Photo copyright/licensing transgression at ZapTravel

I’m annoyed and disappointed by the fact that a travel website from the USA has decided to augment and support its business by taking images from various online sources – including Flickr – and using them in contravention of the photos’ licensing terms.

I’ve written the following email to the administrators of the website and am hoping for a positive outcome. I recommend that you check the site for your own photos and get in touch with Andrew Lacy at ZapTravel if you need to request that they remove any of your photos.

In response to a request from your company via Flickr for images, I have received an explanation from your employee [REDACTED] of why your company is unable to pay for usage of my photographs under a commercial license. I understand that it’s tough work building a business, but the work and experience I have brought to my own photography over the past twenty years has its own value too.

Your company seems to have its own interpretation of the law in this regard. With a simple search on your site, I have noted that many of the images you are using already infringe on the authors copyright licenses, including my own.

For example, the current lead image at http://www.zaptravel.com/top/weekend-deals/from-london/to-grindelwald/10-May-2013-to-12-May-2013/jungfrau-lodge-swiss-mountain/ is one of mine: you can see the copyright watermark embedded in the image if you save the image to your desktop. Unfortunately, the terms of free usage for my images, which reference the Creative Commons legal license, have not been met. These terms are detailed on my website at http://permanenttourist.ch/about/prices/ and each photo is also clearly marked with a reference to the appropriate Creative Commons license on Flickr.

This is a small example of the hundreds and hundreds of others who have committed this crime with both my own photographs and with other photographers’ work. Just because images show up on a Google image search does not mean that they are free for the taking.

Most infringers are just oblivious to the laws involved. You might think that usage on a blog or website exonerates them from infringement. Not the case. The fact of the matter is that the image(s) in question are, in fact, helping the infringer to market and promote their company. No matter how innocent you want to portray your side of this, it still comes down to marketing and promotion for your company. I have many enquiries from companies who understand the law, and by conducting themselves in an ethical manner, they inquire about the licensing fee to use an image on their website.

I could go on and on, but no need for me to give you an unrequested “photographic business practices” lesson. I simply request that you either remove all of my photographs from your website immediately, comply with the terms of free usage – namely, that the copyright notice remains clearly visible – or accept liability for the subsequent licensing fees.

Updated with response from the administrator:

Wanted to acknowledge receipt of your email.

I’ve been on the other side of this fence in the past as a copyright owner making sure that things I own are not used in ways that I consider inappropriate so I understand how you feel. You have a great portfolio of photos and I don’t blame you for wanting to make a business out of it.

In your case, clearly our communication process failed, somehow we inadvertently approved a potential photo publication, rather than discard it. It has been removed, you’ll just need to reload the page as it may be cached in your own personal browser. As for other photos, as we did with you, we have already previously contacted thousands of Flickr users for permission for using their pictures – irrespective of what the license might allow/disallow – and the overwhelming majority have been happy and excited to do so.

Apologies again, and best of luck with your photography.

Final update, four and a half hours after the original complaint, is that the images I’ve found quickly have been removed with no fuss. This is an admirable response, although not having to deal with the issue in the first place would’ve been better.