncommon. You can talk to the photographer but they were perfectly legally permitted to do this.

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