Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Dealing With Image Theft
Making your site stand out in the vast universe of the World Wide Web is key to generating interest and ultimately business, but the hot design also can attract some unscrupulous and sticky fingers
Get Up Real Slow, Put The Hat On The Table And No One Gets Hurt
After locating the stolen site, the next question was what to do. Legally, the site is copyrighted by the programmers who built it and they have licensed the rights of the site to me. Since I started the previous sentence with the word “legally,” it was time to call my lawyer. When I found out about the stolen site, I immediately started browsing Hawaii vacations online. I figured with all the money I was going to get from the lawsuit, I could take myself on a little trip. (My programmers wanted to buy a new Xbox—whatever.) The reality was a little less profitable, however. My lawyer sent a cease and desist letter to the perpetrator, which basically is a super–polite way of saying, “Make that site disappear or we're coming over with the legal equivalent of a baseball bat.”
In a situation like this, you need to extend the benefit of the doubt to the alleged thief and give him or her the opportunity to comply with your request. Total recovered monies for me and my programmer: negative $350. Not only did I not get any cash, but I had to pay for the legal action to get the site taken offline. Ouch. The photographer immediately took the site offline and wrote a letter of apology. He was a real gentleman about the whole thing. My suspicion was that he was a young kid who liked the look of my site and wanted to use it as a template. To his credit, he changed the internal workings of his site so it had a little bit of originality. After paying my lawyer, I sat down with my agent to ask why it was worth the money to go after some kid in Sweden for having the same online look as me.
You've Got That Look
In commercial photography, fortunately, there's no nepotism, favoritism or politics. I'll wait a second until you stop laughing. The reality is that you're selling your work as well as an image of yourself. The photographers against whom you're competing for a job are going to be as good as you and, in some instances, better. But if the decision maker likes your style, vibe and joie de vivre—whatever you want to call it—there's a good chance that you'll prevail. Conversely, if you're the best shooter in the pack, but your personal image is disconcerting to the powers that be, you're doomed. Image building starts with the look of your portfolio and Website and ends with your shoes. So when I asked my agent if it was worth the money to make sure the look of my Website wasn't duplicated, she just rolled her eyes at me. She didn't have to cough up the cash to pay the lawyer, of course. Which brought up another question. If several people did what the kid in Sweden did, wouldn't that get kind of expensive?
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