The danger of posting a decent photograph

Why, oh! why, do I bother putting photos online…

I’ll tell you why: because most people don’t steal stuff. Because it gives me — and hopefully a few others — pleasure. Because it’s an encouraging environment to comment and grow. Most of the time, the internet is a wonderful place to publish whatever you have — be it photos, words, video, etc. — but what never fails to knock me back is the unauthorised use of a person’s intellectual property. Today I found that a new site called Hunch is using one of my copyrighted photos without permission. Hunch has a really big problem: they allow user submissions. Hunch didn’t steal my photo directly; my photo was uploaded by a user of Hunch as a pick. I am not credited. I am not linked to. I happened upon the photo misuse by a random click and found it when scrolling through a page of pick results. (Hunch offers picks based on your answering of a handful of questions.)

Hunch, if you cannot guarantee that the content submitted is Creative Commons or the user has rights to the item, then you should not allow the contribution. Unregulated user submitted content will always burn someone, and once again I find it has burned me. I know this sounds unmanageable, and it probably is, but permit me my dream world where I no longer have to chase content thieves. I’ve had words and photos stolen in the past and it sucks. It is tiring to fight for what is legally your own. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could set some sort of example with Hunch? After all, one of your Product Designers co-founded Flickr… this issue is nothing new to you.

I have submitted an email to Hunch and am waiting on a response. I have tweeted to the Hunch account. Several online friends have retweeted my concerns. The unfortunate reality is that the problem will remain for others even if my photo is removed from their servers. I cannot be the only person who has an unauthorised image on Hunch. Hell, I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t stumbled into the results myself. Should I be concerned that maybe more of my images are on Hunch? Probably. Will I ever find them if they are there? Probably not. You see, my image didn’t link back to my original at all. The image was simply uploaded by a user as their own content. And this user? This is priceless. His profile biography says, “now i work at HBO in the business affairs/legal dept where i handle music licensing for original programming, documentaries, sports and licensed films.”
Yes, you read that right. It’s his job to deal with the legalities of licensing creative content.
Shame on you. You should know better.

UPDATE AS I AM WRITING THIS POST: Chris Dixon (no relation) at Hunch has sent me three wonderful words in an email: “We removed it.” Glad they took care of it so quickly because I really didn’t want to continue posting about it on Twitter. It is a rotten and emotionally draining thing to try to fight for your intellectual property. I am grateful for the swift resolution.

And finally:
Thank you to CC Chapman, 1timstreet, kimgarretson, brxbasingstoke, and anyone I’ve forgotten for retweeting the permission problem for me. You’re all stars!

For the curious, here’s a screenshot of the page as it looked with my image in place earlier.

And now I’m going to go do something fun. 🙂

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2 thoughts on “The danger of posting a decent photograph”

  1. I’m glad the problem was resolved, but it is sad that so many sites and individuals can’t take the simple step of asking for permission to use a photo.

    I know most of us who share our photography online would be flattered to be approached and asked about using a photo in a situation like this. Most of us just want to have a proper credit and a link back to us so other people can discover our photography.

    I’m not looking for money as much as I just want credit.

    Glad to hear that this ended well.

  2. Thank you CC 🙂

    I agree- and asking a simple permission question is so easy! Asking permission on flickr is a no-brainer. Asking from a blog is typically easy enough with contact emails, contact forms, comments, or even a whois lookup. There is no excuse for lazy theft. Makes me sad too.

    It is flattering to be asked permission and on a couple of occasions I’ve even granted it (not ever without a paper trail, of course).

    At the very least, if a person cannot be absolutely certain of the origins of a work, then that person needs to move on to Plan B and leave Plan A alone. It’s easy to be honest.

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