Copyright Infringement: The use of works protected by copyright law without permission, infringing certain exclusive rights granted to the copyright holder, such as the right to reproduce, dispute, display, or perform the protected work, or to make derivative works. (emphasis added)
Several years ago, I photographed this image of the famous LDS (Mormon) temple in Salt Lake City. It is, to date, one of my own personal favorite photographs that I have ever had the pleasure of taking, one of the works of art that I had the greatest joy in creating and that I am ultimately proudest of. I absolutely love this photo.
This temple has personal meaning to me, beyond simply its oft-admired beauty — though that is reason enough to love it. My parents were married here. The temple represents a tie to family that carries great significance to me.
Not to mention, it looks absolutely fabulous during the holiday season, when the grounds are decorated with thousands of Christmas lights, nativities, and luminaries — which is why I chose to photograph it at that time of year.
My aim in creating this image was to evoke something special, something of the emotion I feel whenever I see this place. The entire piece is designed to look a certain way and to feel a certain way.
And it is my right, and mine alone, to determine what that look gets to be.
I recently took extreme displeasure in seeing this image pop up on Pinterest, edited by PicMonkey, which took my image and altered it in such a way as to damage what I had created.
In the first place: Ew. The filter you have placed on this image is absolutely ghastly. I have never ever been a fan of these discoloring filters that are, for some inexplicable reason, so very popular right now. I will never use them. Ever. And since I have control over how my images get to look, you have no business deciding that you think my image would look better your way. You have taken away the rich colors that I captured and emphasized, and then you superimposed this bile-yellow filter that makes me think of vomit.
You have digitally vomited all over my favorite temple photograph.
And then you have claimed it as your own.
It’s called copyright infringement. Look it up. I own the copyright to this image, and as such, I have the one-and-only say about its reproduction. What you have done to it is completely illegal. My work is not open to re-interpretation or re-invention.
You may think it’s a small thing. It’s not. This is very hurtful to professional photographers, who take pride in creating something of value and want others to value it, for its own sake. This was personal. Maybe it wasn’t to you, but it was personal to me. Like most artists (and yes, photographers are artists), when I create something I put a little piece of me into it; it’s a part of me. When you deface it this way, it’s a real slap in the face.
And copyright infringement is a crime, plain and simple. It is actionable, you can be heavily fined for this. If you want to use a photo, you have to pay a lot of money. Hundreds, even thousands of dollars. The industry standard for finding that someone has used an image without purchasing it is billing for three times the usual amount. You have to have written permission to alter an image, and you most definitely have not asked my permission in any way. You took it and did what you wanted, consequences be darned.
In this digital age, it seems to be the common thought that anything on the internet is fair game. But just because you found it on the internet DOESN’T mean it is a free-for-all. On the site you found this on originally, it specifically states that I hold the copyright to all images. That means you don’t get to touch it. What makes you think that you can just change the way it looks because you feel like it? I look at this image and it makes me angry. It makes me want to cry. You. Have. No. Right.
How would you like it if I took your favorite painting and smeared grease all over it? Or grabbed your favorite book and ripped out a bunch of pages? What if I took one of your personal favorite creations, something you put your heart into, and broke it somehow?
I would be in the wrong, and so are you. This is my heart and soul, this is my work of art, and it is my hard work — and to an extent, my self — that you have violated.
You may think that you are somehow flattering me by posting my image and putting your own stamp on it. But you are not. You have ruined it. If you truly valued my work, you would display it in its original form, and you would give me the credit. Instead, you have chosen to bastardize this work and take the credit for yourself. You have been dishonest. I have seen it all over sites like Pinterest and Instagram, getting shared and reshared over and over and over, this horrible mockery of my image, and I hate it every time I look at it. You have taken what was beautiful and you have made it ugly.
If you want to share my photos, I am great with that. I am honored, truly. I love it when people like my work enough to share it! How could I not? But share it the way it was designed. Honor the work itself. Honor me. Respect me and my professionalism. Share the original work. Don’t change it. Ever.
For more information on copyright infringement and how to avoid it, this article might be very helpful.
And if you do want to share my favorite temple image, please do! By all means! I’d love to see the original actually making its rounds on social media. Please, help me get the real image out there!