In the creative business world, sometimes we run across things that baffle and bewilder us anywhere from a tough client, damaged pictures and files, to other people trying to take credit of what is yours…
I never thought it would happen to me like this.
Recently I was tipped off by loyal and potential clients that they had seen a website that had content that looked 99.9% exactly like mine. I’m not talking about stealing my pictures (trust me, this would have pissed me off too), but my entire Investment page had been ripped off copied and pasted word for word, font to font, and asterisk to asterisk . Not wanting to believe this I investigated and it turned out to be true. I knew this person which I felt made it all the worse. This was a person I had trusted so I immediately felt taken advantage of, betrayed, sad, and downright angry.
After I contacted the Professional Photographers Association they advised that the first step would be to contact the owner and let them know what I had discovered and to please kindly remove my content. I professionally contacted this person and gave a deadline of midnight the same day and to please delete anything she copied from my page. The response I got was denial and that she didn’t get the information from my website (apparently everyone’s website looks like this), she thanked me for my input and would review it but she would do it when she felt like it because she had more important things to do. This person still denies to this day that the original source was my website and has yet to apologize and I still have to wonder if they even realize what they did was wrong.
The next day it was deleted for a few hours and replaced with another page with the same content but it had a different background, different font, and changed a few words here and there. It was still incredibly obvious that it was still a replica of my site. I gave up and started searching for legal advice.
We all look up to someone and want to emulate other’s work. I have trained and taken the wonderful Ana Brandt’s class last year whom is one of my greatest photography idol’s but I didn’t go to her website after the class and copy and paste her pages and say “I have a business now! Hire Me!” We all try things here and there in an effort to find ourselves and our style and what works for our business. I have taken classes anywhere I can from all the greats in the industry, invested tons of hours and money and rewarded every single day from the fruits of my labor.
My content and policies where all born over a 8 year period of trial and error and learning as I went along. If a client stood me up on a session then I created my no/show and tardiness clause. If someone vandalized property or the studio then I created my no tolerance policy. This took me years of love and lots and lots of hard work. I’m sure most of us creatives have the same policies and structures, but to just to take your mouse and click copy and paste and have a new website and business in a matter of seconds and minutes really burns.
It took me going through the PPA, several baffled lawyers and many hours of research later but found very wonderful legal representation and taught me a very important lesson on copyright laws and federally registering my work. I believe this was God’s way of giving me a push and finally take the necessary steps needed to protect my business and worth. With patience I was able to have a Cease and Desist sent and my content was immediately removed.
I will not name anyone or the business since I am legally represented and the site was deleted but I want to share my story (was encouraged to actually) because maybe there is someone out there who is going through this same thing and is feeling frustrated not knowing what to do. At first I didn’t think there was anything I could do and to think that someone could just do this had me feeling defeated and wondering what was the point of working hard when others try to take shortcuts and take credit for your work. It might not have been an actual image, but I was the one behind the computer for hours and hours typing up every single word, no copy and paste required!
I’m an advocate for Community over Competition and I’ve always had a heart to help others when they need it, answer questions when I can, and help raise others up, but at the same time that doesn’t mean I have to sit by and let others take advantage of me or my business and then treat me like a second class citizen when I try to defend it. This isn’t the first time someone has taken advantage and I know it won’t be the last and at times it can be discouraging I admit. At the end of the day I refuse to let things and people like this take the fun and joy out of my job and my work and will continue to be better than the person and artist I was yesterday.
If there is content on your website that you cherish and worked hard for, you CAN copyright register it! We are automatically granted copyright for our images but if it’s not federally registered and someone steals your image it’s going to be an ever uphill battle to enforce it. The lesson. COPYRIGHT REGISTER IT!
If there is anyone who needs a heck of a good lawyer, I will be happy to send you a dazzling recommendation.
Kimberly is a published, award winning Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) based in Midland, TX and services the West Texas region. She loves to read, cuddle with babies, invent, and travel.