The title of my post sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Why would anyone thank a thief? I know I wouldn’t. Yet every other day, I see precisely that happening on Instagram.
Who is Stealing Photos?
1. Feature Accounts
How They are Stealing Photos
These accounts claim that their aim is to raise awareness of amazing bookstagram accounts. It sounds noble and selfless. And yet I see these accounts as rather self-serving. Why is that? They use photos (without asking) from other people to build their follower base.
Sure, they might tag the original photographer and add a credit in the caption but honestly? They hardly lead people to follow the bookstagram accounts that have been featured. I know this because often the photos gain more likes on the feature account than the featured account has followers. That doesn’t add up.
If you’re not convinced, let’s put it this way. A new art gallery springs up with these amazing photos. This gallery supposedly wants to raise exposure for photographers they exhibit.
Now, these photographers didn’t submit those photos. Instead, the curators walked into the shops, galleries or even homes of the photographers and simply grabbed the displayed photos from the photographers’ walls without asking. Then they went on to add those photos to the new art gallery. Clearly, this is stealing. The same goes for all those feature accounts on Instagram.
The ironic thing is that I see a lot of bookstagrammers who are excited about being featured. They express their thanks on their very own stolen photos. Then when a bookstagrammer sends a take-down notice or files for copyright infringement, they are labelled as overly sensitive or even mean-spirited. They aren’t. They are exerting their rights as owners/copyright holders.
2. Ignorant Instagrammers
How They are Stealing Photos
Regramming (reposting) photos has become so ubiquitous, that a lot of people have become numb to it. I guess when regramming photos from friends to relive parties and gatherings etc, it’s fine because there’s a tacit agreement that these photos belong to everyone who’s in them.
Yet when you read the terms & conditions of Instagram, you’ll learn that you’re only allowed to post content that belongs to you or to which you have the legal rights. Taking photos from strangers and reposting them essentially constitutes stealing photos. It doesn’t matter if they’re credited in the caption or worse, only tagged (that’s not even an explicit credit!) in the photo. As long as no permission is sought, using someone else’s photo is copyright infringement.
3. Outright Thieves
How They are Stealing Photos
There are people on Instagram who simply steal photos and post them as their own. They add their own captions to photos they’ve stolen and make no effort to point back to the photographer. These are the ones everyone agrees on that they’re stealing photos. This means there’s not much I need to elaborate.
The Problem with Stealing Photos
Since bookstagrammers don’t actually earn an income from their photos, some might think that this isn’t an issue. Regardless of your stand, let me tell you, stealing photos is wrong. It’s unethical. It’s illegal.
Devaluation of Photos
Bookstagrammers spend a lot of time on taking, post-processing and editing photos. Believe me, I know! There are times I obsess about the whites not being true white, the shadows being too dark, the colours not being vibrant enough, and so on. Basically, a lot of time and effort goes into book photography.
Stealing those photos and reposting them everywhere makes hard work very easy to come by. When the content producers are removed from their content, the original value of the content depreciates manifold. They can’t hold claim to their photos anymore.
Stealing photos also disrespects photographers. I know several bookstagrammers who have been upset over their photos being stolen, myself included. We felt violated and disheartened.
Sometimes I even wonder why I bother with bookstagram if my photos will be stolen. I do it for my love of books and as a means to connect with like-minded people. But that’s not the only reason. I also do it to practice photography because I learn to deal with light and angles. I also learn new post-processing methods.
In any case, I wouldn’t be surprised if some bookstagrammers have seriously contemplated quitting because they feel disrespected. Thankfully, th bookstagram community is generally a very happy place. I hope it will continue to be for a long time to come for both content producers and content consumers alike.
Another problem is that rarely does anyone seek permission to regram photos. I’ve had Audible repost a photo of mine before. They specifically asked me and I gave them permission. For those cases, it’s perfectly fine. My gripe is when nobody asks for permission but reposts a photo anyway. From a legal standpoint, this is copyright infringement. If you’re unsure what this means, please do your research! You can be sued for infringing someone else’s copyright. That doesn’t only apply to Instagram but to blogging as well.
Know Everyone’s Rights
There are two things you should note if you’re on Instagram:
- Photo credits don’t protect against copyright infringement.
- Regrams are only legal if they’re done with the photographer’s permission.
What Does This Mean?
If others are stealing your photos, you have the right to report them. Instagram states in the T&Cs that you should try to settle this with the copyright infringer first. If they don’t oblige, report copyright infringement with Instagram. Outside of Instagram, there are ways to make legal claims, though I’m in no position to give legal advice with regards to that.
If you want to regram someone else’s photo, ask for their permission first. If they give permission, then there’s no problem. Should they deny your request, please respect this. If you want to share a particular photo anyway, then feel free to share the link to the original post of the photographer. That’s perfectly legal and also supports the photographer.
I didn’t thought about Featuring accounts in that way, but it make perfectly sense. You are making fame over the back of someone else and that’s wrong. I also don’t get why you would ever steal content from someone else. I just can’t imagine that you must feel proud of yourself for gaining likes and followers over something that isn’t yours..
Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted Review 229. Rosamund Hodge – Crimson bound.
Shelumiel @ Bookish and Awesome says
I think we can put it as simple as this: Instagram doesn’t have a “regram” button for obvious reasons. Coz having someone WANT to share a photo you put effort into producing is really humbling but I agree that it’s not cool to do so without first asking for permission. It’s not only insensitive but also disrespectful.
Shelumiel @ Bookish and Awesome recently posted You Cut Me, I Bleed Coffee
I had only experienced this once, and it was a good experience, though. I just asked them why would they do that, and the person said that they did put credit, but she would take it down because I didn’t like it and apologized. It’s so easy to just ask permission to repost a photo, and people are even nice enough to allow it. It’s proper courtesy.
I mean, I saw this account the other day, humans of bookstagram. I was so intrigued. I love HONY and the lovely snippets of wisdom there, and how cool would it be to do it for bookstagrammers! But no, it was just another feature account, and I hated it so much. People were thanking the account for featuring them, and it wasn’t anything cool or insightful at all. I feel like it’s disrespecting the original HONY so much.
Shannelle recently posted The Summer Story of June 6, 2015
Angie@Angela's Anxious Life says
I always see these regrams everywhere. I don’t think they are right. I enjoy seeing your pictures on instagram and wish I was as good at taking pictures of my books. At least this can be reported to instagram, whether they do something about it is a whole different story.
Angie@Angela’s Anxious Life recently posted Denver Comic Con 2015
Ugh, I’m so sorry you’ve been dealing with this. It’s clear from your photos how much time put into them, and I hate to see that being treated so flippantly by these feature accounts. This is exactly the reason why I post mainly flowers or food pictures taken on my phone. I’m too scared to use my “real” photography, which unfortunately is the stuff that I *actually* want people to see. Thanks for posting this. I hope it raises awareness!
Have you had any luck yet contacting Instagram directly?
Perfectly put, Jo! I think you did the comparison exceptionally well with the art gallery. I’m glad you wrote this. It was clear and concise.
I may be writing about copyright and borrowing ideas too but in a general sense. This issue is important and I hope this post and discussions around the bookstagram helps to die down the habit of unconsented featuring (at least).
Joséphine Simone says
Thank you, L! :) I think a lot people relate better to tangible examples because they have a difficult time wrapping their head around the fact that digital products aren’t empty things, and that the physical material of tangible products only make up a fraction of the effort and cost that goes into creating them. I look forward to reading your thoughts on the issue of copyright. The more people talk about it, the more awareness will be raised.