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someone stole our bikes (kind of) …

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?!

naughty, naughty Outside Bozeman...

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….

from Outside Bozeman ... to

Posted by savaconta on August 25, 2010
  1. 08/25/2010

    88bikes is the perfect recipient, I will gladly forego pizza and beer for that. The kids (and my waistline) will thank you 🙂 Glad the mag ‘fessed up and did the right thing. I still think you should be selling for stock, your stuff is great!

    • 08/25/2010

      We’re still doing pizza – count on it! 😀 But thanks for everything, Jenn … you and Stan, what would I ever do without you guys? Maybe for your next CSC class you will have an interesting student story (with a happy ending!). I’ll be calling you…… C

  2. 08/26/2010

    Hah, twice their “usual rate” is probably buy-off money, but hey, at least they responded! I have a friend who was a commercial photographer who gave it up because so many of his photos were being ripped off electronically.

  3. 08/26/2010

    Newly discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying reading through. I think you handled the situation beautifully, although you are a little more gracious than I, allowing them to refer to the theft of your work as a mix-up!! Journalists, even for smallprint, low budget publications are well aware this is breaking the law. I think it’s lovely if, for a non-profit reason, people might like to share work, but, legalities aside it’s just basic good manners to be courteous enough to quote your source. The odd time I use an image it is always sourced. Mind you, I can see why they used the shots, don’t your bikes look wonderfully content side by side on the lawn. 🙂

  4. 08/26/2010

    What an interesting adventure your photos have been on. You’re photos will definitely be used by many more sources in the future and let’s hope that they all do things the legitimate way.

    Yes, I was lucky enough to post your photos on my site in the past, and I would love to do more of that in the future. Here’s an idea….I’ll be your blogging agent and you can be my blogs official photographer.


  5. 08/26/2010

    I agree with BB – I think that was a bit more than a mix-up. Not sure why they can’t ask to use the photo! I don’t really like using photos other than those I’ve taken, but if I do use something public that I’m unable to find a name for, I at least credit the website, etc. of where it came from. I’ve often wondered if I should be placing some copyright mark on my blog photos or a disclaimer of some sort, but then I always figure that no one would want to use them since it’s not as if they are great photos or professionally done 🙂

    As Jenn stated, you should definitely be seeking people out to buy your photos – that is quality work and you should market it!

  6. 08/26/2010

    Good thing they spelled your name wrong. But, seriously, glad they fessed up. With your permission, I’d like to use this blog post in my Technical and Professional Writing class. Especially when we get to the project when students are designing documents for actually clients, one of the big things we talk about is that they can’t just take images from the internet. Your story is compelling: someone took the pictures. Someone “owns” them.

    • 08/26/2010

      Have at it Jeff – please put it to use, if you can. :)) We all need to get together to ride, my friend. Last round of dropping off this weekend and then I might be back to normal. 😉

      • 08/27/2010

        The weather is cooling off and a picnic at Red Clay is calling…

  7. 08/27/2010

    How frustrating! I’ve had this happen with my writing twice. Once a “friend” asked if she could “look” at something I wrote. She then pulled whole paragraphs out of my published story and put together with her own writing and sent the final product to several newspapers as her own.

    Another time I wrote about an artist for a local magazine then pitched a new take on the story to another magazine. They turned it down stating that the person had been featured in another of their magazines. They referenced the article. I looked at it only to discover my work slightly tweaked but so obviously plagiarized from my original piece. I called and emailed but never got a reply.

    Having someone “borrow” our work is frustrating and oh so wrong – it’s also a great compliment that our work is good enough that people want to use it. Kind of a strange consolation prize, I know.

    I really like how you handled your situation. Smart. I hope I don’t have a “next time” but if I do I will send an invoice. I’m going to share your story, if it’s okay with you, with my writing group. I’m so glad you shared this on your blog 🙂

  8. 08/27/2010

    I’m happy that various bloggers use my photos that I apply a Creative Commons “Share Alike Attribution Required” license on, but I do wish they would at least read my license terms. Nobody seems to get this right.

    • 08/29/2010

      I like the license terms – and at heart, that is exactly the approach I’d like to use. The problem, as you stated, is getting people to read it beforehand. Not sure I’m ready to include that in the caption of each picture I upload, but suppose that would be the way to have it clearly displayed. Thanks for the links, info – *always* love your site.

  9. 08/28/2010

    I found one of my photos on Fox News. It’s been there since Feb. 2009. No credit, and it’s watermarked to look like it’s theirs! I should get in touch with them. I wonder what their usual rates are?

    Here’s the photo and story on Fox:,2933,495085,00.html

    • 08/29/2010

      Yikes! Jeff, you should definitely invoice them – if only because they are Faux News. Also, since it is on their website (without permission or attribution), I was told it is easy to issue a DMCA take-down notice to them and their ISP forcing them to take down the picture. here’s a link on what to do:

      I’d send them a republication invoice for at least $250 and see what happens … Lemme know. Just curious. (Geez … Fox News, always a winner).

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