Depressing thoughts on photography and copyright

Since I can’t currently take any photographs because of my broken arm, I’ve been reading quite a bit about photography, spending time looking at some of my old photography books, and browsing online, sometimes for several hours a day. Whilst there is a lot of stuff online that is a complete waste of time (I won’t list some of the grimmer photographic corners of the internet here…), it is really lovely to have the time to find some of the gems: stunning imagery, intelligent reflection on the art of photography, and so on. I may yet come back to write about some of that as time goes by, but for now, will add occasionally to my Inspirations page.

But one thing I have been – perhaps naively – shocked by as I roam online is the level of copyright infringement, even of images that are not particularly good or not by professionals, which means that all photographers should be concerned by these issues.  I always knew this happened and it is something many photographers struggle with, but the sheer level of copyright infringement is astonishing.  For example, the most recent and outrageous case I’ve come across is that of John Goldsmith, who has basically had his copyrighted image stolen by a photography gallery’s architect – and then used by the gallery!  Now, I’ve been to the Photographer’s Gallery in London and I didn’t think it was that great, but for an institution that claims to be supporting photographers to use an image in this way is just outrageous.  I’ve come across his photography before, and really like it: and that image of the beautiful woman in the window is wonderful.

I occasionally use things like TinEye, but it’s hard to know how to deal with these issues in a really systematic way – after all, Mr Goldsmith only found out about his image being used (on another continent!) because a friend happened to recognise his photo!  Overall, this sorry saga just leaves me rather sad: it seems that we should almost expect some ignorant and possibly malevolent person to steal our work at some point…


3 thoughts on “Depressing thoughts on photography and copyright

  1. David

    One fix-idea is to forget about everything but the taking of a picture and the picture itself.

    ..kinda hard to put food on the table that way though. It’s a great idea for non-pro’s though. Used to think I wanted to go pro..not so much any more.


    1. Michael Marten Post author

      Yes, this is one very valid way of thinking about it. Being dependent on your photography income in this kind of way IS hard, and it’s good to have another source of more stable income!

      But… I still don’t want to see others using objects, images, work that they have taken without permission… What gets to me most, I think, is the lack of respect for the artist in this case. And especially from a gallery that should have known better.

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  2. David

    True, disrespect hurts. “Your most important audience is yourself” said my english 101 prof, which again doesn’t work for making money, but if someone hijacks one of my images to make a few bucks I won’t lose any sleep.

    …anything more than a few bucks though and I would probably fall into some severe hypocrisy and go postal.

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