I’ve made no secret about how angry copyright infringement makes me. In fact, I’d say I’m kind of an intellectual property protection zealot. Over the last several years, I’ve kept my head down, working (mostly) silently at identifying, contacting, and if needed, shutting down websites that steal my text. I may have griped here and there about these site owners’ total lack of ethics, but I never revealed who they were. I was afraid that I would look bad for doing so. Lately, though, I’ve wondered — why am I holding back?
As most of us in the wedding industry are probably aware, an Arkansas photographer was recently outed publicly for stealing other photographers’ images and passing them off as her own. As much as the situation sucked — for the photographers who were stolen from, for the clients who booked the thieving photographer based on what they believed to be her talent, and, I suppose, for the photographer who was so insecure in her own work that she felt it better to use that of others (and is enduring what can only be described as a shit storm as a result).
In watching the message boards and the social media discussions, I realized that not only did no one think worse of the photographers who were stolen from for having expressed their outrage, but in having done so, they were able to bring a major issue to light. How many more people were talking about the idea of intellectual property, about ownership of one’s work, because these topics now had a name and a face associated with them?
So, it got me thinking. Should website thieves, too, be outed?
I’m sure some would say mistakes happen — and, for sure, plenty of the 400+ thieves I’ve busted have blamed some nameless web designer, or a friend of a friend, or a former employee — and yet, I can’t manage to care too much. Because, ultimately, we’re all responsible for verifying that the work we use to represent us is our own.
Obviously, ethics alone aren’t important enough to some people to prevent them from stealing from others. Maybe, then, the possibility of being revealed as a copyright infringer — a thief — would be incentive enough to come up with their own original website content?
I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on this issue. Would revealing the business names of website thieves just be vigilante justice? Or does it bring an appropriate amount of attention to an ethical issue that’s detrimental to our industry?