The other day I received an email from a former workshop student. The message was in reference to an image I had on my website and the student was asking why I had put my copyright info on his image and used it in my portfolio.
I was a bit surprised because I clearly remember taking the image myself and I would certainly never knowingly take credit for someone else’s image. As soon as I was able, I got on my computer, reviewed the metadata and the date/time stamps of the image and I verified that I had many similar images from the same sequence. The images were taken by my camera as verified by the embedded serial number and camera information.
I reported my findings back to the student, who, naturally, found it difficult to accept that he could have some of my images on his computer. I do not think anything untoward happened, I recalled borrowing a memory card that day and I assume that when I returned the card, it may still have had my images on it.
Honestly, I don’t know for sure, it’s a complete guess how he got them and frankly, it is totally irrelevant to this post. I don’t think he stole my images and I certainly did not steal his, it was just a simple case of mistaken attribution.
Unfortunately, during our back and forth emails trying to sort this out, I received the following email message from another party:
Why would any photographer copy another photographers work and tag it as their own? Just how many stolen photographs do you have in your portfolio?
I don’t know ‘Chris’. The contact info he provided was just a fake number and a fake email. Chris, if you are reading this, it’s really easy to make accusations, false accusations in this case, without knowing all the facts. However, in this case, you made a very wrong assumption, and made no attempt to ascertain the facts.
I don’t take such accusations lightly. I have never copied someone’s work and claimed it as my own. It makes my blood boil that some nameless, faceless person may be shredding my good reputation without the facts or truth of the situation.
However, this episode certainly brings to light an important lesson if you are attending a workshop. Be sure you take care to guard and protect your images.
If you borrow a memory card from someone, be sure to format the card before using it and after you are finished with it. Do not let anyone copy your RAW files. If your camera allows you to enter copyright information, be sure it is entered so all of your images are copyrighted upon creation, with your name and any other relevant data. Take all steps necessary to ensure you have your work properly organized and verified.
In the end, I know these images were mine. It was never really a question for me, I remember many details about that day and this shooting sequence in particular. In fact, I can recall many details about most of my shoots, they are burned into my brain. However, because of some carelessness or sloppy handling of a memory card, I have so far spent several hours trying to collect proof that these were my images. That’s time I could have been doing something much more enjoyable and constructive.