To Watermark or To Not Watermark – The Sequel
2012 was an interesting year for me artistically. In some ways it was a fruitful period in my career and I’ll always look back on that time fondly. Back then, I posted, the original installment to this one believing that I probably would never have to revisit the subject again (if you haven’t already read that post, hopefully you’ll click the bright bold type you just read and absorb the older post too – it’s not even as long as this one).
As it turns out, every now and then someone writes me or comments on one of my blogs – usually the Hammer Home Street Photography Project, to let me know in a descent and constructive way that they wish that I didn’t watermark my images. Some even recommend that I use a less powerful colour than red in my watermark. I totally get that and respectfully provide them with a link to the original post. I’m now calling that post Part 1. After reading Part 1, some of the concerned write me back saying that they understand my point of view, and leave it alone.
Do they continue visiting the MOF blog or Hammer Home afterwards? It seems that some do but most don’t. Oh well. It’s not the end of the world. To me, far worse is the plagiarism that I – a not so famous but still quite proud professional artist, stand to face by stupidly not following my own advice from back in 2012.
Case in point: After posting one of my photographs on the main MOF blog in that year but prior to that particular post, I learned that it began to gain considerable attention from others from my plot on the atlas very quickly. That attention has been sustained ever since.
There were some calls from credit unions and other institutions requesting permission to use the picture but most refused to continue discussions the moment I advised them of my licensing options that would have to be obtained under one of my agreements. We didn’t even get to talking turkey. Just the mere mention that I’m prepared with image licensing options was enough to scare many off immediately.
It’s funny how that works. A great many people continually relegate the arts and artists as unimportant special interest activities and groups but are always in great need of our abilities, services and products. Of course, they always want that insufficiently respected talent for free, and assume that all artists have our heads in the clouds.
Despite being well aware of the popularity of the picture, and quite literally desperately wanting to place my trust in my fellow human being, I didn’t backtrack to update that blog post with a watermarked version of that shot. I’ll bet you already know where this is going. Here it comes . . .
This year (2015 for anyone reading this post much later), I discovered that picture was lifted from its post and used elsewhere without even giving TheMOFMan a word of credit, never mind asking permission. Here’s a screenshot of the webpage:
Instead of immediately jumping half-cocked at the offender using my picture, I took the time necessary – I will not specify chronology or length, to make some careful arrangements. I then, in October, contacted him with this email;
Subject: CEASE AND DESIST DEMAND
Jegede Real Investment Inc.
69 Bimini Crescent
Toronto, ON, M3N 1S1
Dear Mr. Jegede:
I, Allan Hamilton, am the owner of a copyright in various aspects of a landscape photograph that I have titled “Everything’s Waiting for You”. I created the skyline image of the City of Hamilton years ago. The first time that I ever posted it on the Internet was on my blog for Modes of Flight in early 2012 without watermarking and other precautions that I since take to protect my images. The actual post is here:
You can see that I have now edited that post with a watermarked version of “Everything’s Waiting for You”. I have edited that post after recently discovering that you have begun to use the image, without my permission, on your website:
I am writing to notify you that your unlawful use of my landscape photograph infringes upon my exclusive copyright. Accordingly, you are hereby directed to
CEASE AND DESIST ALL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT.
Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs has provided a Harmonized List of Prohibited Collection Practices, revised April 25, 2003, (the “Prohibited Practices”) that provides a minimum level of restrictions on collection agents and protections for Canadian consumers from collection agents. Any restrictions and protections contained in the list that are greater than the Prohibited Practices are also applicable to any collection activities between you and myself for the account.
Please give this very important matter the utmost attention.
For your awareness, I have begun preserving evidence of your unlawful copy and use of “Everything’s Waiting for You”. Your actions constitute copyright infringement in violation of Canadian copyright laws. If you continue to engage in copyright infringement after receiving this letter, your actions will be evidence of “willful infringement.”
I demand that you immediately cease and desist your unlawful copying and use of “Everything’s Waiting for You”, and I am providing you with two (2) options:
- Remove the picture “Everything’s Waiting for You” from your website and provide me with prompt written assurance, all within ten (10) days, that you will cease and desist from further infringement of my copyrighted works; or
- Advise me within ten (10) days of your interest to become a Modes of Flight (MOF) client and lawfully, responsibly and professionally use the image “Everything’s Waiting for You” under a licensing agreement, which will be proposed to you after you have clearly explained your image use requirements to me.
If you do not comply with this cease and desist demand within this time period, I will be entitled to use your failure to comply as evidence of “willful infringement” and seek monetary damages and equitable relief for your copyright infringement. In the event you fail to meet this demand, please be advised that I will communicate to you that I will contemplate pursuing all available legal remedies, including seeking monetary damages, injunctive relief, and an order that you pay court costs and attorney’s fees. Your liability and exposure under such legal action could be considerable.
Before taking these steps, however, I wish to give you one (1) opportunity to discontinue your illegal conduct by complying with this demand within ten (10) days.
Allan D. Hamilton
Did I bluff? Not in the slightest. I meant every freakin’ word of that correspondence, and I was fully prepared to take him to task. Two days later, he responded:
I brought this attention to my web designer who inadvertently selected the image for use without your permission.
The picture has been removed.
I apologize for inconvenience caused.
Sure enough, the picture had been removed and I’ll continue to periodically check to make certain that it stays that way. Apparently he too is disinterested in my licensing options.
My last correspondence to him:
Much appreciated Mr. Jegede,
Allan D. Hamilton
I really am sincere too. There are those out there who are so stubborn that they’d still push the envelope. I’m very glad that this individual doesn’t seem to be one of those. I truly wish him well.
I still, gladly, give permission for some to use my work for free in certain circumstances but they must still ask. Thanks again to all those who have. I do frown on those who don’t. It’s not just about money it’s about R-E-S-P-E-C-T! Self-respect, respect for my art and respect for artists broadly. I don’t play!
I won’t divulge exactly how I discovered that my picture was being used without my prior consent but there are a number of ways for you, wherever you are in this world, to search for your images being used online. Some of them are:
• Google Images;
• Tin Eye;
• Digimarc; and
No, copying images off of the Internet and using them without permission isn’t any sort of a shock in this day and age but hey, if you are a serious professional artist – new or seasoned, and you want to be respected, at the very least watermark your images.
Yes, there are other ways to protect your images. Seek them out and apply them too without broadcasting your every defense tactic.
Yes, by watermarking you’ll create detractors from your work but you can live with that.
Yes, there will be those willing to crop or otherwise edit out your watermark but you’ll cut down the number of potential abusers considerably. Most will think it’s not worth their time when they feel they can get another suitable image much cheaper and easier.
Watermark your images!
Now I have two links to provide to anyone who writes in to tell me that my big ol’ red logo is a huge distraction when viewing my art. Time will tell if I have to make another post on this matter again.