I caught you glancing my way and I know what you’re after

I visit eBay often. Mostly looking at baseball memorabilia. I don’t usually buy, although sometimes I’m compelled to pick up some baseball cards or the random bobblehead doll. eBay has also been a source of inspiration when I’m stumped on what to write about. So today I hit eBay and there it is. It jumped right up at me:

This is an autographed photo of Javier Lopez and Kyle Snyder.

It’s tough to tell from this photo, but this is a picture taken by, I believe, Brita Meng Outzen at Spring Training in 2007. I’m almost 100% sure of this. I’ve seen enough photos of Kyle and enough of Brita’s work to be able to pinpoint the origins of the photo. So someone went online, printed this photo up (you can tell better at the auction that it isn’t close to being a good copy of the photo) and then got Javy and Kyle to sign it…then decided to SELL it?

This pisses me off. This is someone making money off of someone else’s work. It’s an argument I’ve been part of for quite a while and it won’t ever go away until photographers start paying better attention to where their work is being used. People on eBay aren’t the only perpetrators of this crime. And, I’m sorry, stealing someone’s work is a crime. The worst offenders seem to be blogs and other ‘non-official’ websites.

For years, I’ve posted photos on my blog that I didn’t take. I’d try to get around it by adding a credit when I knew the photographer’s name (or name of the website it originated), but legally that doesn’t mean anything. I’m still taking something that someone else created, and another entity paid for, and using it for nothing on my site. Credit or not, it’s really not cool.

Most sites and blogs that do this will say that it doesn’t matter if they aren’t making money off of the photo. But that’s not the only consideration to be had. My friend Kelly O’Connor is a fabulous photographer. She has taken some shots that those who get paid for it haven’t come close to. But when she started her site showcasing her photos, she hadn’t considered that people would like them so much that they’d be liberating them at every chance they had.

Kelly tracks her photos. So if someone hotlinks one, she can find them and see how it’s being used. But if someone saves one of her photos and then puts it up on their site, she has no good way to track that. People tend to use any photos they find on the Internet and not give any kind of credit, which implies that the photo is theirs. I try to go out of my way to credit anything I use (and have made a conscious decision to only use my photos, Kelly’s photos or any other pictures I get permission to use on this blog) and really take notice when others don’t. Hell, I saw one of my own photos on a myspace page with a watermark that said “property of [myspace screen name that wasn’t mine] do not use without permission”. I promise you, I wanted to kick someone. A note to that person explaining that they were taking ownership of one of MY photos and a threat to have their page taken down, and the photo suddenly disappeared. People don’t take kindly to threats. But it shouldn’t have to get that far.

Incidentally, if you ask Kelly for permission to use her photos, she doesn’t often refuse. So ask before you take. Ask.

If you’re savvy enough to work a computer and figure out your way to creating a blog or website (or selling things on eBay!), you should have the intelligence it takes to realize that when you use someone else’s work you are STEALING. If someone copied one of my blog entries and posted it on their own blog without mentioning anywhere that I was the author, I’m pretty sure I could get the folks at WEEI.com all over it. You can’t just steal someone else’s words and use them as your own. The same goes for someone’s photos.

My guess is the person selling the above picture knew he could get Kyle and Javy leaving the park at the same time (he claims in his auction that they signed it after a game outside Fenway in 2007) so he found that photo, printed it and got them to sign it. Hell, he could have bought a disposable camera, taken his own picture of them and gone back and had them sign it after the pictures were developed. But that would have taken thought and some time. It’s much easier to be lazy and just print whatever you find online.

Man, I was just going to write something about this being Kyle Snyder’s first day at Mets camp. This sure took an odd turn.

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