To meme or not to meme, IP is the question!

To meme or not to meme, IP is the question!

Image credit: Claire Owen, Attic Photographic

Cool picture, isn't it? We'll get back to it in a minute... After four years of running the Equestrian Social Media Awards (ESMAs) I called it a day. Becoming a dad was reason enough. However, the flagrant disregard for copyright infringement loomed large too. I’ll tell you why...

After announcing the finalists in 2014, a number of members from the Equine Photographers’ Network contacted me to complain about a finalist. That finalist had used images from photographers’ websites to create memes without permission. They would crop the images to remove the watermark and place a quote and their logo on them, before posting them online to further their own brand. This had always been against the terms and conditions of the ESMAs. There was no difficulty, after seeing the proof, in disqualifying them from the competition.

The disqualified finalist subsequently threatened to sue the ESMAs for loss of earnings as a result. We were caught between photographers, angry about us idolising an Intellectual Property thief, and the disqualified finalist threatening to ruin us. We held our nerve and told the former finalist that we looked forward to hearing from their legal team. Three years on, and still no word from them.

But it goes to show. We had no idea what they’d been up to – this was a seemingly professional brand.

Back to the flying child and the Shetland

It came to my attention that a photographer had seen her image become an internet sensation a number of times, without a single reference to her. We've all seen the image pop up on our social media platform of choice, but no one knows who took the picture. Let’s fix that…

The photographer is Claire Owen of Attic Photographic. The image was taken at Warlingham and District Horse Club's annual show back in 2012.

I asked Claire where she’d published the image.

Claire: “I published it on Facebook on my page and it also appeared in Horse & Hound as one of their 'images of the week’. My watermark was on the bottom of the photo. The watermark is still there, you can see it under the writing.”

What would you say to other photographers in your position?

Claire: “To be honest, I am not sure what advice to give in relation to this subject. I am probably a little different to other photographers because I do share my images on Facebook. I state: “Like/tag/share but please do not copy”. I know that other photographers would not do this but this works for me. It also generates traffic to my page and I am trying to get a large following.”

Claire continued: “I am still in contact with the child's mother and I actually at some point want to get round to doing a 'follow up shoot' or her and pony!”

If you’d like more information about the law around Intellectual Property and where it applies you should check out these recent pieces on The Bit UK and Horse and Hound.

If you would like to check out more of Claire’s photos of the 'cheeky shetland’ you can see them in the album on her Facebook page.

If you would like to use the image for your next social media marketing campaign, Claire would love to hear from you. And if you want to create some royalty-free memes to enhance your social media reach check out this list of meme generators.

Have you had images stolen? Click here to tell us about them on our Facebook page.

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