5. photographer goes rawr

I was late for class today, but still arrived in time to hear the professor’s talk about plagiarism and crediting your sources. Still a little scattered from rushing to school and having numerous elbows jabbed into the side of my ribs and lungs on the Namboku line, I didn’t comment when one student asked about crediting pictures and the professor gave a fairly vague answer mainly emphasizing the importance of crediting text. This entry isn’t aimed at Professor Lockman or the student in question specifically – rather it’s just one of many in what is turning in to a series of me expressing my annoyance at how photographers seem to be one of the most overlooked groups in terms of copyright. Hell, it’s not even so much a question of copyright as it is one of the common courtesy of crediting.

Now, I’m not a serious photographer™ – I’m just a girl with a camera who likes (puts effort into) taking pretty pictures and sharing (post-processing and uploading) them with the world. . But it’s probably this group of photographers who are the most uncredited of all. How often don’t you see a pretty picture on weheartit, fffound, Tumblr, or a blog with absolutely no trace back to the original photographer? I’ve had it happen numerous times with my own photos, both from my proper photo blogs and my concert photos.

I go to a lot of K-Pop lives and there’s a big community of fansites and fansite photographers who take pictures at shows and post them for other fans to see. An issue that flares up every now and then is the issue of Korean fansite photos being reposted against their wishes, sometimes with watermarks cropped out, on (particularly) Tumblr. Some users would and still will take photos and edit the colors, and then remove the original watermark to add their own – because now that they’ve played with the colors, clearly the photo (or “edit”) is their work. It’s a big issue within the fandom because the Korean photographers get frustrated and limited their content to registered users of their sites (and if you known nothing about the internet and Korea, let me tell you that it’s often impossible to register for a Korean website without a Korean social security number once access is restricted).

The argument of overseas fans? If you don’t want something to spread, don’t put it on the Internet in the first place.

Insert groan of frustration here as I pull my hair out. Seriously. Just because something is online does not give you the right to remove a watermark. It also doesn’t mean that you should forgo the simple curtsey of linking back to the creator of the content. This is Internet curtesy 101 and if you are not Internet literate enough to understand this your posting rights should be revoked. In terms of concert photography, it’s actually not an easy thing to do when you don’t have a press pass – apart from you know, sneaking your camera in, a lot of work goes into the technical aspects of camera settings, working in a moving crowd, and then post-processing. It’s not just pressing a button. Yet more than anything, photography tends to get screwed over in this aspect. Do we need to start putting watermarks all over our photos in obnoxious neon fonts in order to retain recognition of our work?

As much as I like Tumblr, I find that it’s one of the driving forces in creating an online culture where the concept of giving credit where credit is due is being completely flipped over. There’s barely any control over whether an image posted has proper credit – and so that photo can be reblogged/reposted infinitely without the photographer ever getting any credit. I find it mind boggling how skewed people’s views are. I’ve had people take photos of mine, that I have put proper effort into taking (whether it’s getting stepped on at a show or walking around for an hour just to find the perfect sakura tree), messing around with the colors (which on a childish level I take as an offense because dammit my photos are prettier without the mess of oversaturated layers you add to it) and then adding a watermark and posting it to their own site, with not a hint of credit.


Here’s a pretty picture I took at a concert in Seoul, with an ugly watermark, for your time. (not shot with the 50 mm though, but with a Sigma 70-300 mm f/4.-5.8 aka grainy as hell because I had to crank the ISO up to 800 or so)


11 thoughts on “5. photographer goes rawr

  1. I appreciate your take on the issue of crediting / attributing images and other works on the web. I also apologize for giving the impression that I don’t take the matter seriously.

    FWIW, I was specifically dealing with the matter of academic integrity at the moment you described in your post. I intended to say in response to the question about using images that it was a topic I hoped to deal with later. I do however still stand by my statement that using an image grabbed from the web is not the same as presenting another’s work (writing) as one’s own – though as I think about it now, I’m feeling a little less sure of myself. But as you say, my response was probably too vague. I’m sorry about that.

    It’s really quite a timely topic. Just this weekend a student submitted a ds106 assignment with an image of one of the pioneers. He didn’t attribute the image he’d found on Flickr – perhaps because of my comments on Friday. The curious angle is that the photographer left a comment on his site mentioning that it was his photo and encouraging the student to provide a link and even a mention in the post.

    To make matters even richer, the photographer / commenter is one of the other ds106 instructors at UMW: Alan aka Cogdog.

    This is a matter I intended to talk about in class (tomorrow’s lesson). I hope you’ll be willing to share your well articulated feelings on the matter with the class. I agree that few people take this matter seriously or conduct themselves in an appropriate communitarian manner (I still need to attribute the images I used for my latest Pokemon Card assignment).

    It is my sincere hope that together we can try to improve that situation among the 40 of us participating in this course together.

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  3. I read your post and had to rethink about how I’m going to deal with the issue of crediting and attributing images myself. Well, I was curious about copyright because I have no DS106 assignment started yet (shame on me…but I don’t have a good command of computer!) and your article has become a timely warning for me. It was last week when I was in search of images on sites like Flickr and I noticed each photographs are under different copyright conditions. Now that we know more about crediting/attributing I hope we can all improve the current situation and enjoy participating in the course. Your article is worth reading. I really think so.

  4. Question: How does one remove the watermark? Not that I will, mind, because that would involve silly things like effort, and we all know how I feel about that. *Grin*

    • well if you look at the photo I posted, I would be pretty easy to paint over it photoshop with a bad color (and then add a gradient an texture if you really want to) and add your own over it. especially cause most photos have the watermark in a corner where it doesn’t cover much of the actual image

  5. Great rant / rawr. Thanks for providing a critical U-turn to the widespread cultural agreement that photos are community property to be taken, manipulated, or re-branded without attribution.

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