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July 24, 2009

Gibson stole my photo

Stealing is bad, and it has happened to me before. This time however, the thief ended up being the mighty Gibson,
and I'm not happy about this.

Here's the story. A little while ago, I was browsing Google news, reading about guitar related news. I spotted a little thumbnail photo that I immediately recognized. Hey, wasn't that... my pedals? How could that be? The article was not something I had written. So, I clicked on the link, and it took me to http://www.gibson.com/en-us/Lifestyle/Features/back-to-basics-603/ which is a page written by Dave Hunter about using effects pedals. The first thing you see on that web page is - my photo. There is no doubt about that, since the photo is from my page at http://www.dolphinstreet.com/guitar_pedals/pedal_board/ where I wrote about how I built my pedal board out of a suitcase. This is the photo in question:

home made pedal board

So what is the problem here? Well, I was never contacted by the author of the article. I am not credited as the source of the image either. He blatanly saved the image from my website and posted it on the Gibson website, without checking with me if that was cool. My website even has a copyright notice at the bottom of the page. Even so, any original artistic work is automatically copyrighted by law. Have a look at the this page about Copyright Law in the United States. I reside in Canada, and the Copyright Act protects original artistic works here in the same way.

I would not have minded if I was asked if it would be okay to put my photo on the Gibson page. In fact, I would have been flattered and would probably have said something like "yeah sure, as long as you also add a link back to my website, or reference me by name." since that would be proper, and I would get some website traffic in return.

The Correspondent page for the author also shows my picture, but this time it has been cropped. I don't recall having told anyone it's okay to not only steal my photos, but also tamper with them and post them on a different website.

When I noticed this photo theft, I sent a polite email the very next day to the Gibson webmaster email address. I mentioned that I had not given permission to the author to use my image on the Gibson website, but I said I would not mind as long as I was credited in return. I receive no reply from Gibson. This was on June 8th, 2009.

Personally, I'm not hurting really bad or anything because of this. Photographing pedal boards isn't my livelyhood, but on the other hand, it's never too late to make things right. I would not have a problem if Gibson contacted me (albeit late) and said they will credit me for using the photo. I would just say thanks for doing the right thing.

I am disappointed that the author of the article was not professional enough to do the right thing, which would have been to just ask me before taking my photo. I am also disappointed that I didn't hear back from Gibson.

I guess it's also possible that Gibson would have just removed my photo and used a different one instead of mine, if I had ever gotten through to Gibson. That might have been the end of the story. As it is right now, my photo is still sitting on their website.

What are your thoughts on this? Maybe it's not a big deal, but I do think professional writers and one of the biggest guitar companies in the world should respect copyright laws. If you have any suggestions or ideas, let me know. Feel free to spread the word about this, if you think it will help.

By the way, I also immediately saved the Gibson page as PDF document, in case their web page gets removed or modified. :)

Update - July 27, 2009

Today, Gibson suddenly removed my photo from their webpage. I have not, at any time, been contacted by Gibson or the author about this whole issue. I was hoping for an apology or explanation, but it looks like that won't happen.

Update - July 28, 2009

I added a comment to the Gibson page yesterday, and today I am noticing there are no comments displayed at all on that page. They seem to have been removed - perhaps because they were mostly critical comments, pointing out the copyright violation? Wait a minute, now the comments are back again - strange. One minute there are no comments, next minute the comments are there.

Update May 20, 2010

I am sure Gibson didn't know about this, but someone involved in publishing the article must have. I was also disappointed that I didn't even get a reply from Gibson when I emailed them. They could have responded back and said something, but no, not a word from them.

The article picture of my pedal board was one day gone from their website. The complaints via email and in the comments on that web page must have finally reached Gibson.

The Article in PDF format - with my picture

You can see for yourself - here is a PDF of that article when it had my photo there.

By Robert Renman - www.dolphinstreet.com


Posted by Robert Renman on July 24, 2009

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