Recently, I read a Facebook post about a photographer who was allegedly using the work of others to promote his/her business. Certainly, those who commented were upset about the fact he/she is misrepresenting their own work and cheating clients. More vehemently, though, they were upset that yet another photographer is stealing people’s work.
“You should report them to Photostealers and inform the affected photographers!” they said. People were grabbing their virtual pitchforks and were ready to hit the Internet to find this person and castigate them.
The ultimate sin
Such is the case in every instance where photographs have been proven stolen. As photographers, we take great umbrage when this happens because we all know that’s the ultimate, most egregious sin in our industry. And why shouldn’t we? Our photography is the culmination of years of study, constant practice and hard work. We work tirelessly to shape our craft, innovate and produce stunning images for all to see.
We have a hypocrisy problem, though. While many of us show righteous indignation at the thought that someone is using our work without permission or proper compensation, some of us have no problem using unlicensed music in our slideshow videos. Worse, there are quite a few of us who are using and trading pirated software or actions. Even more egregiously, there are some who have never paid for a legitimate copy of Adobe Photoshop.
It’s not for me to judge those who pirate music or software. I used to be one of those people when I first got into computers. I thought “paying was for suckers!”, and I was okay with it because “well, I’m just a poor college student who can’t afford it.” So the ethical dilemma is for each person to consider themselves.
Rather, what I’m really trying to say is either we’re promoting a healthy respect for artists’ rights and copyright, or we’re not. There is no middle ground. We can’t in one instance get upset when someone steals our work and doesn’t compensate us, and in the other, continue using software or music that we didn’t legally license.
Our industry is an extremely expensive one. Not withstanding the hardware costs, software is, or can be, very expensive. I think I paid $599 for my first legitimate copy of Adobe Photoshop 5, and that was in 1998 dollars! However, I couldn’t deny that Photoshop was a very powerful tool. I’ve been using it since version 2 or 3 and even today, I still only take advantage of 40% of it’s capabilities. Tack on Photoshop actions and templates and the bill adds up quickly. So I understand that some may not be in a position to afford it. If you respect copyright, then you wait until you can afford the software or make it a priority and save the money.
If you make the decision to get an unlicensed copy until you can afford it, then you also need to be okay with a client coming in for a photo session and walking out before paying you.