Laura Ferreira on Copyright

An e-mail interview with Laura Ferreira on February 06, 2012 about copyright infringement as background material for BitDepth#821.

<< Photographer Laura Ferreira, self portrait.

Looking back, did you ever find that you might have followed the style or work of a particularly powerful photographer quite closely?
The photographer who got me hooked is Phillip Warner. It was his lighting style on portraits that really inspired me. I think that I tried to light my work like his, but honestly, back then I don’t think I ever achieved it. In terms of styling, he is a fantastic fetish photographer but my work doesn’t really venture into that realm. I think my love for portraiture came from him. It’s just something that has stuck with me, but our work looks nothing alike.
Have you ever regretted the free sharing of your work and your techniques on the web?
I have no worries about showing people some of my techniques with the photo-manipulation side – anyone can figure it out if they just put time into it. It’s just layering and digital painting. I get a lot of emails asking for advice on lighting and colour-correction/adjustments, and it’s not a problem to help out.

Of course, I don’t tell every single thing as some things are my own little techniques that I have developed over time. As for sharing my work, I do not regret it one bit. I have worked on some amazing projects that came about solely by the right people stumbling upon my work.
Have there been any particular instances of stylistic cloning or outright theft of your images that stood out to you as being particularly unfair or simply low?
There was a photographer who cropped my name out of my image, put his name on it, and slapped it on his website. Ge even thanked people who commented on “his” work.
That one stood out the most to me. When he came around to emailing me he said, “I did it because I wanted to impress people and I never thought I could take an image like that," those may not be the exact words but that was the gist of it.
I thought, well...that’s the saddest excuse for outright theft I have ever heard.

You're very calm about the vulnerability of your posts on the web. Your watermarking is very subtle and easy to crop. Your responses to infringers are quite measured. Why is that? Do you think it's a result of the way you learned? Your comfort with the web as an enabling technology?

I can easily take out a large watermark from a photo using any editing program; therefore, I choose to have my photo look its best instead of having a giant, ugly, removable splotch on top of it. Like I said before, my work has grown and developed online – I am a photographer of the digital age, and the Internet is my work’s showroom.

A physical photograph and a scanner are an easier way of grabbing a photo – no names to remove, and you can bump up the dpi. If you look at it that way you can say that all photos are susceptible to online copyright infringement.

The truth is, you either accept that this happens and learn how to deal with it, or you never share your work on the Internet, and you miss out on opportunities
What steps have you taken to respond to people who simply use your work without permission? Have you found the legal options to be of any use?
It’s very easy to get in touch with people who have used my work through the Internet. I also have a great group of fellow artists and supporters who go out of their way to get me information when I post about an image theft that I have found, or that someone else has found and alerted me with.

I have spoken with lawyers in the past (as recent as last week), but because I like to deal with things straight away, I have always ended up going ahead and sorting out the problem on my own.
Do you have a sense that some of these infringements are malicious or the result of ignorance? Do you find the responses of younger, more enthusiastic web denizens to be different from the way that old school print publishers and advertisers approach the misuse of your work?
It’s a great mix of the two. I think that some of it is ignorance, especially from young graphic designers who are pulling images off Google to make flyers and posters for products and think that we will never see them. If it’s on the Internet, we will find it.

Not always immediately, but eventually. However, it’s hard to believe that all of them are like that. Some just think that they can get away with it. The malicious ones, well they are just plain old bold-faced.
When I release a photo online, it may be one out of two from a set. It has LAURA FERREIRA or LAURAFERREIRA.COM written on it. Call me crazy, but I think they can easily contact the photographer if they do a search for the name on the photo, and then ask for permission.

I am currently dealing with a business that pulled an image of mine from a web search to use on a flyer for a commercial event. I came across this on Facebook. Facebook copyright claims were made, and Facebook decided that instead of taking the photos on their pages down, they were going to completely disable the account of any person who had that flyer as their profile picture, or who was sharing the photo.

This was never my intention, but Facebook takes copyright violations extremely seriously. Needless to say, I was on the phone with the company the very next day and we are currently settling the cost of using the image.

I actually emailed Facebook and told them that I was handling the situation (and to stop banning people), and they replied that they were happy to hear so. That’s one example of using the Internet to market your images, then having them stolen from the Internet, and then the Internet helping you sort things out.
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