Copycats, the most common excuses

What is a copycat? According to the Oxford English Dictionary:
informal , derogatory
(Especially in children’s use) a person who copies another’s behaviour, dress, or ideas

When I started my company 5 years ago, I thought – naively? – that everyone wrote their own texts for their websites, and used their own photos. To me it was logical that you fill your own website with text you wrote yourself, and photos you took yourself. It just seemed so obvious to me. But that’s not the way it is, unfortunately. 🙁

It’s now happened a number of times that I see my photos and/ or text on someone else’s website (and it’s not a nice feeling…).

So why this blog now?
I’m hoping that by doing this, people (read: copycats) will have their eyes opened, and be warned: you’ll always be found out! I also have some tips (for honest photographers) about what to do if it happens to you, and the most common excuses you’ll hear from a copycat. Because the excuses are always the same. 🙂

How do you find out about it?
Often is just a fluke. Someone recognises your photo, or you land on someone’s website for whatever reason, and you recognise your own photo or text. It’s not always a fluke though, because you can also actively search for copycats. In Google images you can upload a photo, and Google will search to see where else the photo is being used. That’s a lot of work of course, especially if you have a lot of photos on your website, but it is possible.

The first time I found my photos on someone else’s website I felt awful. I was angry, my stomach started to hurt, and I just kept thinking: why would someone do this??! I immediately sent off and angry email, full of emotion. And full of mistakes. I forgot to take screenshots, and when I later spoke to this person on the phone they went on the defensive, and I had no proof. It did get sorted out in the end, but I’ll say more about that later.

What’s the best thing to do? (in my opinion)
The most important thing to do is to ask yourself whether you want to to tackle it, and how much energy you’re willing to put into it. I can honestly say that I don’t always do something about it, it depends on how ‘bad’ it is. Sometimes I mail the photographer, and give them 2 days to change the content of the site. I usually do this when it’s just my text they’ve copied from my website. If it’s about my photos then it’s a different story.

If you discover that your photos are being used by somebody else, first make screenshots of all the content that is yours. Make sure you an see the date in the screenshot. If you forget to do this, or the person is tipped off, and removes everything before you can do it, you can also search the website’s archive, if the ‘robots’ have been by. You can do this via The WayBack Machine.

My next tip? Get a lawyer. I let these cases be handled by Charlotte from Charlotte’s Law and Fine Prints. I find that the negative energy it costs, the time emailing back and forth and all the excuses are just not worth it. It causes me so much stress that I’d rather someone else handle it for me.

When your photos have been used, and you have screenshots, then the law is always on your side, so no matter what you’ll receive damages + the legal costs back. A win-win situation (although of course I can’t guarantee anything, and neither can your lawyer, but you should have an extremely strong case).

I must be honest: for me it’s mostly the principle of the thing. People need to lean to stay away from other people’s stuff. In addition to that, I worked really hard, and invested money to get where I am now, so I think that receiving money for damages is justified. It’s happened to me twice that someone has used my photos, en even put their own logo on them, and both times Charlotte has sorted it out for me, and I received financial compensation.

The most common excuses:
To prepare you for the nonsense, these are the most common excuses you’ll hear:

  • I didn’t know it wasn’t allowed (yeah, right!)
  • I found the photos via Google (that may be so, but next to every image it says ‘images may be protected by copyright’. Does this not set off any alarm bells for you?)
  • My website builder just used the photos to fill the website (there is no professional website designer who would take photos from someone else’s site and then puts your site online with those photos. If he does, then he’s an idiot, and also complicit, and I will make sure that he also pays some of the compensation you’ll be owing me).
  • I’ve just started and needed some photos, but I was planning to take them off again (and then you thought, ‘I’ll just pretend I took these photos.’ Because that’s not deceptive towards your clients? Not to mention that you’re lying to yourself, and the fact that you’re stealing someone else’s work to make yourself look good.)
  • I was planning to ask your permission (in an upside down world, and beside which I would never give permission for my photos to be used in this way).

Every copycat who gets caught uses the same excuses.

Dear Copycat: your excuses are nonsense! If you’re any kind of photographer you know it’s NOT allowed, and that there’s no excuse for it. All of us started somewhere, and we didn’t do it with other people’s photos.

So please, stop it! You’re just making life more complicated for me, and other serious photographers (and for your own wallet).

Marry Fermont