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Disappointment with Chicago Artists Coalition

Chicago Artists Coalition
Screen shot of Chicago Artists Coalition email

Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I opened an email blast from the Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC) and discovered that it contained three photographs taken from my web site. The three photos are part of a set of seven that I had taken at the Chicago Art Open Preview and Benefit Party at River East Art Center on April 20 and used to illustrate an article on my web site – Chicago Art Open Preview and Benefit Party at River East Art Center. For a view of the article in question, see this CAC email screen shot. Of the four photos shown in the screen shot, the group photo in the upper left (deliberately blurred) is not mine while the other three photos are.

Not only was I not asked if the photographs could be used but I was not given credit either. One would think that an organization representing artists would know better than to use copyrighted material without first getting permission. As a rule I’m pretty open about allowing non-profits to use my art at no cost. In fact if I had been asked by the Chicago Artists Coalition, I would have gladly said yes to letting them use the photographs. I used to be a member of this organization but did not renew as their dues continued to increase and their charge to artist members to have art shown on the CAC web site is far too expensive.

The Value of Metadata

As a rule, before posting any image to the Internet, I try to make sure that I have filled in the authorship-related fields in the image’s metadata. This consists of the Title, Author, Author Title, Description Writer, Description (if any), Copyright Status, Copyright Notice, and Copyright URL. In the case of the photographs in question, I did fill in the metadata fields. Saving the images from the CAC email to my hard drive, I opened them in Photoshop and looked at the metadata. Yep – my copyright notice was still present. (See Photoshop Metadata Illustration)

Of course there is nothing to stop someone from either removing or altering the contents of the metadata fields. For an informative article on this subject, see Why Photoshop doesn’t provide secure metadata

Watermarking Images

In the case of these particular photographs, because of their relatively small size (430 by 322) I did not bother to watermark the images. Typically I will place a textual statement on the image that is of the following format:
Picture Title – Copyright Symbol – Year – Jim Plaxco – www.artsnova.com

This watermark is semi-transparent with placement depending on the size of the image. For smaller images I locate the watermark along the bottom margin. For larger images I shift the watermark up so that it is more prominent.

Finding Your Images

A relatively new tool available for publishers of images is a search engine called TinEye. TinEye is a reverse image search tool. The user either uploads an image to TinEye or provides the URL for an image on the net. TinEye then searches its database for images that resemble the image you’ve provided and returns their URL.

Unfortunately TinEye’s database is not comprehensive. In the past I found one of my images being used by a city government (from Brazil of all places) by typing into Google the filename of my original image. Can’t say that I have tried that approach lately. And of course there is always the google image search if you have lots of time on your hands.

In Conclusion

All I can say is to be vigilant and don’t be surprised if your art or photographs show up in unlikely places. It is worth noting that copyrights are far more likely to be violated by your average Joe than by your average corporation.

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5 Responses to “Disappointment with Chicago Artists Coalition”

  1. Karen Cramer Shea says:

    I have found my photos in Ad Astra, with no credit.

  2. Plaxco says:

    Hi Karen,

    Which issue and photos/pages and with or without your permission?

  3. Picasso says:

    I had a dozen photos used without my permission a couple years back. Watermark, watermark, watermark.

  4. anon says:

    Wow?great content and your blog template is so beautiful. Is this template free or not. If so, would you please share this template? if not, how much does it cost? Thanks a lot!

  5. Plaxco says:

    Thanks. I created this template in order to integrate my WordPress blog into my web site. Is it free – no. Is it for sale – no.