With the advent of the internet it has been easy to steal photos and pawn them off as your own, but the recent rash of theft among photographers is alarming. Whether it is Cliff Mautner blogging about his photos being stole or the recent plagiarism controversy surrounding Jasmine Star and Doug Gordon, it seems theft among photographers isn’t just about photos being stolen but content and articles as well. I’ll never understand the need to steal from someone else to pass their work off as my own, but I guess you really never know the real reasons why people do it.
Theft among photographers is not a new thing. People have been stealing others photos and putting them on their website as their own fooling prospective clients into thinking they took those amazing photos. I’ve read numerous stories about which photographers stole whose photos and I always come away baffled thinking that once the thief got outed they came up with a lame excuse like “their web master used it as a place holder and forgot to take it down” to “they overlooked the fact they used someone else’s images. There is a Tumblr page called Photo Stealers that is dedicated to outing stolen images and show people who the real photographer was and who was the one being the thief.
The theft of Cliff Mautner’s images recently was a bit different. You see the thief was actually honest and responded to Cliff by admitting he stole the images because he was starting up and needed photos for his portfolio. I commend the thief for being honest about why he stole the photos, but as big and celebrated as Cliff Mautner is as a wedding photographer, someone was bound to notice. If you read Cliff’s blog post about the theft he goes into a bit more detail about it and expresses why it bothered him so much and understandably so.
Now theft among photographers isn’t just about stealing photos, but content such as photography how to’s and tips and advice can be stolen. Two top educators in the photography industry and top speakers at the WPPI Conference, Jasmine Star and Doug Gordon, have been both accused of plagiarizing content from the blogs of others and passing them off as their own. Pretty much word for word, plagiarized. Jasmine Star has offered an apology for the plagiarism and removed herself as a speaker at the WPPI Conference.
I’ve followed Jasmine Star for some time and found her to be a great teacher and full of information, but now I question if what she was teaching was her work or belong to someone else. I bought her wedding course she initially did on Creative Live and even bought her magazine etc. I was disappointed; needless to say.
If you want to see consistent theft among photographers look no further than the ads advertising photography services on Craigslist. These “photographers” show amazing photos but will shoot your portrait for free to help them build their portfolio etc. I browse these daily and I can only laugh when I see three different photographers using the same stock photos and passing them off as their own. Sad part is that the people who end up hiring them end up losing in the end. These “photographers” are falsely advertising their skills but won’t be able to deliver the quality their clients expect. And in some cases some photographers just take the deposit or full payment and run.
Sure you can disable right clicking on your website or adding meta data to your photo, but that won’t stop people from stealing your photos; unfortunately. As a former web developer turned photographer I can tell you that disabling right clicking on a photo does not work. Sure it may work on the surface, but you would be amazed at how easily I can get that image using back channels. I use to only add copyright info to the meta data of the photo but after seeing a couple of my photos from me shooting the Miami Hurricanes football games on Instagram I’ve gone ahead and watermark all my images. Sucks I had to learn the hard way, but it was a necessary lesson.
Will theft among photographers cease? I doubt it. There will always be people looking for a short cut to success and passing off images of hardworking professional photographers as their own to get clients and eventually money from those clients. We as photographers have to be vigilant and report any theft to the rightful owners of the photos and even content that has been stolen or plagiarized. Hopefully the recent incidents regarding top pros stealing will serve as a wake up call to others who have thought about stealing themselves.