Yes, my picture, my intellectual property, was stolen. My pictures are sometimes borrowed by third parties. Borrowed without asking. Some people use my photographs for selling their own stuff on line, sometimes for an article on their webpage.
And this time it was not some vintage tech-lover running his own website, or somebody selling a telephone of their own.
This time it was a proper grown up professional museum. And their response to my request to resolve the matter of unauthorised use of my photo surprised me to no end. It looks like this is going to be a continuing story, but I do hope there will be, eventually a good end to it, good for all parties involved. Even for this guy called Jos.
Browsing for pictures and asking nicely
It happens, people google around for pictures, find one of mine to their liking and use it for whatever end they please. And sometimes I find out. I surf around too. So I ask people kindly to remove these pictures from their site, which they usually do. Often they even apologise. They thought pictures they found with their internet browser were free to use.
I do not like people using my pictures. I made them especially for my website. I invested time and money in a camera, computer, making a photo studio, etc. I spent time learning to make these pictures, setting everything up to take them, selecting the best ones, and editing them on my pc. I did that all to make a nice website, with clear and recognisable pictures.
And then Comm used my picture….
I was browsing around on the net after I wrote an extensive article on the T65, the phone pictured. I was trying to find out if my newly published article was already listed in google searches. And suddenly I saw a photo that I recognised as one of mine. But it was only showing the phone partially. That drew my attention and when I looked at it, I saw that it was not on my website but on the website of Comm!
What is Comm?
Comm is the current incarnation of our National former PTT/Telecom museum. It has been around for decades and had a big make over a while ago. It was closed for months and has recently been re-opened. It is situated in the Hague, not very far from where I live. More about Comm, click here.
First contact 29-9-2018: asking nicely was not enough
So, after overcoming my surprise, I checked thoroughly if it was really my picture, checked the date that I took it, April 23rd 2014 at 23.19 hrs, and wrote them an email on the 29th of September 2018. I told them I was very much honoured that they used my picture, but that I did not recall them asking for permission. I also told them that I was surprised that a professional organisation failed to ask for permission and did not mention the source of the picture. I ended by asking how they were going to resolve this matter.
I added links to the original picture on my website, and to the partial pictures used on their website.
And waited for a reply…………………which never came. Even though I did get an auto-reply stating that they would answer as soon as they could.
Second contact, 8-10-2018: baffling response
After hearing nothing for about a week, I decided to try something else. I found that they used the same picture again on their facebook, so I posted a comment under that picture explaining again, that it was mine, that I already emailed, got no reply and copied my email, including the links to pages on my website and their website on which that picture was used. And again I asked them to resolve this matter.
Their reaction surprised me to no end. Basically they said they were very sorry I got the idea that the photo used was mine and that they had a careful protocol where they made unique pictures of their own collection, to prevent discussion about copyright. They shared my opinion that the pictures were similar and were willing to change it, if I that was my wish.
Third response and it gets even crazier
I found their reaction extremely patronising, bordering on the insulting. So I told them that, and posted a picture (see picture on the right) showing how my photo fitted seamlessly on the photo on their website and told them I found this unacceptable and would take matters further.
They responded again, saying they shared my view that there was a big resemblance and apparently their careful procedures weren’t correctly followed so they were going to change the picture of the T65.
Ehm, did they just admit the picture was mine or not?
They were sorry that I found the tone of their first response offensive, though.
Ah, a new picture. But wait, that is not a new picture at all!!!
So I started writing this blog after that. And while I was writing it, I started to make screenshots of the various messages and of course of the Comm.nl website, when I noticed after a few days my picture was removed, finally. And they put up a new picture, see left.
“Good, finally” was my first thought. “Hey, that is weird” was my second thought, as the picture was a bit strange, haphazard, not in style with the rest of the website. It looked a bit amateurish. Surely they didn’t……………..
Yes they did, they got another picture from internet. I found the original after just 20 sec. See screenshot on the right. Following that careful protocol, I guess. I’m sure they asked Jos, the person who posted that picture, for his permission to use it, don’t you think so?
Yet another new picture
After another few day, on the 10th of October 2018, yet another picture was posted and this time it seems a real professional picture. Just to be sure, I searched the net again to see if it wasn’t a picture from another website, but could not find it anywhere. It seems to have taken them a few days to find a photographer to take the picture and put it up.
So, what now?
What now, indeed. This is not a proper ending to this blog. I hope there will be more news on this matter, one way or another. I informed Comm of this blog. Not only that, I wrote a long letter to their managing director, complete with screenshots of the whole story. Please find the PDF of that letter here (it is in Dutch I’m afraid): Brief directeur Comm
I did not have time to translate it to English, but the contents correspond largely with this blog. I also expressed my amusement with this whole episode. And I ended with the request for them to recognise explicitly that it was my picture they used, for them to apologise to me about the lies and evasive behaviour and an apology for Jos for using his picture without permission.
And finally I challenged him to come up with a good and happy end to this story. So I could close this blog with in a way we could all be happy with. Wouldn’t that be nice?
You can read what happened next in part 2: a warm reception
Have you ever had your work stolen, pictures copied, been plaguerised? And what did you do about it?