Online images and copyright infringement


A dispute between Canadian pro photographer, Barbara Ann and Ottawa radio station HOT 89.9 illustrates the problematic climate in which companies often turn to the Internet for free photographic images. The Internet fosters self-promotion by making it easy for anyone to find your images. That, of course brings the risk of someone using your images for commercial purposes without you giving consent or receiving compensation.

As part of a Keynote presentation aimed at station advertisers, HOT 89.9 used an image that was found via a Google search, without authorization from, or payment to, the photographer.

Someone at the HOT 89.9 radio station found, via a Google search, a wedding photo that was then used as part of a Keynote slide presentation (shown above) made to potential advertisers. When the station was contacted by the photographer, the image was removed but the two parties remain far apart on an agreement over compensation. You can read the ensuing (and acrimonious) email exchanges between photographer Barbara Ann and NewsCap Radio Vice President Scott Broderick on PetaPixel.

Another recent case of copyright infringement has ended on a much more satisfactory note for both parties, as reported by photographer Theron Humphrey on his Facebook feed. One of his canine images was used in an advertisement by So Delicious Dairy Free, without authorization or payment. Humphrey then asked his Facebook followers to post on the company’s wall, asking that the company donate $10,000 to an animal rescue as compensation. The company agreed and is asking its own Facebook fans to recommend a suitable recipient of the donation.

After being contacted about unauthorized use of dog photographer Theron Humphrey’s image, the company took the photographer up on his suggestion to make a large donation to an animal/rescue organization.

Two copyright infringements but with very different results. Which approach would you have chosen?



Ever hear of Facebook? If you put it on the internet, for practical purposes, it’s in the public domain. If you are sufficiently big-time that you can demonstrate very high intrinsic value or the loss of significant income you might have a case worth pursuing.

Ken Chin

The photographer is an ass.


Canada has a spotty record of supporting intellectual property. Their supreme court just ruled against the patent system for pharmaceuticals and there have been other poor precedents in the creative arena. I am not sure why they have a problem with the concept that stealing ideas, images, and other creative output is just the same as stealing a moose or some maple syrup. It is sad that our closest neighbor is sliding into the mold of India and China when it comes to IP.


Probably you need to visit Canada more often to judge it properly or better not judge it at all:)


The radio station behaved despicably – they wanted a photo to use in promotional material to generate advertising revenue. They had two LEGAL options – 1. pay a photographer to take photos they could use, that would easily have cost $2000 plus. 2. License an existing image for commercial use, depending on volumes this could cost from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Getty Images may only pay a few bucks to photographers, but they sure as heck don’t sell them for a few bucks.

So instead of a legal option, they chose an illegal option and used an award winning photographer’s image without her permission. Had they asked her beforehand, they may have only had to pay a nominal fee. Because they didn’t, the photographer is perfectly reasonable asking them to pay what it would have cost them to commission the image. If her rate for a day’s wedding shooting is $4000, then requesting $2000 for commercial use of one of her images is reasonable in my view.


Isn’t dpreview violating copy right by posting that image?

R Butler

Reporting news is one of the fair use considerations.


Station: in the wrong, putting forth a good faith effort to resolve the situation, all along behaving in a professional manner

Photographer: in the right, but coming across as both unreasonable and down right rude.


We have much bigger issues in the world than copyright claims. I am not saying that we shouldn’t try to stop it. I am just saying that it shouldn’t be our number 1 priority.


At the photography site it is bigger issue than perhaps somewhere else, but generally it is a question of tolerance to theft (whatever other petty names it may have in lawyers lingo). And theft is a very big issue everywhere, encompassing and ruining many aspects of human activities, all the way from James Bond types to shoplifting. It’s the act of stealing which should be concentrated on, and not the value stolen. Whatever the value, the act is always the same. And a crime (so far).

Roland Karlsson

Stealing? Theft? Shop lifting?

Its called Copyright infringement. And … its a totally different crime than stealing.

Moreover … its obviously less serious than stealing your car. Isnt it? Or beating up your kids. Or burning down your house. Or eating your cat.


She was very unreasonable and rude. Radio station behaves properly and very politely in they response to the situation.


A polite thief is still a thief.

I don’t see why the station should not be punished heavily for their theft. Companies cynically use any images they want and only act repentant when they’re caught. It’s no different from “Oh, I’m sorry, was that YOUR car I stole by mistake ?”.

Roland Karlsson

Punish heavily? For using a photo? You have got perspectives on whats important in life I see.


even as a photographer, i’ve had web clients accidentially get caught by this, and it can be a horrifying experience for a small business owner who innocently grabs some images that are supposed to be copywrite free and later on the photographer contacts them demanding thousands of dollars for a mistake.

in one case, the photographer asked for amounts well in excess of $20K and the image was found and downloaded from a royalty free image library.

So there seems to be two sides of this case, as a photographer, i don’t want my images used without my knowledge, but on the other hand, it’s a little ridiculous at the amounts being tossed around as proper compensation.

To be honest, the more this happens, the more “professional” photographers become a dying breed.


There is no way to legalize theft, except in a (theoretical) community where thieves prevail. Until such time, any and all creative works and products belong to their authors, unless sold for money or some other means of recompensation has been arranged.
Yes, maybe the lazy, the uncreative, and freeloaders would like it different, but people still get paid for their work in order to live, and the World hasn’t gone completely nuts – yet. ­čÖé


radio station was wrong in the first place and photographer was being greedy.


I think the laws should be amended: any content posted online by copyright holder should lose copyright protection and should be open to reproduction, modification and derivative works.

If you don’t want others to be exposed to your work – open a gallery or travel and display your works on tour.

time to clear our courts of these nonsensical cases.


I think the laws should be amended: any content posted online by copyright holder should lose copyright protection and should be open to reproduction, modification and derivative works.

If you don’t want others to be exposed to your work – open a gallery or travel and display your works on tour.

time to clear our courts of these nonsensical cases.

Then I will be the first to just steal your idea and post it as my own because I think it is a good one.


oh dear


I can see why someone would feel that way if they had nothing worth protecting, or sharing.


That’s the most ridiculous comment I’ve ever heard! So if you’re a photographer who runs a website as part of your business to advertise your work or sell images to customers, it’s OK for me to steal them from your website to make money from them?



Are you mental? You’re seriously out of touch with reality..

I presume you never paid for a shooting location, a model, never invested any money in the gear, and most importantly -never took the time to develop skill in your art..

Roland Karlsson

The original proposal has its merits.

Of course … those living on photography will defend their rights with beaks and claws. Thats understood. But … that does not mean that they are right. Think about it and let it sink in. Even if you dont agree fully. It has some merits. That things put on a web with billions of viewers that can download it without problems cannot really expect all of them to not download the images to use it. That would be naive.

So – if you dont want anyone to use your image – dont put it in sufficient quality on the net. It will be downloaded and used.


I have to say that in my opinion the radio station behaved reasonably, and the photographer seemed to me to be unpleasant – and greedy.


The first one, sue the hell out of them and make sure everyone finds out.

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