So I have to say, it is incredibly sad that I have to write this for so many reasons. The main reason it is upsetting is because the people who have decided to steal my work are people who really SHOULD KNOW better. They are professionals in the industry and even one being a lawyer. I hate that I am forced to make a public statement about it to explain the LAW and the definition of THEFT but sadly it seems that is the case because after spending an hour explaining myself I got no reply and instead this professional decided to take it to social media.
So first let me state something clearly. Being professional means a few things but a huge one is acting lawfully, so not stealing someones intellectual property. If you steal my work and then want to call my unprofessional for standing up for myself and my protection under the law…. well something seems off. So lets just leave that there. Continuing on….
I know to some it may seem extreme because they don’t “get it” so here I am spelling it out. Every client who gets my contract sees that I OWN ALL OF THE COPYRIGHTS to my images. When you hire me I take the images and allow my clients PERSONAL use for themselves and that is it. They can print the images only for personal use and nothing else. The law protects my images under the copyright law meaning no one can reproduce or use my images without my consent. They are my intellectual property. I do allow my images to be used by others when asked because it is so important to show moms what real labor and birth look like. This however does not mean I warrant anyone who likes my image to take it and never credit it as my own. I take whom I share my work with very seriously. My contract states that under no circumstance can an image of mine be altered and the image MUST be credited to me. Why is that? Because this is my business, my brand, my image (figuratively and literally ) and because it is my ART. For a business to take my WORK and ART without EVER being given permission, upload it onto her business page (when she herself is also a photographer) and then not credit the image to me it is illegal. Let me repeat this again. It is ILLEGAL and THEFT as defined by the law. This particular image has been used without permission in the past and was circulated nationwide without allowing me to clear it with my client and without crediting me for my work. This image will be registered and I will state now that the law allows for punitive damages in this case of $100,000 per infringement without me having to prove any damages. So lets just think about that for a moment. Copyright while it may be a joke to some is taken VERY seriously by the law and as you should know by now also by myself. I should not have to explain any more than this but I will because sadly some still do not get it after I so nicely explained this privately they ignored all of that and then tried to make it about competition or me feeling threatened.
I will state this only once. I am not threatened by anyone in the area offering services similar to my own. It has nothing at all to do with that. I am the first person to offer assistance, network and befriend my colleagues. My work speaks for itself. If someone is hiring me they are hiring me for my brand and my commitment to customer service first and foremost. Part of that customer service is my promise to allow use of my images as I see fit. This has everything to do with the fact that I protect myself and my clients under contract and I am protected by the law. I have declined submitting my work to VERY large organizations and competitions. I have declined submissions to huff post, Redbook, baby center, birth without fear and MANY other photo contests for one reason or the other. The reasons are mine and mine alone but it has to do with how I want my work and my client represented and what the intent is behind the person using the image.
With all of that said. If someone wants to use my image and claims to be a professional the professional thing to do would shoot me a 2 second email to ask. You could also hit Reshare on an image I shared if you would like to share it on your business page. I LOVE when people use the share feature so please continue to do so but lets also get real about something: people creating posts on their business pages are doing it for ONE reason to generate traffic. So when you steal my image and alter it to do that…. well it really does not sit well with me at all. I take my work seriously. My work has called me away from my family for sometimes days. I give a WHOLE lot of myself to be there for my clients because I love what I do. It is very hard and I have been there for moms in very very trying times including shortly after losing my son at 20 weeks, while leaving an infant only a few months old who decided she would not take a bottle while I was gone and for me well past 12 hours. I do not get to kiss my little ones goodnight when I am away for a birth. I often stay awake editing clients images till 3 am because I cant put my daughter down during the day so I edit when the kids are asleep. This is a huge sacrifice of my time and personal life. So yes I take it seriously. For you its two seconds to take an image and use it. To me its hours and hours away from my family. For me to give of myself like this I clearly take my clients and my work seriously and I really would like everyone else to as well. I have allowed a LOT of birth professionals use my images and am happy to do so when they ask and have NEVER told anyone no. I simply ask that they credit my work. This is VERY generous on my part.
I truly hope my colleges and clients can understand where I am coming from. I will stand up for my intellectual property as an artist and that is that. I did not have to explain anything because the law so clearly does so, but I felt that it was warranted after the accusations being made about me and my intent. If you are a professional in any trade you should know and understand this and really there is no excuse for one business to steal from another. Please if you would like to share my work, ASK and GIVE CREDIT where it is due. My reply will almost always be “Thank you so much for asking! I would love for you to use that image. Please just make sure you credit me and my business.”