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Thread: On the subject of logos and watermarks

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    wmoore's Avatar
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    On the subject of logos and watermarks

    From PetaPixel

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Gursky's looks better.

    I went back and read the comments on that page. Some are quite interesting as well.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    I wonder if the guy obtained permission from the various photographers to add the watermarks and display them. I would guess not, in which case he might want to lawyer up.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    It is clearly done as an act of comment/criticism so would be fair use. The photographers also couldn't argue that he has exposed their images to potential theft and devalued them.... cos he put a big ugly watermark to prevent that

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Watermarks anywhere on a picture other than a small one in a lower corner, are a pet peeve of mine. They make me a hoppin' mad! I understand why they do it, but really! Of course, a small one in a corner can be easily removed, but to ruin a good picture with a watermark right in the center is like seeing Miss Universe with big 'Do Not Stare' sign hung around her neck!

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    I found one response quite interesting:
    Small marks have a real use. A London agent found me that way.
    A side I haven't seen mentioned here yet, iirc

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    Mark von Kanel's Avatar
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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    well maybe we should mind our own business, if someone wants to watermark their images then thats up to them not us, the images belong to the photographer and if they want to disfigure them, then who are we to comment. lets go talk about something that matters

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    I had a batch of unwatermarked images stolen. Since then, I try to keep the watermark subtle, but still impossible to remove without taking out part of the subject. Watermarks can be aesthetically irritating, but I think they're a legal necessity these days.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by RustBeltRaw View Post
    I had a batch of unwatermarked images stolen. Since then, I try to keep the watermark subtle, but still impossible to remove without taking out part of the subject. Watermarks can be aesthetically irritating, but I think they're a legal necessity these days.
    I think we need to keep in mind that in a photographic sense, "stolen" isn't the same as, say, having a car stolen (where you no longer have it). The image isn't really "stolen" - it's more a case of someone making an illegal copy of it -- one still has the "original" to be able to do whatever they want to with it - it doesn't diminish their rights in any way.

    I don't degrade my images with watermarks - and yes, I've had them copied and used without my permission too, but "so what" - I didn't lose any sleep nor any money because of it. The only downside was "they got away with it" - the thought of which irks a lot of people, but regardless, we don't live in an ideal world, and these things happen. Personally, I just accepted that "sometimes the bad guys win" and moved on with my life; accepting that sometimes the bad guys win was less of an evil than deliberately ruining 100% of my images for 75% of the people I create them for.

  10. #10

    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I don't degrade my images with watermarks - and yes, I've had them copied and used without my permission too, but "so what" - I didn't lose any sleep nor any money because of it. The only downside was "they got away with it" - the thought of which irks a lot of people, but regardless, we don't live in an ideal world, and these things happen. Personally, I just accepted that "sometimes the bad guys win" and moved on with my life; accepting that sometimes the bad guys win was less of an evil than deliberately ruining 100% of my images for 75% of the people I create them for.
    Not an attitude I share. While I wouldn't waste time on individuals who are just using an image on their personal blog I don't see why people should benefit financially from my (or others) work, when there are a host of easy options available.

    Given you are in NZ it is less viable for you to take action that for someone in the USA. Lex on the other hand has some powerful tools at his disposal. Registering copyright allows him to claim legal fees and substantial statutory damages and watermarking an image allows you to prove the infringement was willful (more serious). In addition if someone removes the watermark they commit a separate federal offense carrying fines of between $2500 to $25,000 per instance.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by dan marchant View Post
    Not an attitude I share. While I wouldn't waste time on individuals who are just using an image on their personal blog I don't see why people should benefit financially from my (or others) work, when there are a host of easy options available.

    Given you are in NZ it is less viable for you to take action that for someone in the USA. Lex on the other hand has some powerful tools at his disposal. Registering copyright allows him to claim legal fees and substantial statutory damages and watermarking an image allows you to prove the infringement was willful (more serious). In addition if someone removes the watermark they commit a separate federal offense carrying fines of between $2500 to $25,000 per instance.
    If someone wants to go the legal route then that's entirely up to them of course ... I just can't be bothered personally; life is too short. What "amuses" me is the common misconception that folks NEED to watermark/ruin their images because there is a virtual army of thieves just waiting to steal their images ... when in reality (in my experience anyway, and given that my images are made available in "generous resolutions" and are (generally considered to be) commercial/professional quality) the problem is relatively (extremely) rare -- and in many cases the images that are ruined by the (perceived to be mandatory) watermark are of such mediocre quality that I seriously doubt anyone would want to steal them in the first place.

    I know that litigation is "the American way" but I honestly feel that it takes more from folks in terms of time and energy than they could ever hope to recover in a settlement. Better things to do with my few remaining years I'm afraid.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by dan marchant View Post
    Given you are in NZ it is less viable for you to take action that for someone in the USA. Lex on the other hand has some powerful tools at his disposal. Registering copyright allows him to claim legal fees and substantial statutory damages and watermarking an image allows you to prove the infringement was willful (more serious). In addition if someone removes the watermark they commit a separate federal offense carrying fines of between $2500 to $25,000 per instance.
    Dan, Unfortunately, unless they are used by a business in the US, there's not going to be an any money if some steals it from say China (Just a random country for example). I put mine on the bottom corner as an identifier if someone links to my photo or copies it on theirs. If they copy it fine, hopefully they won't crop it out. It's there just as a painter would sign their paintings. If it's used by a US company or one doing business in the US, then I'll proceed with legal matters but otherwise, like Colin said life's too short.

  13. #13

    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    If someone had used my pictures without permission for a commercial project, I would be happy to see that my pictures being used in a commercial industry. It would also let me show off the fact that my pictures have been commercially used by such and such company. Of course I would prefer for someone to notify my that they want to use my pictures, but I really don't mind if my pictures were used for financial gain.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    If someone wants to go the legal route then that's entirely up to them of course ... I just can't be bothered personally; life is too short. What "amuses" me is the common misconception that folks NEED to watermark/ruin their images because there is a virtual army of thieves just waiting to steal their images ... when in reality (in my experience anyway, and given that my images are made available in "generous resolutions" and are (generally considered to be) commercial/professional quality) the problem is relatively (extremely) rare -- and in many cases the images that are ruined by the (perceived to be mandatory) watermark are of such mediocre quality that I seriously doubt anyone would want to steal them in the first place.

    I know that litigation is "the American way" but I honestly feel that it takes more from folks in terms of time and energy than they could ever hope to recover in a settlement. Better things to do with my few remaining years I'm afraid.
    I must disagree with your position, Colin.

    When someone else uses one's photographs, for whatever purpose, that diminishes the earning potential for those photographs. Once an image has appeared somewhere, its potential market has been at least partially exhausted.

    When someone else uses one's photographs without permission, to make money, then they are forcing that photographer to work for them for free.

    Each of us can make our own ethical commitment as to whether or not we will ourselves engage in such activities; but when we decide to condone such actions, we are making a moral decision which implicates and impacts upon the entire community of photographers.

    The question of artistic alienation also arises here: if my work is used, without my permission, in a way which I strongly disapprove of then my artistic endeavors are diminished in my own eyes; for, how can I still derive enjoyment from my work if it is used in a way which displeases me?

    Digital photography has become so widespread and common now that I have seen large (wall sized) images used for (local) advertising purposes that were horribly pixelated, to the point where it appeared the original had been shot with a cell phone and then simply enlarged to fill a wall. Most people that have access to ancillary digital cameras are happy simply to produce something than resembles a photograph - the concept of creating a photograph that captures the scene being imaged is lost upon them.

    In contrast, all of the people who have joined the Cambridge In Color community have done so because they are in fact interested in producing photographs that do indeed capture the scenes they are imaging. No one here is satisfied with simply producing images that 'look like a photograph'. Perhaps some of us are mediocre photographers; but we are PHOTOGRAPHERS none the less and this does put the efforts fielded by those here above and beyond what the vast majority of those who simply press a button to make a picture can consistently produce.

    In reality, the distinction between 'top of the field' photography and 'mediocre' photography has been complicated by the fact that there is now a vast repository of abysmally amateurish imagery available which every now and again produces (by shear force of numbers) the odd exceptionally spectacular image. By virtue of the proliferation of digital imaging technology, 'mediocre' photographers are now, proportionate to the overall number of those taking photographs regularly, in the elite ranks of digital imaging.

    'Top of the field' photographs may stand out from 'mediocre' photographs; but to a similar extent, 'mediocre' photographs stand out from the vast majority of digital image captures. So-called 'mediocre' images are as likely to be stolen as 'top of the field' images; more so, actually, due to the lack of notoriety attending mid-level photographers.

    Thus, I think that the question of watermarks and logos should be examined judiciously and without any hasty rush to judgement as to what is and is not appropriate.

  15. #15

    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by mrme View Post
    If someone had used my pictures without permission for a commercial project, I would be happy to see that my pictures being used in a commercial industry. It would also let me show off the fact that my pictures have been commercially used by such and such company.
    This is an attitude I will never understand. You invested time, money and creativity to capture your photos. Someone else is earning money from them and disrespects you by not paying or even bothering to ask permission - and that is something you want to boast about to your friends?

    If you worked in an office and everyone but you got paid, would you be proud of that and tell your friends? "Hey my boss loves my free work enough to use it to make money for the company."

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Let's not forget that there are several 'levels' of copying (for want of a better word).

    If a small (non-profit) organisation, staffed by volunteers, grabs an image of mine, I'd like to be asked
    and get an attribution, but there's no lost earnings in there for anyone. So no need to make a fuss. I
    might still talk to them to make it clear that it's nicer (and better for them) to ask permission, if only
    to get the best possible quality for their use.

    If a company grabs an image from the web to use, the situation is different on a number of points.
    - they want to get profit -> so they better allow others to at least earn something on their efforts.
    - they are (supposedly) professionals, so should know the rules about copying.
    So they merit whatever grief comes their way if they can't be bothered to contact the owner of
    the photos they want to use.

    (OK, presented very black and white, but let's keep it simple)

    So not all illegal uses take away money from a photographer. And I have to agree with Colin that going
    after the copiers is probably not always cost-effective (how to show damages, for instance, when you're
    an amateur?)

    That said, if there's a way to complicate life for would-be copiers, that's a good thing (and complicating
    copying is indeed all we can do short of not publishing any photos). If we can do it w/o disfiguring the
    image, even better. I also hate the large, aggressive watermarks, but I find that a discrete signature
    doesn't really distract me (say 15 pixels high at 50-80% opacity).

    On the other hand, if a company feels a need to illustrate their publicity with 72 ppi images (or less!),
    I tend to look elsewhere: if they cannot be bothered to take proper care of their stuff, why would
    they take proper care of my stuff?

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by John Morton View Post
    I must disagree with your position, Colin.

    When someone else uses one's photographs, for whatever purpose, that diminishes the earning potential for those photographs. Once an image has appeared somewhere, its potential market has been at least partially exhausted.

    When someone else uses one's photographs without permission, to make money, then they are forcing that photographer to work for them for free.

    Each of us can make our own ethical commitment as to whether or not we will ourselves engage in such activities; but when we decide to condone such actions, we are making a moral decision which implicates and impacts upon the entire community of photographers.

    The question of artistic alienation also arises here: if my work is used, without my permission, in a way which I strongly disapprove of then my artistic endeavors are diminished in my own eyes; for, how can I still derive enjoyment from my work if it is used in a way which displeases me?

    Digital photography has become so widespread and common now that I have seen large (wall sized) images used for (local) advertising purposes that were horribly pixelated, to the point where it appeared the original had been shot with a cell phone and then simply enlarged to fill a wall. Most people that have access to ancillary digital cameras are happy simply to produce something than resembles a photograph - the concept of creating a photograph that captures the scene being imaged is lost upon them.

    In contrast, all of the people who have joined the Cambridge In Color community have done so because they are in fact interested in producing photographs that do indeed capture the scenes they are imaging. No one here is satisfied with simply producing images that 'look like a photograph'. Perhaps some of us are mediocre photographers; but we are PHOTOGRAPHERS none the less and this does put the efforts fielded by those here above and beyond what the vast majority of those who simply press a button to make a picture can consistently produce.

    In reality, the distinction between 'top of the field' photography and 'mediocre' photography has been complicated by the fact that there is now a vast repository of abysmally amateurish imagery available which every now and again produces (by shear force of numbers) the odd exceptionally spectacular image. By virtue of the proliferation of digital imaging technology, 'mediocre' photographers are now, proportionate to the overall number of those taking photographs regularly, in the elite ranks of digital imaging.

    'Top of the field' photographs may stand out from 'mediocre' photographs; but to a similar extent, 'mediocre' photographs stand out from the vast majority of digital image captures. So-called 'mediocre' images are as likely to be stolen as 'top of the field' images; more so, actually, due to the lack of notoriety attending mid-level photographers.

    Thus, I think that the question of watermarks and logos should be examined judiciously and without any hasty rush to judgement as to what is and is not appropriate.
    John - you're right. Nobody should ever be allowed to get away with it. Ever. I've had images stolen in the past and from now on I'll spend my remaining few years hunting them down; I'll divert any and all assets into hiring lawyers - and if that fails I'll track then down personally and MAKE THEM PAY. I'll not sleep until appropriate compensation is obtained - it's a battle I'll fight not just for me, but on behalf of all other photographers because the bastards cannot be allowed to get away with it.

    I know this is going to take time to achieve - probably a lot of time, but I'm sure my family will understand why I'll have even less time for them - and I'm sure they won't mind me steering assets into the project (possibly a LOT of assets). I'm sure the bank will understand when my account goes into overdraft because I'll be spending so much time and energy tracking these thieves down that I won't be able to earn what I normally earn. And I hope the sleepless nights that I have while all of this races around and around my brain hour after hour doesn't send me to an early grave (but if it does, the fight will have been worth it!). And let me apologise in advance for not having either the time not the motivation to help others here; I'm going to be far too busy.

    OK - obviously I'm not serious - but - the serious point I'd like to make is that the above is EXACTLY the attitude that I'm perceiving from some - and it's not a position I admire ... to be honest it's one that I feel quite sorry for them for. If tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake then by all means "go for it" - but 99.99999% of the time it's basically the fact that people noses are out of joint because an image has been used without them being paid the courtesy of having been asked first. In most cases the images aren't worth tens of thousands - or even hundreds - they're images that nobody would pay more than a few dollars for (mind included) ... and I for one, aren't going to waste my valuable time, money and resources trying to receive compensation from some unidentifiable individual - in a foreign country - for an image that's just not worth a lot of money.

    Sometimes images are used without compensation. Sometimes people steal pens from businesses. Sometimes people use drugs and don't get caught. Sometimes the "bad guys" win; sometimes "bad things" happen to good people - that's life - my personal decision is to not add to the losses by expending valuable resource on a far less valuable resource.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    I might add too that I find a certain - what's the right word - ("irony" perhaps?) that some invest many hundreds of hours - without compensation - on sites like CiC (and many other help sites like it) helping people improve their photography. The skills that we selfishlessly pass on to them can - in a very real sense - equate directly to $$$ in their pockets as they move from being unpaid into semi-professional roles.

    And yet - although they're happy to absorb the free resource to improve their own craft, many seem to "have an issue" when somebody (albeit wrongfully) helps themselves to some of their assets.

    I'm sure there's a message in their somewhere.

    Perhaps I should stop being so kind and advise people here that any advice I give here is only licensed for non-commercial use and that compensation will be required if any information gained from me is ever subsequently used in any revenue-gathering activity?

    Or perhaps I'll just stay true to my nature and keep giving - and encourage others to "pay it forward".

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    And yet - although they're happy to absorb the free resource to improve their own craft, many seem to "have an issue" when somebody (albeit wrongfully) helps themselves to some of their assets.
    If I invite someone over for dinner and serve them food and wine, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't have an issue when they arrive home afterward to learn that someone has stolen food and wine from their kitchen.

    Having said that, I do understand your point. A friend of mine once offered me his bootleg copy of Photoshop. I declined on ethical reasons. Six months later he was absolutely incensed when an image of his was stolen. Ironically, he probably post-processed it using his stolen copy of Photoshop.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 18th October 2012 at 03:05 PM.

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    Re: On the subject of logos and watermarks

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post

    OK - obviously I'm not serious - but - the serious point I'd like to make is that the above is EXACTLY the attitude that I'm perceiving from some - and it's not a position I admire ... to be honest it's one that I feel quite sorry for them for. If tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars are at stake then by all means "go for it" - but 99.99999% of the time it's basically the fact that people noses are out of joint because an image has been used without them being paid the courtesy of having been asked first. In most cases the images aren't worth tens of thousands - or even hundreds - they're images that nobody would pay more than a few dollars for (mind included) ... and I for one, aren't going to waste my valuable time, money and resources trying to receive compensation from some unidentifiable individual - in a foreign country - for an image that's just not worth a lot of money.
    That's certainly a position which is common to professionals in all creative industries; I think it was David Bowie who, upon being told that someone had pirated / recorded a version of one of his songs without authorization, replied: "How much have they made from it so far? I think I'll wait until they've made a couple of hundred thousand before I sue."

    Revi / Remco above has a good point: "On the other hand, if a company feels a need to illustrate their publicity with 72 ppi images (or less!), I tend to look elsewhere: if they cannot be bothered to take proper care of their stuff, why would
    they take proper care of my stuff?"

    Sometimes the fact that someone has taken one's images and used them at less than optimum resolution is in itself bothersome, because one's work is then presented in an inferior way - when often one would prefer to provide a proper version, were one simply asked.

    Sometimes images are used, without permission, in ways that are entirely inappropriate. Alberto Korda took what became the most widely reproduced photograph in history - the iconic image of Che Guevara that we have all seen on countless posters, T-shirts, etc. He certainly did not take exception to the use of this image by others - usually. There was one incident, however, where a major distiller decided to use this image of Che for advertising their brand of vodka. They claimed the image was in the public domain; Korda disagreed, took them to court, and won: he still had the original negative (of course).

    For a lot of people, the issue doesn't come down to "Oh someone stole my photo and used it without paying me so they owe me money now": it is a matter of "Hey that person is taking credit for my work, saying it is their own; so how am I suppose to present myself as a photographer when other people are taking credit for the work that I do?"

    Perhaps this situation is a little more cut-and-dried in academic environments, where credit is given where credit is due and passing the work of another off as one's own generally results in an abrupt end to one's academic career. The issue there isn't one of money, because research and information need to be freely shared - it is an issue of attribution. The whole academic system breaks down if people are not give due credit for the work they have accomplished, and so the concept of just attribution has become a matter of principle.

    A similar situation here at Cambridge In Color would be if, say, someone were to have a large contingent of friends sign up just to pad their votes in the Mini Competitions, so that they would consistently win; and then tried to market the fact that they so often won Mini Competitions as a way of promoting their business. That would be pretty sad, and a bitter commentary upon such a person; but it would undermine and perhaps destroy the whole concept of the Mini Competition, which is founded upon an underlying principle of honesty and fairness. Would anyone still bother to participate, if that were to happen?

    So no of course we can't all completely dedicate ourselves to tracking down and punishing those who misappropriate our work; but I do think that there are important principles involved which do in fact validate attempts to strategically dissuade would-be thieves from stealing images at will.

    Thus, I personally see nothing wrong with photographers applying a signature or watermark to their images.

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