Photographer Sues BuzzFeed for 3.6 Million

Posted Jun. 30th, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

The social media sharing craze is being tested in a recent legal suit by a photographer out of Idaho. The photographer, Kai Eiselein, had one of his images copied  from Flikr and distributed without his permission over the BuzzFeed social sharing network. I’m not going to highlight the entire situation since PaidContent has produced a very detailed account already. You can read that article on PaidContent by clicking on the image below. There are many issues involved with this case that relate to the the business practices and concerns I’ve been discussing here on my blog. Those issues include:

I’m doubtful BuzzFeed would have had the guts to heist this image had Eiselein placed the same watermark I use, Registered © 2013, Photogs Name, as a watermark on the photo he’s suing over.

Click on the photo to follow a link to the article regarding BuzzFeed's illegal photo use as reported by PaidContent.

Click on the photo to follow a link to the article regarding BuzzFeed’s illegal photo use as reported by PaidContent.

For years, I’ve been encouraging our Invitational Photo Tour guests to understand their hard-earned pictures have monetary value. Traveling the world to take photos is not cheap, new digital cameras and lenses cost thousands of dollars, and keeping up to date with the latest computers to maintain an efficient workflow is expensive. Why not try to offset some of these costs, or pay for them all together, by maintaining your rights to your images? In the PaidContent article regarding BuzzFeed’s illegal use of Eiselein’s soccer photo, BuzzFeed’s founder admits to paying two of the world’s largest photography licensing companies for content to place on BuzzFeed’s website. To me this is proof positive that photography still has value. The following is excerpted from the PaidContent article.

“Last year, BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti explained to the Atlantic that the site pays to license images from companies like Reuters and Getty, but that it also pulls from amateur sites like Tumblr and Flickr. In these cases, the provenance of the images can be unclear — in some cases, the photographer has made them available for public use while other times the author is simply unknown.”

The last part about the author/photographer being unknown relates directly to bullet point number three above, “Making certain all your photos contain your embedded Metadata/Contact Information within the image”. The lack of Metadata/Contact information is well documented on this Blog. You can read an informative piece on Britain’s idea of what is fair and right concerning the use of your photos in UK Gov Passes Instagram Act: All your pics belong to everyone now! To help protect your photos take a look at the links I’ve added in the bullet points above.

Though I hate litigation, big companies seldom do what is fair and right without some sort of painful process that involves the extraction of cash from their bottom line. The good news about Eiselein’s law suit is there’s movement in trying to figure out  the issues relating to a person’s rightful ownership of Intellectual Property. Just because somebody wants to share a picture doesn’t’ mean they’re choosing to give up  all rights to those images. Something has to be figured out where there is fairness to all.

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