Tag Archive for copyright

Copyright and stealing photos

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. In restaurants, it’s free to look at the buffet, but it’s not free to take and eat. The same with photos, images, videos (and gifs), etc. Photos are free to look at, but not free to take. There have been website owners, bloggers, and other such people being served with take-down notices, having their website hosting accounts closed, and social media accounts closed too, all because of image theft. Photos cost money, and they are expensive to make. Don’t believe me? Well, you could obtain a license for my photos via the Free Photos info page, which will give you free access to galleries of my work, but for a trade.

buy this image

People want their time paid for. You don’t go into your job to work for free. You surely don’t do overtime for free. You expect financial compensation. That is true for models, makeup artists, and me. The lowest price I can get a model for is about USD$25 per hour; many command modestly to a lot more than this. Each shoot requires a lot of preparation, and time before the first camera button is pushed. What is the difference between a model and having a friend pose for you for free? A lot.

A friend working for free doesn’t know what to do with his or her hands. They typically only look at the camera, and expect magic to… magically happen. A professional model knows what to do with his or her hands, knows where to look, angles to put their shoulders. They know how to angle their heads. And that is just the posing. A professional model will always keep their skin moisturised, hairs and nails trimmed, and knows some basics about makeup art. There is a difference between the makeup ordinary people use, and the makeup a model would wear. Suitable makeup is not free. Also, in the heat of the moment, a professional remembers how to pose, and won’t go scatterbrained like beginning models (and photographers) would.

buy this image

The photo above was possible with a professional, still-life, gravure specialist model, and a makeup artist who can work quick, imaginatively, and can understand the context and make more of it. They know their stuff, and they know it well. Actually, I think I was the least talented one in the room.

After the shoot there’s the image processing, storage, and marketing. Software is not free. Hard disc drives for photos are not free. Marketing is not free. Just these three aspects costs thousands of dollars. There are cheap ways to do these things, but none are free. Online image storage for commercial sales costs hundreds of dollars a year. Every few years I must replace my external hard drives, and they cost a few hundred dollars each.

Some would say that an image that costs “hundreds of dollars” will sell many times, and so surely money will be made. Yes and no. Some images are more niche than others. Certainly the generic stock image will sell hundreds of times, and so the pricing is just a dollar or so. However, there have been confusing moments for consumers when two competing banks, by chance, used exactly the same $1 stock photos for their million dollar campaigns. The generic stock photos are clean and beautiful, but intentionally lack context so that they can be used for any purpose, thus increasing their sales potential.

buy this image

Rights managed photos, like mine, are usually specific to a context (typically Japan), and are as authentic as possible. The image above was one of the more expensive to make. In the photo you see three people, but you don’t see the other two out of view. There was the makeup artist keeping an eye on the models and holding the flash, and me. The rickshaw puller cost money, and it also cost me money in getting to Tokyo to begin with. This image is model released, of which there are three signed releases. Using photos you find on Flickr might be easy and… free, but they won’t have signed model releases, and so they cannot be used for advertising and other similar uses. CBS, among other news outlets, reported that a family sued an Australian mobile phone company for using a non-released creative commons photo of their daughter. The reason? It was extremely insulting, especially as it says in big bold letters “Dump your pen friend” and shows a gregarious Asian girl (see here).

Regarding the specificity and context issues, image above is in an obvious touristy place, as you can see someone taking a selfie in the background, and a crowd in front of one the most photogenic, iconic attractions in Tokyo, Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. These are the things that separate my image above from free and generic stock images; the sales potential is low, and the cost to set up high. Furthermore, my images can be set to exclusive use, so to prevent copycats and rivals from using the same images for their campaigns.

buy this image

There is a myth that it’s ok to use an image without paying for it, as long as you provide credit and links back to the owners. This is not true. I simply cannot go into McDonalds, take a burger, and then tell everyone “I ate this burger that I got from McDonalds”. It will still be called theft. To use photos, especially when people are displayed in the photo, you need to have permission. Let’s say the photo above of the Vietnamese girl sitting on the balcony of a cafe in Saigon is used for a cafe advertising campaign; there’s little risk to her reputation and mine. However, if it was appropriated by an AIDS or mental health campaign, she risks huge ramifications in her community. There is a model whose career was destroyed by false claims of plastic surgery, as purported by an internet meme (see here).

In short, photos are free to look at, but like a Da Vinci, Caravaggio, or Dali painting, you cannot take them home without paying… or you’d risk an international manhunt. I do have cheap alternatives for for bloggers, and other personal uses; there are many licensing options, just take a look at my PhotoShelter portfolio. At the end of the day, we all enjoy our work, but we all still need to be rewarded.

Photos for Personal Use – for cheap

Did you know that bloggers and personal website owners can get high quality photos for cheap?

The problem: Some people don’t understand that photos are free to look at, but not free to take and use; like food at a buffet, free to look at, but not free to take. Photos for commercial or editorial uses can cost anywhere from a couple of hundred dollars to tens of thousands. Pricing depends on the distribution and the size of the audience, and many other factors. However, this means that many bloggers mistakenly believe that high quality images are too expensive, and so they steal the images instead. This means that many bloggers have had infamous take-down notices issued, had their web accounts closed by their website hosts, and social media accounts closed. Also, many bloggers have faced expensive legal action with real lawyers in real courts, with real judges, and real prosecutors.

Girl in the City of Ghosts

Girl in the City of Ghosts

The How: JapanesePhotos.Asia instead provides a personal solution, for personal bloggers and personal website owners. Purchase cheap licenses for your personal use, not for redistribution or resale; for in perpetuity. JapanesePhotos.Asia has multiple options for many different types of buyers and uses. For personal uses, go to the JapanesePhotos.Asia PhotoShelter portfolio, and browse for what you like, click on the green buy button, and choose your license, go to the Downloads tab, and choose Personal Use; and you’re all set.

How to buy a license and download an image for personal use from JapanesePhotos.Asia

How to buy a license and download an image for personal use from JapanesePhotos.Asia

Why the cost? The model in the image above costs money. She’s a great and professional model, and we worked with a great make-up artist; all of this costs money. How much do you earn per hour, and consider they need to be paid too? It took about a day of work to make that image above, and I’m competing against tens of thousands of great images, so each sale is important for cost recuperation. If you really do value an image enough to want it, please value the time and effort too, so that I can make more great images in the future.

One more thing: Occasionally I do have discount offers, please look out for coupons.

Copyrights & infringement

Copyright is simple and straight forward. If you want to use a photo you need to get written permission, usually in the form of a licence that you pay for (see these examples at my portfolio). The only exception is photography not under Copyright licence, but Creative Commons. It really is that simple. Almost all countries (including the US) have signed to international treaties (see Wikipedia) and so have agreed to protecting the rights of creators and the creators’ choices. Me, I also need the money. Photography is not a free / cheap game to play (see why, here).

The US has muddied the waters in two ways, firstly by creating a copyright office that requires US based creators to register their works so that they can get full damages awarded. No other country has this requirement, but the US tries to impose this on all creators, US-based or not. The only benefit I see of this system is that the US gets money from international creators, and hopes to profit from the fear of US-based infringement. The second way the US has muddied the waters is by not teaching their children in education enough about copyright and what is considered infringement, so ignorance and this lax culture has permeated on the internet. However, this second problem is not a US exclusive problem. There are reports on websites like Photo Attorney of India based website designers and creators building websites for US owners, only for the US owners to be (successfully) sued for copyright infringement. If you own the website, you approved of all of the content and so are legally liable for all infringements (see point 1 on this page of the Photo Attorney website).

In any case, there are now lots of websites that describe the “myths of copyright” and the common excuses violators make. Of most pertinent to me, as I’ve seen this a lot recently on social media is the notion that it’s ok to use someone else’s photo on your website, provided you link it back to the original source. I was livid when I saw some leech using my photos without paying me. I already have an agent and his lawyer pursuing a case of this; refer to point 9 of this Photo Attorney document: http://www.photoattorney.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Excuses-excuses.pdf. Also, PetaPixel recently did a great article that is pretty current, and in the same vein at the Photo Attorney list, just because you put my name there DOESN’T give you licence to use my photo without paying for it: http://petapixel.com/2013/08/03/10-bogus-excuses-people-use-when-they-steal-photos-from-the-web/.

For some strange reason, the most commonly violated photos of mine are my sumo images. I dare you to steal them… my lawyer needs a new spa on his back porch and I’m dying for a new Sony a99. 😉

Sumo – Images by Andrew Blyth


I love the Internet and the culture around it. It’s brilliant. I love being able to communicate with friends and family… at a distance, and up close. I love having access to the information and resources that didn’t exist 10 years ago, and I love seeing the new useful stuff. I do admit I let MySpace pass me by, and never heard of Orkut until it was already a living fossil; I was too busy with ICQ. However, here’s a website I’m steering clear of, Pinterest.

Pinterest says in it’s terms and conditions that it reserves the right to resell any image its users have added to Pinterest’s website, including mine. This is without regard to copyright ownership, nor standard industry licensing & purchasing. In short, Pinterest is a messy mass of Intellectual Property law suits waiting to happen. Both Flickr and stock agencies have added the no pin code to their websites preventing image theft (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinterest#Copyrighted_content).

On top of that, Pinterest allows website owners to opt out, which prevents Pinterests users adding your images to Pinterest.com; a rather selfish paradigm, it’s very ego-centric. Now, every single website in the world is fair game, until they insert the code (below) which prevents Pinterest’s users from stealing your copyrighted images. What if every other social network had this system? Should there be a list of websites to blacklist, or “blackcode”? It’d be a nightmare to keep updated, as each website will require unique coding, and occasional updates. The alternative is to invite Pinterests members to your site, and as soon as they illegally upload your images you start suing; it’ll be profitable, and should changed Pinterest’s policies.


We have a small piece of code you can add to the head of any page on your site:

<meta name=”pinterest” content=”nopin” />

When a user tries to pin from your site, they will see this message:

“This site doesn’t allow pinning to Pinterest. Please contact the owner with any questions. Thanks for visiting!”

Thanks to this website, http://llsocial.com/2012/02/pinterest-offering-code-to-block-pinning/ for posting the above code. The only caveat is that every time you update your blog software, you may need to reinsert that code. Pinterest’s own ‘no pin’ code is found at the very bottom of this page: http://pinterest.com/about/help/

Useful links:

Mention of Pinterest selling other people’s content: https://plus.google.com/u/0/109214702386760339292/posts/GQaFsSbc6Nt

Business Insider, Copyright Theft: http://www.businessinsider.com/pinterest-illegal-faq-2012-2

PhotoShelter: Pinterest Round 2 (includes pros & cons): http://blog.photoshelter.com/2012/02/pinterest-is-still-not-for-photographers-round-2/

Business Journal; How your business could get sued for using Pinterest: http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2012/02/pinterest-copyright-issues.html?surround=etf&ana=e_article&page=all

Pinterest’s Terms: http://pinterest.com/about/terms/

Story of the New York Times being scolded by a photographer for not crediting her, because of Pinterest’s problems: http://jimromenesko.com/2012/03/16/ny-post-scolded-by-photographer/

UPDATE, new terms & conditions (from 6th April 2012): http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/startups/2012/03/pinterest-to-change-terms-of-service.html?ana=fbk

Pinterest Terms of Service clearly stating that they reserve the right to sell member content for their own profit.

Pinterest Terms of Service clearly stating that they reserve the right to sell member content for their own profit.

AppMakr Copyright violation

For some time now, I’ve been looking at other ways to bring in income using the JapanesePhotos bandwagon. I looked at various publication options, and came across AppMakr. As I was experimenting and trying out their wares I realised they are doing something absolutely abhorrent.

Appmakr is a website that helps you make smart phone applications for Android, iPhone, and Windows mobile OS. Appmakr has just one trick: you add RSS feeds to make and automatically update the app. That is, you enter your blog feed, twitter, or similar and you have an app. However, they do allow you to use photos for the app icon and start up screen. The problem is this: you can upload a photo of your own, or use their ‘search’ function. Via this search function I discovered that I can find my own photos (complete with copyright water mark) and use those. That is to say, anybody can use unlicensed (unpaid for) photos for their monetized apps. Consequently, if anybody uses the search for photo / logo function they run the risk of copyright violation litigation. And AppMakr? I would assume that they could also be subject to the same litigation that companies like Napster faced.

Evidence of aiding in copyright violation:

Screenshot-AppMakr :: Art - JapanPhoto - Mozilla Firefox

Screenshot-AppMakr :: Art - JapanPhoto - Mozilla Firefox