Rest assured – the bikes were not stolen. Just their image… I will explain.
I have hesitated to even post this, because I mostly feel that it’s not what I’m about, not what I want this blog to be about. But I also feel quite strongly about right and wrong, ownership and theft, lessons learned, and I think there is an important message to be conveyed.
(Not to mention I also owe Casey, Jenn and Stan some beer and pizza over this one. 😉
Imagine my surprise when one of my twitter friends, Casey – a great guy, biochemistry PhD candidate, and fellow Xtracycle owner out in Montana(!) – sent me a note saying he was pretty sure he had seen a photo of my bikes in a local magazine, Outside Bozeman. Yeah – as in Bozeman, MT. And really, what are the odds of that – on every level?!
So I managed to get a copy of the magazine, just to see if he was correct. And sure enough, there they were – my photo of our bikes that I had taken almost three years ago out in our front yard. In Tennessee.
They had apparently pilfered the photo off of either my old blog, or from my Flickr set – both of which expressly state “License: © All Rights Reserved by (me)”. They never asked for permission, they offered no attribution.
So, what to think? Part of me was a bit conflicted. If it encouraged anyone to start riding a bike, or even purchase an Xtracycle, I felt like this was a good thing and served a good purpose – and really, it’s one of the main reasons I like to share my love of bikes and biking through photography and blogging. And yes, it was exciting (to some degree) to see one of my photos in print.
But I also feel very strongly about copyright, ownership, asking for permission to borrow or use or modify, having heard several stories of other peoples’ photos being “stolen” for profit-making endeavors (made into postcards, store flyers, etc.).
Wrong is wrong. And in the end, after discussing with several people in-the-know, I decided it was important to let this magazine know that I didn’t find their actions appropriate or ethical. I wrote a letter, and I sent them a “republication” invoice for the use of my photo. And waited.
Two days ago, I received a small and brief hand-written note of apology along with a check for what they claim was “twice their usual rate” – basically about enough for beer and pizza, but more importantly, evidence that they had gotten the message. And hopefully won’t resort to doing this kind of thing again. (Or so I like to tell myself.)
When all is said and done (and photographed and posted and published), I want to be clear about a couple of things … First, I am more grateful than any of you will ever know for the kind and positive comments I get on my photos that appear on this site, on my Flickr, and on ShutterCal. And while I strongly respect ownership – of all art forms, from photography to music to any other medium – I am typically honored to share, to offer the use of my images to those who are considerate and ask. Please know this, and please feel free to ask. (As long as you don’t intend to print postcards to sell…).
Over the past months it has been an privilege to collaborate and share photos with people like Rick from Xtracycle, Darryl at LovingTheBike, and even recently with an online poetry journal, POOL, put together by another amazing friend and photographer in her own right. A couple of my friends have wanted prints of certain shots, and I am so very flattered to offer them. Every one of them has honored me by asking, been more than generous with attribution, and provided me with a wonderful opportunity to share what I love. Because in the end, photography is meant to be seen; and if the bicycles I love are in the mix, even better.
So – Casey, Jenn and Stan … I will buy the beer and pizza, but I have decided to send the proceeds of this little experience to the Dan Austin and the great people at 88bikes – because it just feels like the right thing to do in the end. Someday, possibly, I will be able to put my camera to work for an endeavor like theirs….