Shame on the photo thieves

I am finding it hard to get motivated to post anything after last week’s wholesale theft of a photo I posted here. The photo of a honey bee secreting wax from her wax glands was the work of one of my regular readers and is truly awesome. The trouble started like this:

Last week after I wrote about photographing bees, I invited readers to share their own successful photos on my site. But after this particular photo came in, I double-checked with the owner to make sure it was okay to post—I didn’t want any misunderstandings because I knew the photo was good enough to get lots of attention.

Within minutes of posting, it began showing up everywhere. Of course, when you post photos online you expect them to get tweeted, pinned, mentioned, linked, Facebooked or whatever, but you hope for a link back to your site. Most people play fair. But the first big irritation came from a popular beekeeper who re-tweeted the image. First he posted the image to his own Facebook page and then sent out a tweet that linked back to that page. In the tweet he included a link to my site as a parenthetical, but we all know that no one is going to follow both links. When I went to his site, I found a non-linked mention of Honey Bee Suite but no photographer name on the photo.

This really irked me because, without an active link back to my site or a photographer credit, the owner gets no recognition whatsoever. This beekeeper proceeded to get something like 172 Facebook likes and 200 shares to my 40 likes. The comments on his site are nearly all the same: “great photo, awesome, wow!” Wouldn’t it have been nice for the photographer’s name to be on the damn picture? Wouldn’t be nice if she got just a little of the credit?

Of course, when something goes viral it goes everywhere—and, indeed, this photo went everywhere. Without trying very hard, I found it on at least two dozen sites. The reputable people give credit; most don’t bother. I didn’t actually lose my temper it until someone on BeeSource.com accused me of stealing the photo from someone else’s Facebook page. Can you believe it?

I’m not naive; I realize theft goes with the territory. I know photographers whose work has been stolen for commercial purposes. I know of photographers who have found their work with other people’s copyright notice attached. I have had my own written work republished under someone else’s name. So it’s no surprise that it happened with this photo—but that doesn’t make it right.

It’s hard to say where the line should be drawn. One person wrote to say she immediately shared the photo with her bee club. In my way of thinking, that is great. That’s what these photos and articles are for—to teach, to illustrate, to inform. They should be passed around in the spirit of sharing and learning. For that reason I have never—not even once—said no to someone who asked permission to use either my photos or my writing for non-commercial purposes. But to post work and give the impression it is your own—even if you don’t specifically say it’s your own—is low. It’s even worse when you’re trying sell something.

And in this case, the permission to republish was not mine to give. The photo was graciously shared with me to post, but since I don’t own it, I can’t decide to give it away. Shame on all of you who think the rules don’t apply to you. Did even one of you stop to think how you would feel if it was your photograph? No one is asking for money here, just a little recognition. I suppose I’m an idealist, but we beekeepers and bug lovers are a small enough community that I would expect a little mutual respect within our ranks. Is that too much to ask?

I’m in a quandary. I have so much unfinished business here on Honey Bee Suite. I’d like to share my recent success with the Girl Scout pollinator project, my plans to battle the Washington State Department of Transportation over alkali bees, my enthusiasm for matching native bees to their preferred forage, my recent experiences with triple deeps, HopGuard, and Hive Tracks—and my love for anything to do with bees. But the website is so much work and the fouls so numerous, that I wonder if I shouldn’t continue on in silence and let someone else deal with the morons. It’s something to think about.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

P.S. For all of you who linked back and/or named the photographer—and there were many—my heartfelt thanks.

Comments

Johnny Mason on Facebook
Reply

As someone who has sat down to dinner in an Applebees, only to see one of my photos turned into wallpaper and plastered on their wall, I feel the photog’s pain. :/

Jodi Moger on Facebook
Reply

My mom and I both shared your link on Facebook. Then today waxed poetic about the pic while we searched for a queen that has been eluding me for two months. Must have been good energy because we found her!

Aram
Reply

That photo was the highlight of visiting your site last week. Sad that it turned out so sour.

Bill
Reply

Rusty,

I feel your pain. You could add a watermark to your photo, right across the center so it’s hard to crop out. I make all my posted images small enough that one could not do much with it.

Bill

andy brown
Reply

Rusty,

Don’t let ‘em get you down. The web’s bad enough without more of the good folk being driven off. For $20 or so you can get software that lets you put a watermark on any photos that you post. It will only inconvenience the true thief, but I suspect a lot of this is just thoughtlessness. I’ve been thinking that I should do the same thing on my blog. I’ll let you know how that works out . . . .

Herb
Reply

RUSTY … You provide a much needed Service to the world of bee managers. The world of bees is a much healthier place due to the honest unbiased atmosphere in which you provide information to your readership. There is always a small number of self-centered people who will take undue opportunity and put claim to things that really isn’t theirs to own. If the world had more servant leaders to plant the seeds of knowledge so that the whole world would benefit … It would be a great place to be. Just remember that a few pissants will always through rocks in the pool to cause ripples. Your pool is large enough to handle few stones thrown. We love your shared knowledge and look forward to ever blog you publish. My bees are productive because of the knowledge you share with the word! Thanks for dedicating your life to the world of bees and want-to-be managers and real bee managers. When your on top of the world … People will through rocks! Keep – on!

Mike
Reply

Well, it goes without saying, people will always take something and make it theirs, especially on the internet. That is a great photo for sure! And I personally want to thank those who did the right thing and giving the credit where it’s due. Please don’t let this get you down Rusty. You have a great website and it is valuable. I just recently found it myself and have been reading a lot from it. Would hate to see it disappear. I know how you feel as I have had pics stolen and used with people not giving credit where credit is due and some taking credit for my pics. But being an ex-cop who worked computer crime for 12 years, I’ve learned one thing. If you don’t want people stealing your pics, don’t post them unprotected on the internet. Sad people can’t respect other people’s work! But keep the site going and move on. It’s just too valuable to trash it!

Judy
Reply

I’m sorry that happened, Rusty! PLEASE don’t give up Honey Bee Suite. I’m new to your site and have already learned so much. I appreciate what you do here as I’m sure so do many others.

Anneke
Reply

Sorry to read about this. Recently a paper a colleague and I wrote for a conference ended up cut and pasted onto some jerk’s website as his own. Plagiarism seems to be rampant online. Sad. Please don’t let the scoundrels out there stop your great work.

Did you correct BeeSource?

nick
Reply

There are good people, there are bad people, all you can do is help the good ones. On the bright side, at least the theivery got a picture out there further, that was informative and therefore beneficial to bees. On our group site, harlowbees.co.uk, I edit the pics used to stamp credit into the image.

Please keep up the good work for the sake of us nice people.

rbuxton
Reply

Please don’t stop the good work. When I first stumbled across the blog and site, I assumed you were the stereotypical old(ish) beekeeper with a wealth of experience. I was refreshed to find none of the didactic ‘You must do this, or that’ injunctions in your texts, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that your knowledge has been gained over a relatively short time i.e that you are young. Beekeeping has been a challenge this year in the UK. Reading your daily(ish) entries on diverse topics has been a welcome part of my coffeebreak catchup with emails, and I am looking forward to many more good reads.

Kindest Regards

Carole
Reply

You know how they tell beekeepers not to give up because of losses/varroas/SHB/tracheal mites/ETC? Don’t give up what *you* do. I am a 2nd year beekeeper (my 1st year resulted in 2 failed hives), and I look forward to every communication from your site. So, I’ll be waiting to hear about HopGuard and the rest of…whatever you release. Thanks!!!! Carole

John
Reply

“Don’t let the bastards wear you down” (Latin escapes me at the moment) :-)

Beewarm
Reply

I love the photo. And thank you and the photographer for sharing it and bringing it to all of you us. As infuriating as it is, as much as a selfish, inconsiderate act that it was, your posting was more positive than the negatives it engendered. Bees are about harmony with nature. The good natural thing to do is to contact the Facebook author directly and ask for clarification and a follow up posting. If it doesn’t happen let it go. “Slap me once shame on you, slap me twice shame on me” ( Or my something like that ). Your blogs are too good to stop. Perhaps some of your readers should also ask the person for correction. Things will get better. Good luck.

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