Why Do Photographers & Videographers Steal?

Good morning from Huntington Beach everyone!  I shared this back in February, but really felt that this article about photographers & videographers using copyrighted music without permission really needed to be addressed again.  Especially after bringing it up yesterday on the [ b ] School Study Hall with my friend & colleague [ b ] ecker.  I even had one of those “I shoulda said that” moments when I rode the Duc back to EPHQ & shared some additional thoughts about this in another video on You Tube.

Plus!  The awesome copyright advocates at Copyright Alliance asked the creatives of the world to make today “Copyright Friday” helping create awareness for saving our intellectual property.

So with that said, here is the article that I shared back in February.  I hope you enjoy it & helps shed some light on why we need to do everything we can to save our work –  cheers!

I’ve been giving this blog posting some very serious thought & have been holding off on dropping it because of how controversial it is.  There are very strong opinions on both sides of the fence with what I’m going to share with you – both of which feeling justified and right in their own opinion.

Please keep in mind that I’m not an expert in the topic to follow, but I think I have a basic knowledge of what is right & wrong and what is legal & illegal.

Nor, am I pointing out the grain of sand in someone else’s eye, yet having no regard for the plank of wood in mine (trust me, I fumble every day in all that I do!).  This is just me setting the table for some thoughts, discussion and perhaps a little bit of making some folks go; “hmmmm….”.

So without further ado, I’ll cut to the chase & let you navigate your way through my ramblings.

I just got done watching a promo video again for a couple that is getting married on a forum & I’m just seething right now.

Why do photographers & videographers all around the world feel it’s ok to use another artist’s intellectual property without permission for profit (aka; music on their websites, music in their slideshows, music in their videos, etc.)? I’ve had several discussions lately with photographers & videographers about this & the general thread they complain about is that either the music is too “expensive” or that it’s not “popular.” Really?? REALLY?!?!

So even though everyone that I spoke with dodged the question and whined about it, then why do photographers & videographers get all up in arms when their intellectual property (e.g.; beautiful photography and videography) is pirated for profit? I’ve even been told by a fairly well-known and popular photographer that it’s ok for this photographer to do it because the photographer I was speaking with is a “Christian” & the photographer is using a “Christian” band’s intellectual property on the photographer’s website.  Again I say… Really?? REALLY?!?!!!

With the multitudes of resources available to us from FREE music sources like; Ear Candy Digital Music, Dano Songs to the amazing & seemingly endless AND affordable library of music at Triple Scoop Music, I honestly don’t see any reasons for this illegal behaviour.  Let alone, the numerous programs on Macs, PCs & iPhones – where you can create your own soundtrack/score of music.

But to blatantly use another artist’s intellectual property, stand on a soap box with self entitlement about it & then on another soap box whining if your work was stolen doesn’t make sense. Nor does this doesn’t present our industry in a good light. It just drives home the naysayer’s/hater’s/client’s opinions that photographers are slimey. And, YES – they have the right to say that about photographers & videographers if you’re stealing for your own gain. It’s those that practice this mode of thievery that brings us and our industry down as a whole.

Similar to my tweet on Tuesday, Feb. 2nd directing attention to an Article from the Copyright Alliance about an online magazine (Pilfering) stealing photographer’s intellectual property and how a photographer should deal with & rectify the situation. My question still remains as to why & more importantly – how would a photographer or videographer feel about this?

I personally have had over a thousand pieces of my work stolen & used for profit, I know how violated it feels. I recently just found two websites this past week using my work without my permission. Which BTW, will be removed or the site turned off.

Having to deal with this & make the thieves compliant with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, not only takes time away from my day, but my client’s photos, building my business, my personal work & time with my better 1/2; Katherine.  Or just in general, my life – all of which costs money, frustration, & stress.

I would also like to add that I too was guilty of having used songs in the past when I didn’t fully understand usage of copyright for personal use. But once I had a clear understanding of it, I quickly changed my methods.

I will not call people out on it, but if you are one of the people that does this & reading this right now, my challenge to you is stop using the copyrighted works of another artist regardless of their product effective immediately & change your professional business practice. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s illegal to steal regardless of your “excuse.”

So I wanted to put it out there to the leaders, students, amateurs, professionals and the many many other photographers & videographers of this “new order” / “open source order” of the photography & videography industry.  Why do photographers and videographers steal another artist’s work & whine when theirs is stolen?

To quote Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran: “Will someone please explain, the reason for this strange behaviour!”

Thanks for your time reading & I’m VERY eager to hear the justification or reasonable explanation of why people in our industry behave like this.  Or your thoughts in general.  If you’d like to add a solution or have some insight to this, please leave some comments below.


PS, to drive my point home even further, I’ve actually considered building a website steeped in intellectual property of photographers and videographers that have stolen copyrighted works of other artists. Then using that site to sell my services for profit. I truly wonder how fast those that steal – will complain & moan about it.

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  • lawrenceatienza - I am totally with you on this Sir Esquire!! In this day of technology it isn’t necessary to “Steal” music for personal gain. Yeah, i know that some client’s specifically ask for Madonna or Usher to be used for their slideshow. You just have to be strong and educate them on the use laws and provide them with alternatives such as royalty free songs or produce a custom track for them based on their genre preference. I like the latter myself so that i can express my other passion which is music and produce beats. I also produce music for my youtube videos (example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_olq0K9E6M ).

    In conclusion, “DON’T STEAL”.

  • JohnVPhotography - I agree with you 100%. Photographers who steal music are usually the first to complain when their work is stolen. I guess they feel their work is worth more than the music. I can only say that in some respect they are right in the sense that music is heard and shared usually by a lot more people than a wedding video or a picture from a wedding. But that doesn’t make it right.

    20 years ago it was hard to find music and getting the rights to a “regular song” was difficult and expensive. Back then maybe I could have seen it. Today that is not the case. The only reason I could think of doing it is that the client wants certain music that they know especially their wedding song or some other significant memorable song. With that said, the client should then pay for the rights for a song if they want it bad enough. Of course getting them to understand that when they can probably find another photographer willing to do it for free is another issue. Peace.

  • danosongs - There needs to be a new system that makes it is easy and inexpensive for people to use the music in the new context of Internet publishing.

    The real truth is that it is the fault of the record companies for not stepping up and creating technology platforms that enable synchronization purchases of any song on demand.

    Basically there needs to be an iTunes version of a licensing platform for YouTube videos, slide-shows and galleries.

    It’s fine with me that these corporations are slow and inept. I get to pick up the ball that they have dropped and offer my free royalty free music to a virtually untapped market of millions of people!

    Thank you so much for this article David and the care you have taken to create an elegant Website with valuable content.


    Free Royalty Free Music

  • Lain Eubank - So spot on with this post David. Because of what you have said in the past about using copyrighted music and because I too have had work stolen, it has made me stop and totally take a different stance on using copyrighted music, giving credit where credit is due, and respecting the hard work of others.

    I think one reason people use copyrighted music is because its so readily available. Its .99 or less on Amazon.com. And in reality, is the music really industry going to take on millions of lawsuits against photographers using copyrighted music to promote their business. More than likely, no. There is no foreseeable consequence for using copyrighted music so why not. Does that make it ok to use it anyway. nope, nada, never. We are all on an honor system here and sadly some don’t respect that.

    I hate the fact that someone else is still using my photos for their personal gain. Its my work and it took a lot of learning and practice to be able to capture those images. So much more time, talent, and years of work go into producing the songs that everyone knows and loves. I know how bad I feel being ripped off like I was and I don’t want to be responsible for someone else feeling that way.

  • David Esquire - Thanks so much everyone for sharing your thoughts about this. What is happening is not only serious, but really something that I wish people would take a lot more seriously. Definitely spread the word with others so other photographers will help build our business up & not drive it down. Thanks again for taking the time out to share your thoughts – cheers!

  • Barbara Ann - I have been personally burned from stealing. I have had my name purchased barbcameron.ca barbcameron.com and have had that local photographer redirect to her website. Disgusting. I have had another local photographer copy all of my wording on my website and use them on hers. AND I have had my images and products copied exactly by another local photographer. All of them female and all of them local. I just want to say, get a life to those women. So yes I agree with your blog post. Completely agree. My music comes form royalty free sites and I am proud of it. Including the music on the DVD slideshows I give to clients.

  • David Esquire - Hi Barbara, I’m so sorry to hear that & I can relate to the pain, frustration, anguish, anger & the myriad of other emotions that go through you when it happens & then how time consuming it is to deal with it. YUK! Thank you so much for doing the right thing & raising the bar in our industry. It will only help us in the long run – cheers!

  • Brandon Perron - I take a bit of a different approach on this topic then most, or at least I have no qualms being vocal about it…When this topic comes up, it always seems to be comparing oranges to nectarines (not quite apples)…I always hear “we shouldn’t use other artists music with out permission, because its stealing and you would hate if your work was used with out permission.” However there is a key issue that is missed…when music from an artist is used, people know who the hell that artist is. Its different then what alot of people have experienced of images being taken used with out permission and no credit given what so ever. If photographers took a Beatles song and stripped the lyrics, put them to their own music and tried to pass it off as their own, then we have a completely different story…but that is never the case.

    I would have no issue with a big magazine or local magazine pulling an image from site, using it in some sort of ad and giving me proper photo credit…are you kidding? FUCK YEAH! I would LOVE it!!!! Now if it was used to promote another photographer and they were passing it on as their own, it would be a different story all together…but if credit is given, by all means promote the shit of my work and bring to more eyes I would have never been able to reach, at no charge…that is the deal of the century.

    As for us profiting from their music, not really…there is no way in hell a couple looks a photogs website and goes holy shit, they use Jack Johnson’s music…the photos are ok, the photog’s a deuce and his prices are to high…but hell he has great music on his website we are booking him!!! Having a famous song is not helping us profit at all. As for the slide show argument, I do not see it either…the couple did not purchase the slide show based on the music we would put it too…they bought it for the slide show and want it to be more meaningful to them with “their” song.

    Also, from my understanding of talking with people who know copyright…the original purpose of copyright was so people did not take someone’s song put their name on it and sell it as their own and profit from it…not to make a little no body (in the big scheme of things) photographer feel guilty for promoting their song by using it on their site…

    I do not have music on my site…not because I think its stealing, I think its annoying and pisses me off, when I go to any site and they have music going and it blairs from my speakers or interrupts, the music I am listening to…so irritating.

    Again my 2 cents…take it for what’s worth…

  • Liz ~ elizabeth&jane photography - Thank you so much for standing up and saying this. I’ve been wondering this for years and I think it’s laughable that a photographer stealing music for their client’s wedding slideshow is upset when their images are stolen.

    I don’t agree with having music on a photographer’s website at all, but if you must, do it respectfully and pay for it.

  • David Esquire - @ Liz & Brandon – Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I really hope that we can all as a collective of creative people in our industry raise the bar a bit.

    @ Liz – I couldn’t agree with you more & it’s really great to hear from other photographers that are just as perplexed as me. Totally help spread the word educating other photographers & our fellow videographers about this. It’ll be a great day when we aren’t looked down upon for doing this as a SOP.

    @ Brandon – I 100% am on board with you on people using my work as well. My motto is: “Thank you sir, would you like another!” :-)

    Regarding the music usage, I totally see (and have seen) where you’re coming from. But sadly, until things change, it’s still illegal to use copyrighted works for both personal and professional usage without proper permissions. But what’s even sadder is that the RIAA and the US government have stepped over the line of protecting copyrighted works with the COICA program. It’s very Draconian.

    I am glad to also hear that you’re not an advocate of having music on a website. The only thing that does is appease the photographer’s ego. The times that a bride is checking out photographer & videographer’s sites are usually at the desk at work. Not exactly the best time to have music come blaring out of the speakers when someone goes to the site. Let alone make it difficult to turn off the music because the music icon is buried.

    Thanks so much for sharing your honest thoughts & have a terrific Thanksgiving holiday – cheers! :-)

  • Brandon Perron - @David…
    I agree…in today’s world the gov. and the record companies need to step up, get with the times and figure something out that works. I am willing to bet if they made it extremely easy and affordable ($20…you need to make it cheap so people wont even blink at it) for people to purchase a single license for a single song, people would do it and they would make more money in the long run, because people would pay it, instead of doing it illegally…

    I also agree its still illegal, but so is speeding and I do that on a daily basis (with in moderation)and tech. it’s against the law, but I still do it…Its also against the law to use music in a slide show or on a website, but Im ok with doing if I wanted to…I view them very similar…against the law or not.

    Have a Holiday as well…

  • David Esquire - Hey Brandon, Thank you for sharing your opinion about your perception of copyright. I’m professionally disappointed that you feel the need to go on record & compare a federal offense to a moving violation. Yes, they’re both against the law, but they’re apples & oranges.

    I don’t totally know why you would feel that way as a professional photographer. There are so many people that laid the foundation that you dance on creatively as an artist & businessman. Giving you the freedom and luxury to do what you do without reservation. The PPA on a monthly, weekly and sometimes daily basis goes to Congress to protect your rights, yet you stated above that you think it’s ok to steal another artist work.

    What I would like to do is invite you to learn more about how your rights as a photographer are protected, stood up for & fought for.

    Check out the following websites. They’re real eye openers!

    * http://www.ppa.com
    * http://www.riaa.com/
    * http://www.copyrightalliance.org/
    * http://www.dmca.com/
    * http://musicfirstcoalition.org/
    * http://www.musicunited.org/

    Those are all resources out to protect copyrighted works for you, me and thousands of other creatives in the industry.

    I’ve been in the industry for a very long time and I can share with you quite bluntly that wedding photographers still have not shaken off the negative stigma of being the bottom feeders of the photography world. In a day & age when it’s hip & popular to be one, we’re still laughed at in nearly every other photography arena. I know this as I’ve been in nearly every arena out there & I too – laughed at wedding photographers.

    In fact, when I left the industry back in the 90’s to pursue rock bands, extreme sports & commercial fashion, I was one of those photographers that would laugh at the wedding photography industry. Things have very much changed in the digital revolution, but in some ways not so much. Especially when it’s an on-going educational process helping new & aspiring and even seasoned photographers elevate our industry, not give more food to the masses to continually have a negative perception of our industry.

    I would like to invite you to check out those sites & see that the very artists you’re stealing from put in just as much hard work, financial commitment and time away from their friends & family to do what they do. Just like a professional photographer.

    Also, even though we’re having this conversation back & forth, it is in no way a pointed finger towards you. It’s merely one professional to another to help see that even though both speeding and using copyrighted materials are against the law, they’re quite different.

    Thanks again for sharing – cheers!


    PS, I too have a lead foot. I used to know the law enforcement in the midwest by name as an avid street racer. Now as an adult, I still get the itch in my Mini or on my Ducati & nearly every 18-24 months, I’m getting a speeding ticket. I wish tracks here were cheaper, it would help me get it out of my system more often! :-)

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