Tuesday, 4 December 2012

How low can a photographer go?

I haven't had time to photograph much and that is why I haven't posted anything in ages. I still haven't been taking pictures, but the following needed to be written:

As we all know, the internet is full of pictures. What a lot of people don't realize, is that pictures found on the internet are not "free game", somebody owns the rights to each one of them. Pictures are taken from websites and passed along without due credit being given to the photographer all the time, without much thought being given to the fact that it is a copyright violation to do so. In some cases this is due to lack of knowledge, sometimes just not caring, because "everyone does it" and then we have the really ugly cases..

Let me clarify a bit. When I talk of "lack of knowledge", I mean the kid who takes a funny picture and posts it in FaceBook or some other place on the web just to share the laugh with friends and does not even know that it is illegal. No real harm done there, eventhough it is not right. The right way would be to post a link to the pictures original site. Then there are the ones who know it is not right, but do it anyway because "Hey, it's just a picture, what's the big deal?" Using the pictures for something such as to give some color or visual effect in school projects, power point presentations at work and so on. These are most often cases of one or two pictures being used without permission and due compensation and/or credit being given to whom it belongs. Not the end of the world, but knowing it is not right and still doing it shows poor judgement and lack of morals in my opinion.

Then we get to the ugly cases. Because there is a massive flooding of pictures out there now, photography has become very competitive and a tough field to make a living in and therefore it is not surprising that some people use every means available to gain an edge. When a professional photographer uses images taken by someone else to make money or even to promote his or her business by claiming that he or she has taken the picture, we are way over the line.

Why am I posting this? As it happens, there is a really heated discussion going on in the Finnish photography forum "Digicamera.net" about a Canadian photographer, Hera Bell, who has done exactly this. One of the chaps there ran a check on the net a few days ago to see where his pictures had ended up and found out that one of his pictures was published by this Canadian professional photographer as her own, with a lengthy story of how and when she had taken the picture. She had even used the picture to enter a photocompetition. Soon after this was made public on the Finnish forum some of the chaps there started looking at ms. Bells websites, did some snooping around and found more pictures that she claimed to have taken, but were infact property of others. When the news broke out in englishspeaking photoforums, ms. Bell closed her blog off, "access by invitation only" and a lot of pictures in question have been blocked off or removed completely.

Just so no-one can say this is all just talk without any proof, below are links that are paired, ms. Bells picture and the original:

Hera Bell blogpage (a screencapture of it to be precise)


Not convinced? Ok. How about if we add a picture of the Finnish photographers lightroom screen, with plenty of originals taken at the same location and time of the picture in question:

Lightroom screenshot

That's the picture that started this. Then there is also this one:

Hera Bell "Light & Mood"

Original by a Swedish photographer

There are plenty of others, if you want to look at them click here and see them posted at dpreview. The whole dpreview discussion on this is here. Take note that a day ago Hera Bell claimed that the accusations are false, but has not seen it fit to show us any proof for her claim. It is also worth noticing, that most, if not all, of the pictures in question have been taken by photographers living in europe. Obviously she must have thought that we don't speak english and even if someone did, no-one would notice. Sorry, no such luck.

All I can do is wonder what can make a professional stoop as low as to do something like this? She even asks to respect the copyrights of her pictures on her web site. I'm sure everyone will, she has been a perfect example herself, hasn't she?

Yes. One or two of my pictures have been used without my permission over the years and most likely there are some out there in the wrong places even at the moment. I think I'll run a check to find out tomorrow.


  1. Interesting article and that is her reputation ruined in the photographic community. Digital shoplifting!

  2. In a way I think this whole thing is rather sad, this will definately brand ms. Bell for quite some time, if not forever. Then again, a thief is a thief and deserves to get busted for it. The latest news is that the Montreal Gazette is looking into writing about this. If they do run the story, it will be the end of ms. Bells photography business.

  3. Knowing how litigious the world has become, it is likely to be the financial ruin of her.

    Sari tells me that theft of copyright is rife in the crafting world and there are lots of examples of people stealing designs. In one case someone took a craft bloggers pictures and posted them on Facebook and claimed the children in the pictures were hers.

    Here's another example of photo theft:


  4. Why does everyone keep implying that she’s a Professional Photographer when all she just a scam Artist & Pro FABRICATOR.

    1. Well said! +1

    2. Yes. I think you are quite correct on this. Me calling her a pro photographer in my posting was based on her own claims of being one. As it turned out, that may have not been completely accurate to say the least.

  5. She's a thief and a plagiarist. Hope she gets financially nuked. I don't know about Canada but here in the American Colonies, the fine for deliberate for-profit infringement ... like hers ... can go up to $150,000 USD per image. $10,000 - $20,000 per image is routine.