Friday, March 10, 2006

Copyright Thievery

I didn't know whether to be flattered or outraged or both when I learnt that someone likes my photograph of the Olympic Dove from the Opening Ceremonies so much he tried to find out how to print a 36" wall poster of it for his bedroom WITHOUT my permission. I only found out because somehow I had the bright idea of uploading my photographs in low resolutions, which is not conducive to blowing up, and he had to ask me for the higher resolution version. Of course I had no idea that there is software out there to get around such minor problems of low resolution. Even so, it still won't make a decent-looking photo, never mind a poster, and they do stress that you can only use it for your own personal photos or for copyrighted material where you have the owner's permission. Yeah, well, this person somehow copied my photo, renamed it, and started trying to print it out without paying me a red cent. But I was thrilled to see that a couple of people on the forum kindly pointed out that I have "a copyright note on it and if you like it enough to spend money having it printed, you should ask his permission at least for you personal use and toss him a few bucks either way." ("God Bless America, HRM")

I know many people upload their photographs as a hobby or write on the web as a hobby, and so for them copyright is not that important. But for me it's the only way I will eventually be able to earn an income again. For me, this is what I do, this is an expression of myself. I put the copyright notice on the photographs and this blog to assert my ownership of them and to let people know that if they like my work well enough to want a giant poster of it, they ought to contact me and pay me for my work. I can't imagine said person would be thrilled if his employer said to him one day, "Hey, I liked that project you completed. In fact, I like it so much I'm not going to pay you this week and, as well, I'm going to take credit for your work." That's no different than people ignoring copyrights and trying to print out images or copy text without payment or attribution (although I had assumed copyright thievery is not rare when I got on the web last year, I soon noticed that blogs I visited were conscientious about attributing text they quoted, and I had started to believe there was much honour out there).

Professional photographers, who earn enough to justify it, can subscribe to a service that alerts them when people have stolen their work on the web. But, for me, I'll have to hope that in the end, this guy will buy the poster from me and not continue to look for ways to print it himself. And I'll have to rethink just how low to make my photographs' resolutions before uploading them because I'm sure if this guy tried it, others have probably already succeeded with some of my other photographs. Really, it's just depressing.

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