Using photos without permission is both morally wrong and a criminal offence. Penalties include up to six months in prison and a £50,000 fine.
There is nothing wrong with sharing URL links, but always seek permission before downloading and republishing any creative work. Even if you intend to credit the originator, you mustn’t reproduce their work without their approval.
Plagiarism is damaging to the victim and the thief. Someone left Facebook because someone else had used her image, claiming it as their own. The plagiarist was found out and their reputation ruined.
Although many websites strip metadata from an image, making it hard to find the originator, Google Reverse Image Search and TinEye are great for discovering the source.
Something I consider as immoral as copyright breaches, and just as damaging, is businesses asking you to supply photos free so they can use them in promotions. All you get is the ‘privilege’ of your image being used.
Most professionals have been approached for images in return for ‘publicity’. Shops, restaurants, a musician and even an organisation supposed to support small businesses like mine have all approached me. I asked one whether it was prepared to give me its products for publicity. It declined.
Giving away your images is saying that your time, skills and financial investment are of no value. Whoever uses them for free values toilet paper or paperclips more.
That doesn’t mean I never work for free. I have done work for friends because their friendship is valuable too. Hanging images in a real art gallery does bring sales and recognition, although you pay 40 per cent commission.
There has been outcry in the art world about organisations trying to get art free. They make up excuses like ‘we have no budget for photographs’. While they advertise with your photos and pay their shareholders, you get nothing.
The current scam is running competitions with no prize other than using your photo. Do you remember the names of the photographers who supplied the pictures in a business calendar? The prize is worthless. You are far better off promoting your own online galleries.
Businesses serious about promoting themselves should invest properly. We have all seen brochures and websites that are supposed to promote organisations, but look dreadful because the photos are not up to par. Everyone loses.
That old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ holds true.