Grand Theft Photo

The Town of Aurora is running a low effort photo contest:

Instead of using actual photos taken in Aurora, showcasing what they are seeking from applicants, they opted for uninspiring Getty stock images:

Compelling budding photographers by using “One woman cross country skiing at sunset in ski resort”. because nothing says Aurora like photos from Whistler valley.

Way to go asshats!

And if, like the Town of Aurora you can’t be bothered to take a photo but still want to enter the contest, well why not do what others in Town are doing and simply steal one from a local photographer?

I suggest this one:

It is so popular it is showing up all over social media and the web, so it must be free for the taking.

Back in September of 2014 Aurora resident Micheal Ney decided to use it for his cover photo on facebook:

You may recall Ney as a political wannabe who had his ass handed to him in the election that year with a pathetic 1.24% of the vote, finishing 27th out of 28 candidates.

Given that the photo includes a rather large watermark identifying the artist reached out to Anna to inquire if Ney contacted her for permission to use her photo.

She tells me he did not.

Why not?

Nor did Seanna Murray who also used the image as her cover photo in December of 2017:

To add insult to injury Murray isn’t some rando Auroran she is apparently the Member Relations Ambassador for the Aurora Chamber of Commerce.

Her post of the photo even got a comment from another Chamber board member recognizing the author of the image.

So again, I asked Anna. Did Murray contact you for consent to use the clearly identified image prior to posting it to facebook. Anna tells me she did not.

WTF?

Given Murray’s job, which lists social media amongst its responsibilities, how could she swiftly overlook the copyright on an image before copying and pasting it as her cover photo?

I wonder exactly how stealing someone’s intellectual property would aid relations if Anna is a Chamber of Commerce Member? If Anna isn’t a member how likely would she be to join said organization if this is how they chose to disrespect her work?

Following Murray’s lead it is no surprise that other local businesses see copyright theft of Anna’s work as acceptable behaviour. Anna also informed me this same photo is being used by Benczik Realty, a local realtor. If you scroll down their site they have a gallery of images that even borrows the name of Anna’s blog:

Again no one from this business bothered to take 2 minutes to text, email, instant message or reach out by phone to ask permission.

That’s 3 examples of a single image. Next we get to a facebook group titled “Trureal Community Program – Aurora”. I can’t figure out what this thing is. It’s parent company is in Vaughan and it appears to be some sort of gift card charity thing. I have no clue who runs this page but on August 19th they upped the ante and took 3 of Anna’s watermarked images ( Farmers Market top left, Senirors Centre top centre, Carusos bottom right ) to use for their facebook cover photo:

So not only did this person go and steal Aurora based imagery (multiple photos from the same photographer all with watermarks) they actually took the time to make their own collage for purposes of showcasing their business. Yet no effort to seek out permission for the imagery you have scrubbed. How dumb do you have to be?

The best part of copyright infringement is that it doesn’t matter because ignorance is not a defence.

Perhaps one or all of these offenders simply assume because an image has a watermark it is free for use. That’s not how copyright works. Curtis Newbold has created a flowchart for navigating laws and ethics of using copyrighted imagery. His rule above all else? Ask permission to use all images. If in doubt, don’t use the image!

It’s 2021 everyone carries a camera in their pocket. When a photo is needed anyone can chose to take their own photos but most realize they lack the talent to make a decent capture so they have to turn to others for their imagery.

The Town of Aurora know this all to well as they pay good money top use stock imagery instead of actual captures taken by a full time staff member hired for this very purpose.

Good photography costs good money. If you haven’t factored that into the cost of your product, or marketing budget then that is on you. Snatching and grabbing anything that doesn’t appear locked down is not a best practice.

Nor is seeking forgiveness instead of asking permission.

I suspect many people that sit behind screens shrug off copyright theft as some sort of victimless crime, but this also isn’t the case.

We know the victim because Anna took extra steps to identify her work and watermark it.

Anna is a local resident and small business owner whose work is well known. Her professionalism is very appreciated in the community, just not enough for any of these asshats to spend 5 seconds to reach out to her and seek consent.

Yes, the “c” word. Shutter the thought.

If you’re going to drone on and on about how you “support local business” then here’s another novel idea; don’t make your first impression that of actively stealing from them.

Most content creators have little recourse in enforcing and policing their works. It isn’t an open invitation to steal their work so you can fill a void in your life, even something as meaningless as your facebook cover photo.

Watts on your mind?

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