I received an email this week from my husband’s cousin. It was like so many I have received before.
“Hey – I just saw this come up on my Facebook feed on a mommy group I’m part of. I thought this was your picture. I thought this was Oliver”.
And it was.
I felt like I needed to write this blog post to bring some awareness to image theft and just how far reaching this issue can become.
Not so long ago I had one of my images used without my permission. An image of my son, shirtless – his 4 year old self on a river bank.
Someone took it upon themselves to take this image and overlay a quote onto it. This was done without my permission. Once this quote was added the image went viral. I started receiving messages from friends and followers saying that they’d seen the image appearing on friends Facebook pages. I even received an email request from a man in the US who wanted to purchase a copy of the print from me.
I did reach out to the person who added the quote. I expressed my concern and told her at the time that what she is doing is wrong. Adding inspirational quotes to images that are not hers. No credit at all to the photographer. No permission asked. I advised her that she needed to beware of what she was doing. I asked her to remove the image – but it was too late. I had no idea the damage that was to be done.
Today when I do a google search on the image the result is astounding.
25, 270,000,000 results
TWENTY FIVE BILLION, TWO HUNDRED AND SEVENY MILLION.
My son who is now 9. Who does not like to have his photograph taken and will only allow me to post on Facebook with his permission. My son who was losing sleep about his school field trip to the park with his class because they were going to have to walk past my studio where the very same portrait is hanging in the window. Embarrassed that his friends would see it.
How do I break this news to him. I feel like I have betrayed him.
When I review the google results for this image it’s appearing on Mommy blog sites, boys schools, african adoption sites, children’s clothing sites among others. Of course I reach out when I can but the truth is that this image has absolutely gotten away from me now and there’s no telling where it could be.
Let’s not also forget the monetary aspect of this image. Because it’s so far reaching there’s no way for me to know if anyone is making money off of this image of mine. Is it being sold as a poster? Published in a book? Could I have been sitting on a gold mine that has been pulled out from underneath me? I guess now I will never know. It’s been altered and shared and essentially is no longer mine.
Please. Image theft is real. Think about this when you share a quote – think about taking a photograph to use on your website. There is a photographer out there behind that image. And in this case , also a little boy. That is him. My boy. And every time I see this image come up it truly breaks my heart.