Thursday, June 28, 2012

Magazine Used Our Wedding Images Without Permission

Hey everybody!

If you know much about me, you know I hate drama. I've had things (images/text) stolen from me and used without my permission before, but I've always been able to handle it quickly and quietly with the other parties involved. It's the way I prefer to work.


But Arkansas Bride won't communicate with me.

Yes, it's Arkansas Bride who has used our images without our consent, and what's worse... they have completely fabricated a "Photographer's Favorite" submission by Benfield Photography. WE NEVER EVEN SUBMITTED A PHOTOGRAPHER FAVORITE for this issue.

On June 6th, I sent a Cease and Desist letter to the editor of Arkansas Bride, who published multiple images by Benfield Photography in the recent edition of the magazine. The next day I received this:

We will take down the photos online and in the digital edition as soon as possible."
But notice, she didn't take it out of the magazine!

Later in that same email she thought she'd take a jab at me and say, "I could've cared less if those weren't in the issue."

I have two issues with that statement. One, it doesn't make sense grammatically (she's actually stating that she WANTS them in the magazine by that sentence); and two, then why did Arkansas Bride publish them? Wouldn't it be better for them to sell an ad in that space?

I don't want to appear arrogant, but we don't need to be published in Arkansas Bride in order to book weddings (another one of the editor's claims). I've never had a bride email me with the sentence, "I found you in Arkansas Bride." Furthermore, we have more than triple the amount of Facebook "Likes" than Arkansas Bride - if anything they need us. AS PHOTOGRAPHERS, MAGAZINES NEED US.

And now the sad part of all of this, and the reason I've decided to take a stand: our bride can no longer submit her wedding to magazines who have an exclusivity policy (most of the most reputable blogs and magazines say it cannot be published in any other magazine). Of course, the editor had something to say about this as well:

"Last year, the [Arkansas Democrat-Gazette] published a wedding we had already run a year or so before in their Real Weddings handout, and Weddings in Arkansas frequently runs full weddings in their magazine that we've already blogged about or that we've already used a few photos from in print. If any have a written exclusivity policy, I've certainly never seen it, heard about it, nor seen them follow it."

Then she ends the letter with:
"That's all I can - and care to - say on this matter." Classy.

Yes, it looks like she's throwing her competition under the bus. That aside, I'm not about to ruin my relationship with those other publications by submitting a wedding that has already had exposure in another magazine. ONE of us has to do the right thing here.

We as photographers need to STAND UP to magazines and blogs who use our images without our consent! It's NOT okay! They think "oh, they need us... this is great publicity for them." I remember when magazines would pay photographers. It wasn't that long ago. However, that is no longer the case. We as a photographer body have enabled them to use our images without compensation.

We DON'T need blog and magazine features to survive! They NEED US to survive! They can't publish image boxes that are blank. We need to take back the respect we deserve.

Additionally, photographers, we need to stop agreeing to giving images without our logo or name on them! In the world of Pinterest, if a wedding blog publishes my image in its post, it's THEM who gets the clickback, not me (or you, if it's your image)! I get emails daily from Pinterest users who see my images... BECAUSE I HAVE MY LOGO ON THE IMAGE. Let's not give in to requests to take off our logos. If everybody would do this, the blogs would have nothing to run unless it rightly changed it's policies.

So, I'm not doing this to rip Arkansas Bride a new one - I can't unprint their magazine, but I just have to be able to tell the bride I did everything I could for her (even forfeit my relationship with the magazine). She still won't be able to have her wedding featured, but maybe we can make a difference for other brides in the future. And sure, I could sue, but court costs and attorney's fees make it unfeasible (unless some lawyer reads this and thinks otherwise). In the end, I sent a request for the magazine to pay my normal photo assignment fee, and they have just flat out ignored me.

My only hope is that other photographers read this and realize that we've let our standards slip, and have compromised our practices and have stopped putting value in our work. We've sold out. For what? A featured blog post? Is it worth it? Not in the long run.

Talk to you soon,

P.S. If you want to voice your opinion, leave a comment. Or better yet, here's Arkansas Bride's Facebook page, and their twitter name is: @ArkansasBride

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