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What Do You Do when Someone Steals Your Photo for ‘A Good Cause’?

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In about one week, we will mark the anniversary of the most traumatic and violent piece of French history in the last decades. On the 13th of November, 2015, several coordinated terrorist attacks took place in Paris, less than a year after the attacks against the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Today, Paris still feels different. Much like the 9/11 attacks did in the US, these have left Paris with an air of danger, and the attacks are clearly in the heads of every Parisian.

On that day, news of the attacks spread very quickly, and soon, artists and other celebrities began to express themselves on the topic. One of the first was David Beckham, who posted his message alongside this picture on Instagram and Facebook:

Now, saying to pray for Paris is already a clear sign of the lack of understanding of the very secular culture of France, where we pretty much share the views of Anthony Jeselnik on the topic: it doesn’t help much.

The truth is, David Beckham is not just a football player anymore, he’s a celebrity. He’s a brand. And as such, the value of his brand goes up with publicity. To me, this was exactly what happened. Also, the sun is not rising on that picture; as every Parisian can tell, the picture very clearly shows the West side of Paris, and therefore the sun is setting.

And then, another thing struck me: the picture he was using was mine. He didn’t contact me, he didn’t ask if he could use it, and he actually cropped it, along with the copyright notice. Being one of the first to react to the events, his words and my picture got published in several international newspapers including: the DailyMail, the Mirror, and several French magazines as well.

They all published the picture, cropped, without any credit whatsoever.

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This has actually happened to me before, although not on this scale. What I usually do is I contact whoever is infringing copyright, ask for credit, and in the case of commercial use, payment. People don’t always comply (or reply, for that matter), but some do.

The day after the attacks, I was still hesitating on what to do: someone using a picture without my permission was absolutely nothing compared to the horror that had just happened to my city; and yet, were it any other day, I would have at least asked for credit if someone used my picture for their gain.

So in the end, that’s what I did: I left a comment (turns out you can’t send him a PM) asking for credit, which of course never happened…. I never even got an answer.

I felt disgusted. The credit, the infringement, it didn’t matter. But someone using my picture, and terrorist attacks, for their publicity? Worst of all, it worked—when you consider the millions of likes, shares, and articles. I felt helpless, and in the end, let it go. In the scheme of things, it didn’t mean much.

Dealing with art theft is usually pretty straightforward: thieves are wrong, you try to contact them and work with them for some kind of compensation. But this wasn’t a regular day, and this wasn’t regular infringement. And despite me not liking the message, you could say it was for “a good cause.” So how do you deal with this? Is it the same thing as when Madonna used pictures without the artist’s authorization?

The question still bothers me today. What would you have done? Do you think it was wrong of me to stand up for my rights?


About the author: Adrien Le Falher is a photographer, director, cinematographer and colorist. Born in Paris, he now travels the world, always seeking new adventures. You can find more of his work on his website and Instagram. This post was also published here.

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