A stolen photo of my family was used in a way I never imagined
There is some good and some bad to having cute kids. The good news is that they make great photography subjects and models. The bad news is, others agree and sometimes take that fact too far — even stealing my family's photos and turning them into memes for popular TV shows.
I'd thought I'd seen it all. That was until a friend and die-hard Scandal fan direct messaged me a photo of my kids' heads Photoshopped in with Olivia Pope and Fitzgerald Grant. She found it on a Scandal fan page and thought I should know.
When I started my blog seven years ago, I had no idea it would become what it is today. Not only is it the home of my thoughts, dreams and experiments in parenting. It’s also a place where others come for entertainment, enjoyment and, I hope, a little inspiration.
Like many bloggers, I take precautions to copyright my work, add some watermarks and disable right clicks. But sometimes it’s just not enough to deter a photo snatcher. Through the years, my photographs have popped up in interesting places. To name a few:
- A stock photo website
- A Facebook meme supporting gay marriage
- In examples of a poster “multiracial family"
- A church flier in South Carolina
- Stock Etsy birthday cards
- And most recently, that Scandal fan club site
I must give props to this final example, though, because it did make me laugh. And if it leads to ABC and Shonda Rhimes hiring my kids as Olitz babies, then all will be forgiven.
In all seriousness, it’s more than a little disconcerting. People ask how I am not losing my mind over this, and the truth is, I have. I’ve tracked down and contacted numerous websites and asked for my family’s photos to be removed. I’ve sent a dozen cease and desist letters. Most came down without a response. Some came down with a profuse apology.
At times I’ve cried and considered shutting it all down. I know some people want to victim-blame and say it’s my fault for putting it all out there, but that’s completely ridiculous. I'm not asking for people to steal my photos. You wouldn't steal from a parenting magazine; don't steal from me.
But I pull myself back up and remind myself to not let a little bad overshadow all the good that’s come from my blog and sharing my story.
I've reached out to other bloggers who have fought similar battles, and I've shared some of my frustrations with my husband, who is much less patient than I am. He has a good sense of humor if a meme featuring our faces is funny, but he isn't thrilled to see our images in capacities outside my blog.
My daughter is still too young to really understand (definitely too young to know who Olivia Pope is), but as she gets older, I will really need to reevaluate and to discuss with her how much of her image we want to continue to share.
To people who love grabbing photos off the Internet, I understand you may have come across the photo in a random Google search, but that doesn't mean the image isn't attached to a real person and a family and is a stock model for a meme. Not only is it wrong, but it's illegal and could end up costing you a lot of money.
If you love a photo and want to share it, just ask permission. Chances are, if you’re wanting to use one of my photographs in a blog post and link back to me, I’ll probably give you the A-OK. It’s not OK to use someone else’s photographs without explicit permission.
And to parenting bloggers with cute kids, consider this your warning. This is one of the downsides.