Stock Photography Fraud
Although the image displayed on the agency web site is watermarked, it doesn't seem to stop a few people from copying them and then adjusting the exposure and contrast to disuse the watermark and use without paying the small licensing fee.
After visiting my favorite downtown Sushi restaurant and noticing that they had a new menu, I picked one up to see what was new. When I arrived home later I had a closer look and almost couldn't believe my eyes when I closely examined the cover. The photograph of sushi had been adjusted to high contrast and exposure levels to hide the fact that the image was up scaled and looking even closer into it, I could visibly make out the watermark of another stock photography site.
I was shocked to say the least. My favorite sushi joint was illegally using an image that would have only cost a few bucks to purchase legitimately. At the time I was also a contributor to the other agency and felt that I should do something. Regardless of the fact that this a very popular restaurant and my favorite. I remembered seeing boxes of thousands of these new menus printed, packed boxes lay piled up ready for distribution to the masses. All without paying for the image license.
I vowed not to return to the restaurant and scanned in the new menu with the watermarked image and emailed the agency. I didn't hear anything back, but when passing the restaurant a few weeks later I walked in to pick up a menu, they had re-printed the thousands of menu's with the same picture but now it was high resolution and not watermarked. The agency must have contacted them and made them purchase the correct license.
A real waste of money and time printing illegitimate images only to have to pay for the license and re-printing them all. Contributors are located around the world and with a keen eye for detail we can notice when something doesn't look right. My first realization of this was the up scaled low quality image on the cover of the menu that led me to looking closer and noticing the watermark.
Photo credits: Perry Toone.