'Someone is stealing your images on Groupon!' What are you going to do?

The Groupon forum reads like an episode of CSI Atlanta. 

A local photographer offers a typical deal - $65 for a one-hour photo shoot plus images. (up to a $500 value). Like many Groupon merchants, she begins chatting with potential customers in the Groupon forum. It seemed harmless enough. And then came this:

SP commented

Groupon, you are dealing with a thief here. This photographer does not own all the photos on her website.

I looked at her website and realized that as a pro myself, her lighting and conversions didn’t match up. I then took one of her images off her website and un-distorted it, and then placed it through a recognition software that brought up this - http://morgaineowensphotography.com/?p=924 — THIS is the owner of the photograph, not Dana Dawes. I would suggest you refund the money to all of these people because this person is using photos that aren’t hers to try to bring in clients. In other words, she’s a fake photographer.

The photographer dismisses the claim, but the discussion takes a different tone as more people sense a fraud.  

SP commented

So Tanya Shields is okay with you using her maternity image?

http://www.tanyashields.net/2010/03/picture-perfect-halifax-maternity-photographer/

Yikes! As the drama continues, the photographer removes the images from her website, blames her webmaster, and continues selling.

Then the real photographer shows up. In what has to be the ultimate display of restraint, she posts:

Tanya S. commented

Hi Dana,

With every ounce of professional courtesy that I am able to muster for you……REMOVE MY WORK FROM YOUR WEBSITE.

Immediately.

Incredibly, the drama still continued until Groupon finally killed the deal. 

Josh at Groupon . commented

Hello Everyone,

Thanks for your patience and discussion while we were working this out. We are sincerely sorry for all of the confusion and frustration over this offer today.

We would never intentionally feature a business that engages in unethical or questionable business practices, nor would we ever expect you to be stuck with a Groupon that is offered by such a business. We have decided to pull this deal today after reviewing all of the feedback left on the discussion board...

We deeply regret the unfortunate events leading up to this decision and are extremely sorry for any inconvenience we’ve caused you. We appreciate all of your great feedback and will continue to treasure it and listen to it always...

Thank you,

Josh
Forum Moderator

You can read the entire transcript here. 

Imagine for a moment that you were Tanya Shields. You just learned that someone has stolen your images and is displaying them as their own? What would you do?

As Tanya found out, this can happen to anyone.

 

What if it isn’t intentional?

Misuse is not always deliberate. A recent PR Daily post about the popular sharing site Pinterest reveals that anytime you use Pinterest to pin another person’s photo, you must get the copyright holder’s approval.

Someone might find one of your photos interesting and innocently pin it to their account. In that act, he or she would have violated your copyright.

What then? How can you protect yourself? 

Here’s yet another complication for sites like Pinterest and Facebook. Every time you upload an image, the site asks you to surrender your rights to your image. What does that mean for you, the photographer?

 

I’m not a lawyer, and I don’t even play one on TV

These issues were far too complicated for my nonlegal mind, so I asked copyright lawyer Phil Marcus to explain them to me. 

Phil is a serious amateur photographer, but his practice focuses on protecting the rights of creatives through intellectual property law. This includes copyrights, trademarks, patent licensing and trade secrets.

Once we started delving into the nuances, it became obvious this was information more photographers needed to hear, so I invited Phil to share it with you on our next Free Photo Webinar.

On our next broadcast, Phil will answer your questions on how to protect your work or go after someone using it without permission.

Free Photo Webinars - with Phil Marcus will broadcast on March 13, at 7 pm est. 

You can register here.