Free photo sites are not always free

Camera manufacturers like to share images taken with their equipment, so it was understandably awkward when Canon Italy and Canon Spain shared a photo shot with a Fuji X-T1 on all their social media accounts.

Then it got worse.

Turns out Canon took the image from a website offering copyright-free photography. Apparently someone had taken elements from a photo by travel photographer Elia Locardi and uploaded a composite [two or more images combined into one] to the site without Locardi’s permission. For the full story, read DL Cade’s article, “Canon defends embarrassing photo sharing gaff, photographer fires back.”

Red Cliffs of PEI, photo by Jerry D ClementHere are the lessons:

  • Be cautious when using images from copyright-free sites. If the site doesn’t verify ownership of the images people upload, you could find yourself on the receiving end of a copyright infringement claim, even though you were operating in good faith.
  • When you make a mistake, accept responsibility, apologize, make it right and move on. Don’t dig in and defend yourself against something that is clearly wrong.
  • Don’t steal other people’s material (photographs, writing, other creative work) in whole or in part. Modifying someone else’s work does not create an original piece. If you do it without permission and/or compensation, the final product is still infringing on the creator’s copyright and what you did is still theft.

We use Canon equipment and most of the photographs in our library (including our Images for Impact product and the images used in this blog) were taken with a Canon 5D MkII. We’re not trying to shame Canon; we’re just sharing so you’re aware of the risks of using photos from free image sites.

Additional reading:

“Images, Rights and Lawsuits — Oh, My!” Photographers, writers and other artists don’t want to sue for copyright infringement; they’d much prefer that their work not be stolen in the first place.

“Stealing Could Get Expensive”  A bill pending in Congress would make it easier for musicians and artists to protect their work.

Jerry Clement
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