Plagiarism Hurts Everyone
(Above: examples of stolen content on other dog photographers' sites)
The danger of the Internet is that any and all content is up for grabs. Whether copyrighted or not, anyone can come to your website and steal literally all of your content - imagery, copy, design, brand identity and more. There is literally no way to stop this from happening.
The Internet is also the great leveler. It immediately puts all photographers on the same level. Instead of having to put in years and years and years of hard work, sweat, tears, terrible reviews, countless rejections and self doubt - to then climb your way to the top and establish yourself as a successful working artist -- now everyone can be found on the exact same playing field. The beginner hobbyist (and great that they are out there making work and having fun) can be listed in a Google search above a photographer who has literally been around for decades, with an incredibly deep catalog of exhibits and tear sheets. This makes the Internet a very dangerous place because quality does not drive the internet. In fact, what drives the Internet (especially social media) is lies, copying and vapid personalities.
(Above: another example of my content being stolen word for word)
But what gets me the most heated is how amateur photographers believe that they can steal copyrighted content without getting caught. As if they can simply steal someone else's (Let's say mine, for example) creative and professional identity and pass it off as their own. And sadly, that's what happens to me more frequently than I'd like to admit. Beginner photographers and established photographers alike come to my website and steal my copy, word for word, as well as my design and copyrighted content. The fact that it's truly illegal (as all my copy, design and imagery is officially filed with the Copyright Office of the United States- there's nothing fake about the copyright symbol on my sites, and there's certainly nothing fake about my amazing IP lawyer) isn't what gets me so upset. It's the fact that any other artist has the gall to take advantage of my incredibly hard work, the years and years of building up my career, learning how exactly to articulate myself visually and through very well written copy and design. These artists just come along, and because they are simply not smart enough or confident enough to create their own creative identity and brand - they simply copy and paste mine. It's maddening, and it doesn't just hurt me and my business, it hurts every other true professional out there. Because I know it's happening to them, too.
Instead of listing publicly the names of all the artists who have plagiarized my content over the past few months (the list is embarrassingly long), I'll just give you a few anonymous responses to my well crafted Cease and Desist letter. As much as these people infuriate me, stooping so low as to list their business names here would be simply unproductive and immature of me, and then I'd be acting like the plagiarists.
(Above: more copy stolen word for word from my website)
Instead, enjoy some really funny responses from actual 'professionals' after being caught red handed:
I am horribly embarrassed. I had assistance with the writing and design on my website. I'm sorry I was unaware that they were using information from other resources. (And here I thought, man she nailed it on explaining me and my process). If it makes you feel any better, it’s obviously well written. I’m going to blame it on youth. The internet has robbed many of them of any scruples when it comes to copyright. I'll work on the correction immediately. The new site just went live and I'm still working out some bugs and things I see that need to be changed. I'll make that top priority today. I'm sorry this happened. I take IP seriously as well. I've had a lot of problems with this with my photo booth series.
Please let me know if anything is needed."
"You are right Jesse. I am working on a new website and it was supposed just to be a starter to rework later. Turns out the making of a website is very difficult indeed. I will remove it immediately
My sincere apologies."
First of all, I apologize for any inconvenience this might've caused. I recently had someone update my website and I can assure to you the images are 100% mine. I did outsource a content writer, so if you can please send me the screenshots of the similarities I'd be more than happy to take a look at it and of course, make the appropriate changes. As an artist, it's my intention to make sure everyone's work and talented skills are respected. I will revise the content by the end of the day, but it will be extremely helpful if you can provide me with the information you believe it's been plagiarized. I also need to take appropriate action with the person who worked on my content, because that was unprofessional of her. Thank you so much."
"I will remove everything. I am currently out of the country so it will take me a few hours to get back to my hotel and take it down. But I should be back in about 7 hours or so and will remove it then. I have apologized, I didn't realize it was illegal, I just started a business for the first time in January. As I said, ignorance is the reason. Regardless of how poor of an excuse you think it is, now that I know it won’t happen again, and it’s better than the alternative which is that I knew it was wrong and did it anyway. You don’t have to keep coming at me, I’ve admitted fault, and committed to fixing the problem. Our situation is resolved."
I use a great company called CopyScape which automatically scrolls the internet to find websites that have stolen copyrighted materials. It's amazing, and worth the small monthly fee. Check them out here: http://copyscape.com
(Above: companies illegally using my images to advertise their products/services)
Multiple companies have even stolen my images and used them on their websites to advertise their products. Clearly, they have stolen from many other photographers, all of which is 100% illegal. And just so deeply rude and inappropriate. Artists deserve to be paid for their work, but the internet makes it just way too easy to take things for free. All the images above were stolen from me by over-seas companies.
I know that I'm not the only artist out there being plagiarized. I hear about it happening constantly - stories of colleagues having their artwork stolen by large companies who make a huge profit off the content, yet are untouchable because of their hefty legal department. It's a sorry state of affairs, all thanks to the double-edge sword of the Internet. However, artists persist. All we can do is protect our work via filing it with the Copyright Office of the United States (all my copy and images and design and Intellectual Property is now officially filed), keep tabs on their websites by using programs like CopySentry, and open their eyes to the new generation of 'artists' who believe mimicking what's hot is how to succeed (spoiler alert: it's not!).
If you've got a good copyright story, please share it in the comments! Or shoot me an email and we can commiserate and support each other.