Plagiarism, theft, copyright violations—whatever you want to call it, it happens. People will sometimes take images from photographers and put them to their own use without permission. Sometimes it’s more of theft of intellectual property, the taking of ideas for their own uses rather than taking the images.
Given the choice, I would say that the theft of images is a much more common thing for photographers to experience than the theft of ideas. Sometimes people simply aren’t aware that they’re violating your copyright. A shocking number of people who create casual blogs and the like don’t realize that just because you see an image online, that doesn’t mean you’re free to use it. Other times, people know full well what they’re doing—and they’ll go so far as to edit out watermarks and the like so that the image doesn’t look like it’s been stolen.
No matter how it happens, as I said, it does happen. And I think that this all ties into what it means to be a part of a community and to have a positive impact on that community. Maybe this even counts as a bit of a good Samaritan.
That is to say when you’re a photographer in a community of other photographers, it’s good to look out for your fellows—and that could mean dropping a line to a photographer friend when you see their work being used. Perhaps the work is being used with the photographer’s permission, and if that’s the case, then there is no harm done. But what if it’s one of these cases in which someone deliberately removed a watermark so they could steal the image? Then your photographer friend may want to pursue this and get the problem taken care of. Either way, it never hurts to inquire!
Apart from potential cases of copyright theft, there are other ways to be a productive part of a photographic community. Once you get to know people, you begin to know their preferences—and that means that if you see something, like a photographic locale that someone might enjoy, you can suggest it to them. Or if you have an idea that you think would fit well into someone’s body of work, it only takes a few minutes to offer the suggestion. If someone is shopping for a particular piece of gear and you happen to see it on sale somewhere, a quick email might save them some money.
It’s these little good deeds that help bring the community together and turn it into a positive space. It’s a cliché, but sharing really is caring—and you can show that you care by sharing whatever tidbits you have, even if it’s simply to let someone know that you’ve seen their images being used out in the wild, for good or for ill. There is truth in this also. Promoting a giving, sharing environment will encourage others within the community to do the same. And you know what that means: As yet another saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats.”
Now go and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation through your lens.