I hate to do this, but I need to make you all aware of a very scary situation that came up regarding copyright infringement (and possibly child endangerment) on my fan page yesterday.
Here's what happened:
In reviewing the "Likes" on my photography fanpage last night, I came across a profile picture of an image I had taken of a client last fall (a young child). Just one face had been cropped out of a larger group image. I did not recognize the person's name.
At first I thought it was just a friend of the client copying and pasting my picture to their wall and making it their profile image. I was simply going to ask them to remove it and let them know they were violating my copyright.
Well, it turns out I did not know the person at all or recognize any names on their friend list. I was pretty certain my client didn't know this person either.
Let's just say my mother-instinct "alarm bell" went off!
I quickly browsed through the other pictures posted on their wall.
Most of the pictures were of random young girls about the same age as my client (of different ethnicity). One image in particular seemed out of place to me. It was an image of a group of girls in their swim suits.
Another bell went off.
None of the images were scandalous in nature. But, I still felt like I needed to at least let my client know what I had come across.
Just in case...
I immediately emailed the dad and sent him a link to this person's Facebook page asking him if he knew who it was. It turns out he did NOT know the person and was equally concerned about the situation. He has since contacted the Richardson police and filed a report. I contacted the Allen police as well.
I also left a "lovely little message" on the person's Facebook wall asking them to remove my image from their page and informing them that the situation had been reported to the police who are investigating them for copyright infringement and criminal activity. I also reported the images and situation to Facebook.
Now, I realize I could just be paranoid - someone who watches too much crime television. But, what if I'm not? I'd much rather be safe than sorry. These are my clients. They are not just people I photograph and forget about. I care about them. If it were my child, I'd want someone to let me know.
You would too!
And, that's why I've decided to pass along this information to all of you (without naming names).
I can not encourage you enough to please, please, please be careful what you post on Facebook and online. Protect yourself and your children!
Here are some ways you can do that:
1. Never, ever post full resolution images to your wall (or anywhere insecure on the internet).
When posting images online I size them to around 5 inches by 7.5 inches at 72 dpi. This should protect your images from at least being able to be reproduced in print.
2. Be on the look out. Do not friend people you don't personally know.
3. If you have photo editing software, it may be a good idea to start puting a watermark of sorts on your images with your name on it. Place it directly under the chin (or even over the face). This will deter people from wanting to copy and paste your images. And when they do it anyway, everyone will know where the image originally came from.
My own watermarking practices will change from this day forward. Just know I'm not doing this to brag about what a great photographer I am. I'm doing it to protect my clients (as well as my work).
4. When sharing images on facebook, ALWAYS get the other person's permission first. If it is an image of a child, this is especially important! (You wouldn't want me to come along and discover it on your page and report it to the police, now, would you?).
5. Do not steal another person's work. If it is an image another photographer took, do not copy and paste it to your site without their permission. And, if you have their permission, always make sure to provide a link to their website or give them credit under the image.
It's just common courtesy (not to mention the law).
Heck, you might even want to leave a comment on their fan page and let them know how much you enjoy their work. They would love that!
6. If you are a photographer, start tracking your "likes". It may be impossible to keep tabs on them all, but we should try. Simply click on the walls of your new likes from time to time just to make sure there isn't anything to worry about. Are they friends with your client? Is there anything alarming on their wall? If so, simply block them from your page.
7. When posting pictures to personal pages, make sure your privacy settings do not allow for stranges to view your images, information, or wall. If you would prefer friends not to share images or copy and paste them onto their walls (because you can't possibly know everyone they know), then post something to that affect from time to time on your wall letting your friends know how you feel.
8. If you see a picture on someone's wall that you feel shouldn't be there, report it to facebook or contact the person who posted it.
9. Never post naked pictures of your children.
I once posted an adorable picture of my then three year old son dancing around in the back yard wearing only his superhero underwear. It didn't cross my mind that it was a questionable image. To me, it was just my sweet boy. I thought it was precious. His face wasn't even showing. In a matter of hours my brother emailed me and suggested I remove the image. After today's events, I'm so thankful he did. You better believe I'll be looking at my images in a different light before I post anything in the future.
And I'm encouraging you to do the same.
10. Never post pictures of yourself in provocative/suggestive positions or wearing scantily clad clothing.
11. If you have a blog or website, be careful not to include too much personal information about your family. Don't name names of schools your children attend. Don't blog about vacations until after you've returned. Don't give a minute by minute account of what you'll be doing that day.
There are freaks out there, people! Don't make it easier on them than it already is.
I hope these suggestions help.
It is a crazy world out there, but thankfully we are not alone. We have a God who loves us and desires to protect us - one who gave us a sound mind to be able to protect ourselves as well and to be alert.
Let's all do what we can do.
With my deepest care and affection,