Dealing with Photo Theft

With the explosion of web sites to share your photos, everything from Flickr and Facebook to self hosted portfolios, it become easier for someone to “acquire” your images for their own use. Of course if you really want to stop people stealing your images, then don’t upload them anywhere on the web, but for many photographers, they want to showcase their work and so its necessary to post at least a selection of images. One option to help deter non-approved use is watermarks. Smaller ones unfortunately can be quickly cropped off or removed. Larger ones distract and can ruin your photos. You can even create hidden watermarks. Its all a balancing act. But what happens when you discover that your images have been used without your authorisation?

PictureDefense.com is a new free site that takes you through what you need to do to get one of your images removed from a web site when you haven’t authorised its use. It seems to be primarily US focused but should still provide useful information from those outside America.

picturedefense

The site is very simple to use. Once you find one of your photos being used (Google Image Search is an easy way to find these sites, if you only have a small number of photos) you just select the category for where it is being used and the site takes you through the steps, in increasing order of severity, to get the offending image taken down. It also covers making sure you’ve got proof of use.

It doesn’t cover every possible use but is a good start. The site has only recently launched so hopefully it will expand over the coming months to provide a useful resource. Of course protection and clear copyright are the first steps, but if you do find unauthorised use of your photos PictureDefense.com is a good place to check out what to do next.

Design Tweaks

Welcome to 2013 everyone!

To start the new year I’ve made some changes to the design of my site. The reason for these was mainly to try to standardise some things. As the site has grown over the years (can you believe I started this blog in 2007!) things have begun to get a little frayed around the edges and attempts to integrate some social links weren’t working too well due to the age of the template I’m using. Also, with the rise of mobile devices I wanted to make sure the site works well on those platforms.

Hopefully you shouldn’t see too many changes other than a small increase in the page width on desktop devices. I’m aware old comments aren’t showing at the moment. Not sure if this will be fixed but new comments seem to be showing just fine. If you do spot any issues, please drop me a line via the contact form and let me know.

Stand Your Ground

Just a couple of years ago, if you were in the UK and taking photos in London (almost anywhere in London it seemed) you would be stopped by the Police and questioned about what you were doing. There were reports all over the web from photographers who had been well within the law – taking photos from public land – and who had been stopped or asked to moved on. It began to seem that anyone with a camera was being targeted as a potential terrorist.

Things got so bad that discussions on the issue took place in parliament and the head of the Metropolitan Police issued (several) guidelines to frontline officers explaining the law with regards to photography. Namely taking photos of anything or anyone from public land was pretty much okay.

One organisation that set up to make sure photographic freedoms – both professional and amateur – were not lost was I’m a Photographer Not A Terrorist. They’ve lobbied MPs and organised several meet-ups to highlight the issues facing photographers today.

They recently posted the video below on their site. In it, six photographers were assigned different areas of the City of London to photograph. All were instructed to keep to public land and photograph the area as they would on a normal day. A videographer accompanied each to record what happened. The idea was to see if attitudes have changed.

I’m happy to say they certainly seem to have changed within the Police. Whilst all the photographers had problems with local building security guards, when the Police were called they knew the law, knew the photographers weren’t doing anything wrong, and basically told the security guards they were wrong. It seems that whilst the Police have now been educated around photography law, there is still some work to do with the Security Guards!

The Hepworth Wakefield


After quite a few months of build up, the Hepworth Wakefield gallery opened today.

The £35 million art gallery is one of the largest purpose built galleries to open in the UK (since 1968 by some estimates). The David Chipperfield designed building, situated almost in the River Calder has resulted in mixed feelings from local residents as from the outside is appears little more than an austere set of concrete cuboids. However, love or hate the outside, the inside is as beautiful as the artwork it contains. The huge galleries (which are rumoured to not contain a single right-angle between the walls) are great spaces full of natural light which spills in from large picture windows that look out onto the weir and river below.

The gallery contains a permanent collection of pieces by Barbara Hepworth, who was born in Wakefield, including a unique collection of plasters donated by the Hepworth family. These include prototypes for famous pieces such as the Winged Figure that adorns John Lewis’s in Oxford Street, London. Additional displays show Barbara Hepworth’s process from initial sketch through to finished design.

As well as the permanent collection there are special exhibitions and the first of these is a collection of sculptures and photos by Eva Rothschild entitled “Hot Touch”. Alongside are several paintings of Yorkshire including, for the opening, Tuner’s watercolour of the small Chantry Chapel which sits just across the road from the gallery.

I’m a little disappointed that you are not allowed to take photos inside. I can understand this for the temporary exhibitions where the artist may want to retain copyright but for the permanent Barbara Hepworth sculptures I had hoped photography would be allowed (no flash or tripods of course). I’m hoping to push to the administration team at the gallery to reconsider this!

With the Yorkshire Sculpture Park just down the road in West Bretton and the Henry Moore Institute (another local artist) in Leeds the area is rapidly becoming a destination for lovers of sculpture and a world class gallery such as the Hepworth only adds to that. Closed on Mondays but open the rest of the week I’d strongly recommend a visit and you can check the Hepworth website for details on how to get there and see if there are any special events planned.

Police Harassment of UK Photographers to Finally Stop?

Back in January this year, following a test case, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the Section 44 stop-and-search anti-terrorism powers were illegal. As reported on this blog and many others, there was a huge amount of criticism of the powers, especially by photographers who suddenly found themselves being treated as terrorists for simply having a large camera and being conspicuous.

The European Court of Human Rights had ruled that police powers to stop and search had ‘not been curbed by adequate legal safeguards so as to offer the individual adequate protection against arbitrary interference’. Or in other words, it allowed the police to pick on whoever they fancied without having to explain their reasons.

Following the ruling by the ECHR, the UK Government disagreed and asked for an appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Court but as of yesterday this has now been refused, making the January judgement final. So can photographers in the UK finally expect to be treated with respect? Unfortunately maybe not!

Amateur Photographer reports that a Home Office spokesman told them: ‘The Government has already committed to reviewing counter-terrorism legislation which will include the operation of the Section 44 stop-and-search provisions.’ In theory this means that police may continue to conduct Section 44 stops for the foreseeable future. Despite the ruling.

That said, the “I’m a photographer not a terrorist” team are holding a flashmob outside New Scotland Yard this coming Saturday. So if you’re in London and fancy joining them to celebrate this victory (and perhaps see if section 44 harassment is indeed a thing of the past) then check out the details here.