The Importance of the Equestrian Photographer and Their Copyrights

Sunday, June 20, 2010
Posted by bossmare

We have basically “retired” from the horse show photography portion of our business. After 35 years, the time has come, and the debt load and sore back have eased. We still attend several shows a year to gather media images for our websites, and will be off to Aachen in July. But for the people trying to make a living from the expensive, exhausting and backbreaking work, it can be a heartbreaking career path. Our colleagues continue serve the industry with their hard work and talent. Recently a colleague, Sharon Packer, copied me an e-mail about a Dressage rider who copied images from Sharon's photo gallery, used them on Facebook and on their website. A photographer's website is a service for viewing images, not for stealing them. In this particular case, the offender was not a client, never even purchased a print from Sharon, yet felt they could help themselves to her images in spite of all the copyright information she had posted. The consequences of copyright infringement could be as much at $250,000 and 7 years in jail.

There is an epidemic of amateur and professional riders stealing photos from official photographers' websites and posting them onto their business websites and the social exchanges such as Facebook. I think we are all waiting for that one Official Photographer willing to go after an offender in a test case to see if U.S. and International Copyright law will enforce the up to $ 250,000 and 7 years in jail penalty for each stolen photo.

The problem with a test case is that some rider's career will be ended. I truly care about riders. I think we all do, but we also want to stay in business. Earlier this year, I informed a rider about copyright infringement when she posted 6 of my photos from a show which I had in my viewing (only) gallery. Her "reasons" included not enough time, not enough money, everyone loved the photos, etc. I offered her a discount if she could not afford the images and gave her the photo she indicated as her favorite for FB use only. She never followed through with a purchase as she said she even with discounted image it was not affordable for her. I insisted she remove the stolen images because of what it said about her character in addition to the photos being my property.

Official Photographers have a significant role in dressage shows. This blatant theft is forcing many to consider not covering shows. I would greatly appreciate your help in addressing this issue for all of us who stand in the heat or freezing cold rain for as much as 14 hours a day during shows, sit at a computer for 16 hours - 18 hours a day for 7 - 10 days there after, and have a great deal of overhead expense just to provide photo documentation to riders. What does this trend of stealing say about some of our riders?
Sharon Packer - HorseSports Photography