Is Amit Agarwal a Photo Thief?

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Adam Nollmeyer has a post out about blogger Amit Agarwal stealing a photo he took of Seth Godin.

From Adam:

“Sure enough, Amit Agarwal a “well known professional blogger and personal technology columnist for national newspapers” had stolen my photograph of Seth Godin as seen below. He did not simply embed the photo on his blog, he re-uploaded my photograph, and then marked the photo as Creative Commons (CC) which means that he is allowing others to use, share and re-mix a photograph which HE does not have rights to.

I’m not sure why, but Amit seems to have scrapped various web sites and put a bunch of Web 2.0 type celebrity folk up that he’s found in his Flickrstream. In the case of the Seth Godin photo it looks like subsequent to Adam’s post this photo has been removed from his stream.

A few of my photos seem to be in Amit’s photostream as well.

My response?

Personally I could care less.

My photos are routinely used without my permission all over the internet. I just don’t care. I think it’s fine for Adam to care. And my friend Scott Beale cares a lot about this too and that’s fine as well. But my choice is that I just don’t. I’m more concerned with creating new art than I am with what happens to my previously published photos. My photos are licensed CC non-commercial with attribution. But even when people use my photography commercially or don’t attribute I still don’t ever do anything about it.

Life has a finite number of days, hours, minutes and seconds in it. Every hour I spend worrying about unauthorized use of my photography means an hour less that I get to spend with my kids or taking photos or processing photos or engaging in conversations that are valuable to me. I’ve always considered theft of my photos simply to be a byproduct that goes along with the choice to share my work online.

Amit may be a photo thief, but it doesn’t much bother me personally. And I’m certainly not going to go through the time or take the trouble to have him remove photos of mine that may have ended up in his photostream. I’ve got too many other things I’m working on for the time being that are more important to me.

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  1. JeffH says:

    Thomas, You should be at least a little concerned what other people do with your photos. Specifically, photos with people in them for which you do not have model releases, which I would imageine is probably the case with most of the photos you have with recognizable people in them. The risk is that if you allow someone access to one of your photos, and they use it in a way that is contradictory to the beliefs of the subject in the photo or in a defaming way, you could be held liable by the subject. For photos of just about anyting else, I don’t see much if any risk of letting people do what they want with them. The unfortunate problem with publically sharing photos, regardless of the copyright licence status, is that people will steal them. In the case of photos with a Creative Commons, non commercial, atribution required licence, people will and do use them for commercial purposes and / or claim them as their own or do not provide appropriate atrubution.

  2. TranceMist says:

    This is a stupid issue.

    If you post your photos on-line, you’ve already decided to share them.

    Get over it.
    (No you Tom, everyone else)

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    The risk is that if you allow someone access to one of your photos, and they use it in a way that is contradictory to the beliefs of the subject in the photo or in a defaming way, you could be held liable by the subject.

    Jeff, assuming that I authorize the use explicitly. If they simply steal my photo and use it there is no liability on my part.

    Recently a law firm approached me about using a photo that I took from the Icer Air ski jump thing in SF. I told them that I’d sell them the rights to use it but only if they got a model release from the skier in question. I never heard back from them. But certainly I’d never authorize anyone to use any of my photos that required model releases without the appropriate releases in place.

    When I sold a photo of the Grand Lake Theater to Choice Hotels for a television commercial, they also got a property release and paid the Grand Lake Theater as well.

    But really there is no liability for what people do with your photos on an unauthorized basis and a blog post that says I don’t care personally when people use my photos in violation of their license is not the same as granting authorization.

    Certainly anyone who used one of my photos with a person in them though without authorization in a non-editorial or artistic manner would run the risk of liability from the subject in my photo.

  4. Anonymous says:

    TranceMist – that’s ridiculous. Just because I’ve posted something for you to view in the context of my blob or Flickr stream doesn’t mean I’ve given you permission to do with it whatever you please. Quite the contrary, in fact.

  5. TH, I had someone steal a photo that I had blogged once before. What bothered me was that it was being hosted on my domain. I was more upset that I was footing the bill for their bandwidth.

    So, under advice, I messed with them. I changed the actual photo’s name and fixed the link in my original blog post.

    But, I replaced the old name with an image that says, “This blog steals bandwidth.”

    Check it out.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thomas, I believe you meant to say you could NOT care less, right?

    Dr. Grammar Guy

  7. monkeyleader says:

    Wow pretty mad. Was browsing his photo stream and came across this one

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/amit-agarwal/2158316772/

    I thought to myself – I recognise that photo – yup it’s one of mine for when Scoble came across to London

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/myotherphotos/329388073/in/set-72157594431986185/

    Shouldnt someone have told me CNN were using my photos, especially with all rights reserved?

    Confused

    Nige

  8. Ulrich says:

    I agree, there is so much more to do than to chase so called ‘photo thiefs’. Would I be worried about photo theft, I would not make them available to everyone.

    “Gelegenheit macht Diebe” we say in Germany.

  9. monkeyleader says:

    okay I was duped.. it was a fake …. haha had me fooled 🙂

    At least this has reminded me to change my photos on my alternative photostream to CC

  10. Mike Pearce says:

    Thomas, isn’t that kind of attitude bad for anyone else who posts their works online with CC licencing? If someone steals your photos, you being a high-profile web fellow and you give chase, ending in a court settlement or whatever, surely people are going to think twice about stealing photos from people who aren’t high-profile internet web fellows, no?

    Dan heller has a particular good set of posts about CC and other forms of copyright, check it out here The Creating Commons and Photography

  11. Thomas Hawk says:

    Thomas, isn’t that kind of attitude bad for anyone else who posts their works online with CC licencing? If someone steals your photos, you being a high-profile web fellow and you give chase, ending in a court settlement or whatever, surely people are going to think twice about stealing photos from people who aren’t high-profile internet web fellows, no?

    Maybe Mike, but it’s also a dead-end enterprise and you could waste hours and hours and hours chasing down every copyright violator. Not how I want to spend my time. It’s a zero sum game. Every minute spent doing this is a minute not spent shooting, editing, publishing, spending time with family, etc.

    For me it’s really a matter of choosing to do the things that matter most to me more than anything. I see fighting copyright violators as something that is not a lot of fun and a huge time suck.