Navigating Copyrights and Sharing

Navigating Copyrights and Sharing

Navigating copyrighted images and sharing ideas can be tricky in our world today.

When I was an equine photographer I made a connection with a student from a horse clinic I was shooting. I as not paid for the clinic, but I could offer images afterward. This was the tail end of the traditional photographer and I did not get the memo. 

This person I connected with told me she had a stallion named after a famous sorcerer. She had my attention! She invited me to photograph him the next time she turned him out to pasture. I agreed and we made a plan. 

True to form he was animated and stunningly beautiful. It was a fun photo shoot. She let me know in the future if we wanted to photograph again and we parted ways. 

Cow Palace Show

I let her know I had one of her horse's images from the clinic was entered in a show at the Cow Palace. I was one of 100 artists invited. I flew out there for the opening. That image did not sell.

A year or so later I created a horse calendar with this image (see above) in it. It was for sale for a few months with I received a call from an attorney. He stated that his client was going to sue me for proceeds made on her horse's image. He also claimed it was her property. I let him spew his threats. Then, I clearly stated that if there were any proceeds she would not be entitled to one cent. The property, the photograph, was mine and solely mine. I could prove it and all I shared were from the clinic. There was no agreement to share proceeds. If there was a contract I would like to see it. It was her word against mine and I owned the metadata and the photograph ACTUAL. I also let him know I did not sell one calendar so I invited him to sue for proceeds. 

Black Stallion

After more phone calls I told him if he persisted I would sue him for harassment, and the calendar had been discontinued. So there you go, do what you will.

(The images used here were from the clinic, by the way, which I was free to use at will. I didn't get anything of true value from the turn-out.)

I found out (as I always do) that her thriving business had failed and she was desperate. Had she approached me in a reasonable manner we could have found a way forward that might have suited us both, to both of our prosperity. The relationship was over and my desire to sell my horse images dried up.

My Guidelines

I have since learned many things about the photography world, but here are the bullet points:

My guidelines when using someone else's work or sharing an image. 

  1. Am I making money on it? 
  2. Am I using it to get attention to myself or the artist, as in ad-campaigns?
  3. Am I being malicious?

If I can answer a resounding "no" to all of these questions, I will share. 

If I share and get my hand slapped I know I was not being malicious or doing anything that could be seen will ill intent. If I made a mistake, I say. 
"I'm sorry, please forgive me." Because if I made a mistake, it is my responsibility to own it. They are not my parent and cannot punish me. I simply made a mistake. I'll take my lumps and move on.

Some do, some don't forgive. Those who don't, generally, don't know me. 

I have had so many people steal my photography I could write many more words and still would forget all that have taken by ill-intent from me. There is someone now selling a photograph I made with my name on Amazon. Amazon will do nothing. They say they cannot prove anything. I said, "I can prove I'm me and did not give consent to use my name." Irrelevant to Amazon. 

This is why I'm in no hurry to offer my books at Amazon. Doing business with Amazon is akin to getting in bed with the devil. It might feel good for a minute, but what will I be left with?

So, be courageous in your sharing, be brave in your creations and go forth and populate the world with amazing soap creations. Always, ALWAYS, watermark your images! Even just a small indication that it belongs to you. It is your property. You took the time to photograph that image, and all the data of the original creation is on your device. Know how to find it and know it is yours. You get to say if someone shares it, but if they aren't making money on it, you might not get them to take it down.

Money is the indicator if it goes to litigation, unless it's a degradation to your reputation. That is an entirely different matter. 

Use all I've written as a guideline. This helps me sleep at night. Otherwise I'd be a fearful mess. And above all, Soap Witches are not fearful. We are a brave lot. 

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1 comment

It makes so much sense how you seem to not only make the most incredible soaps, but also how you seem to capture them in the best light every time! Your photography is stunning! I was actually thinking about this topic the other day and how to proceed going forward if I wanted to have someone take photographs of my soaps for me. I’m so sorry that happened to you but I’m also so grateful you are able to share your experiences to help others like me.


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