I recently came across a blogging website mentioned by a friend on Facebook. I decided to check out the blogger’s entry to read the post about Cardinal Timothy Dolan. To my surprise, below the headline was a photo of the cardinal when he was archbishop of Milwaukee — a photo I had taken in 2006.
My first reaction was to check for a photo credit or a link to my website. No such luck. All that was written in the caption: “My favorite photo of Cardinal Dolan.”
Because of the nature of my photography work, I do not seek to threaten bloggers or other online posters with legal action for using my photos without permission. Most of the time, the violators of my photo ownership rights are well-meaning people who are living out their faith and sharing their journey via a religious blog. That was the case with Anne Bender, author of “Imprisoned in my Bones” blog.
I chose to leave Anne a comment on her blog:
“One suggestion: You should credit the photographers whose photos you use in your blog — and maybe a link to his/her website.”
Within a few hours, Bender posted a reply, asking if it was my photo. A conversation ensued. She then sent me an email apologizing for not crediting my photo.
“Dear Sam, I am terribly sorry that I failed to credit you for the photo of Cardinal Dolan that I used on my blog. When I first found that picture (on another blog), I absolutely fell in love with it, but I never gave a thought to giving you credit. I was completely in the wrong,” she wrote. “You have every right to go after me for violation of copyright laws, and yet, you simply left a gentle reminder in a comment box. … God bless you for your kindness and thank you for your beautiful work.”
I posted a second comment to her blog the next day with some advice to Bender:
“I see you’ve added a photo credit. Thanks. It’s something that happens all of the time on blogs. Some photographers would object (rightly so) when their work is used online without credit or reimbursement. We’re both in the business of faith so I’m OK with you using my image. Just remember that photographers, unlike bloggers (I do both), put a lot of money into their craft through equipment. I work with a lot of photographers and writers so I like to speak up for the freelancers. Glad you liked the photo.”
It wasn’t the first time I’ve left a comment on a website about one of my photos appearing there without permission, but Anne’s response was the most sincere. Our correspondence also became the subject of a later post on Anne’s blog. You can read it here.