Photographers work hard to get halfway decent photos of their subjects, color correct and edit them, and return photo proofs to their clients in a reasonable amount of time. They’ve invested thousands of dollars in high-end equipment and photo editing computer software, and hundreds of hours into learning their trade. They capture the moments that make our lives, moments we can never get back and never re-live, emotions and settings that are fleeting, and freeze those moments in time so that we can have them forever.
Runners work hard to halfway decent race times, celebrate how they will, and recover the best they know how. They’ve invested thousands of dollars in proper nutrition, running shoes and sports bras, and hundreds of hours into training and practice. They laugh, cry, sweat and bleed on the course, endure moments of horrendous defeat and glorious triumph, and go into each race not knowing what adventures (misadventures?) are waiting for them between the start and the finish lines.
When one of those photographers happens to be there documenting those adventures, what rights do we have to those images?
I don’t have many pictures of myself running; only the proofs that race-day photographers took and I screen grabbed from their websites after the fact. Sure, they have the photographer’s identifying marks stamped all over them, but they’re of, well, me. And I know I’m not alone. Just take a look at Daily Mile and see all the profile photos with a big orange “PROOF” on the forehead.
For example, I did an all women 5K trail race (during which I learned some lessons that are fodder for a future post), and near the end was passing another runner who didn’t look like she was having as much fun as she should be. So, I got up next to her, and yelled at her. That’s what you do when a complete stranger’s not having fun, right? You scream at them? Well, maybe that’s just me.
At any rate, I yelled at this poor woman to pick up the pace, and she did, and we raced through the finish line together. I beat her, but I held up a sign at the end saying she had kicked my butt, which made her smile even more.
The race photographer got some great photos of the whole thing, and a link to the photos was emailed to me a few days after the race. If you want to own your race photos, you have to pay for them. You can even right click and “save photo as” or “download image.” You have to get really creative and use a screen capture tool of some sort to capture your own photos. Which begs the question – was it wrong of me to capture these images and save them for my very own? It’s not like I bandited the whole race, but maybe I, like many fellow runners, bandited the photos.
Here, maybe I’m just making excuses, but it seems like you could at least get to choose one picture to download for free, included with your race registration. Or maybe be able to download thumbnails for a buck, some sort of gimme. Seriously it’s $39.95 to download my photos! It’s MY OWN FACE they’re selling back to me. I own it!
But the issue at hand isn’t who owns the face. It’s who owns the photos. I did a quick web search to try and glean what I could about the dry topic of copyright law, specifically as it applied to photography, and discovered (among other things) that when a photographer feels like their copyright has been jeopardized, they can take any of several courses of action –
- take advantage of the free advertising potential by requesting to be appropriately credited
- prep a DMCA Take-Down Notice , which – if I understand it correctly – goes straight to the internet service provider, who removes the images from the offending website
- write a letter to the jerk who stole the photo and explain that the use was not authorized
- have a lawyer write a letter to the jerk who stole the photo and explain that the use was not authorized
- file a copyright infringement lawsuit (and that is why there are none of those proofs appearing in this post – Salty doesn’t want to get sued!)
While I did post some of these bandited photos on social media, I haven’t gone to the extreme of editing away the photographer’s trademark. I get to sleep at night knowing that I’m giving this particular photographer free advertising by leaving his watermarks on the photos. In fact, maybe he should pay me! Okay, that’s a little extreme…
What do you think, Salties? Is it okay to screen-grab the proofs of race photos of yourself? Is it something you should be entitled to or is it stealing?