Thou Shalt Not Steal!

Look! A photo I did not take! Let's give credit where it is due: Photo taken by Kelly O'Connor @ and used with permission. See how easy that was?

So today is the day!  The day when pitchers and catchers are expected to report to Fort Myers (which, loosely translated, means they have to let the team know they’re in town since they don’t get down to business, really, until Tuesday).  We’ve waited for this day since October and it is here.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be happy about yet another milestone on the way to Opening Day!

I thought it a good time to bring up one of my greatest pet peeves.  It’s gone beyond being a peeve and it as become a genuine concern.  I’ve beaten folks over the head with my rants on this before and here I go again…stealing off the Internet.

A couple of months ago, my friend Kelly O’Connor discovered that a contributor to Wikipedia had gone through her photos, used one for just about each Red Sox player and posted them on Wikipedia without crediting Kelly as the photographer.  That would have been bad enough, but this same person gave herself the photographer’s credit and gave permission for anyone to use the photos anywhere they wanted.  I think you have to be some kind of major league ass to do something like that.  But she was an anonymous major league ass.  She was a nobody who made herself feel better by taking credit for someone else’s work.  It was a lousy thing to do. It was also difficult to blame an actual person since we never found out who this person really was.  Fortunately for Kelly, Wikipedia eventually responded to her, deleted the photos and banned the user (when, really, what Kelly was looking for was her fair credit and a retraction of giving away the rights.  Something that was too late anyway since other sites had seen the photos and used them thinking they had the legal right to do so).

When I first started blogging I lifted photos all the time.  Initially, it didn’t occur to me that something I saw online needed to be credited back.  My ignorance stuns me now, but it was there.  If I used a photo where the photographer was specifically pointed out, I’d write somewhere in the post where I got it from.  But I was just as likely to Google a player’s name, find a photo already with no credit and use it again.  At the time, I didn’t even realized people were reading the blog.  As soon as I started to be aware of my audience, I started to realize that I shouldn’t be taking something and passing it off as mine (I never took credit for any photo that wasn’t mine but by using a photo and not crediting someone you are, basically, doing just that).  So now it feels like life’s work to educate those online about not stealing someone’s photographs.

Last night, Kelly showed me the Flickr page of another talented sports photographer.  Her handle is slidingsideways and she shoots both the Red Sox and the Bruins.  Hockey fans, especially, should check out her work because it’s pretty damned good.  So good, in fact, that folks over at NESN have been lifting some of her photos and not giving her credit.

NESN? Seriously?  NESN doesn’t have an official photographer who covers the sports that NESN airs nightly? NESN can’t afford to have a subscription to Getty Images?  NESN has to go trolling for photos on Flickr?  Not much surprises me any more, but this certainly did.  (Since being made aware that the photographer was not happy with their use of her photos without any credit, one article now has a different photo and another has a credit at the end of the piece.  Yes, NESN chose to pull a photo rather than just caption it with the photographer’s name.)

When I was at, I never found out where they got the photos they used but I do know that I never used Getty Images officially (hell, I had to bring up the subject of photos and giving credit to Rob Bradford during our first meeting).  I used Kelly’s photos and Kelly signed an agreement with them to give them permission for me to use them.  Something we had to push for in order to protect Kelly’s interests.  She didn’t get paid for them but she got credit.  Recently, I was invited to contribute to another website. I wrote a handful of pieces for them but ultimately decided I didn’t have the time to spend there and appreciatively bailed out.  This site is new and is trying to make money to become a contender and I respect that, but they too make it a habit of getting their pictures from Flickr without giving any credit.  It’s a practice I’m completely uncomfortable with and everyone else should be as well.

Most people who post their photos online are thrilled when someone expresses an interest in using their photos.  Everyone wants their work appreciated.  And most of the photographers I know don’t even expect payment for someone to use their work…they just want the proper credit (and a heads up…it helps if you ask for permission to use the photo…it’s the professional thing to do).  If you credit a photographer (but giving a link to where you found their work!) you’re helping them gain an audience.  It doesn’t cost you anything and since you’re using their photos it helps you both.


Today marks a day that we start to see photos flooding out of Fort Myers.  I love looking at the photos of the guys getting back to work…the professional and the amateur photos.  So if you have a blog, or just like to post photos on your Twitter or Facebook feed, please remember to give the photographer proper credit.  It’s the least we can do for the people sharing their work with us.

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