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.

© Ptoone

Photo credits: Perry Toone.

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We need more protection like ewen darker watermarks maybe.

i have a photographer whose pic was illegaly used by local gowerment and they are still using it. just because he didn`t use any protection when sent them the showcase.


people like you are socially gracious and glad you had spotted this fraud!


WOW! Good article on a very important topic. I know that lots of this goes on, but it seems very unfair to the contributors, who all work very hard on their submissions.

I think you get the "Eagle Eyes" award for spotting it! :)


I really appreciate the step taken by you! I expect similar kind of work from all of us.


there is tons of this going on, a friend of mine used to work for rapidshare and told me that they delete thousands of files a day that are all stolen stock. Another big problem is that people take the files from your flickr, Deviant art and almost every other artist site on the planet and crop off the watermark or adjust it so it looks almost natural


Fair play to you for noticing it and then emailing the agency and letting them know. it's nice to think that we as fellow contributors can look out for each other in this way!


Hats off to you mate, the right police man, hehehehehe. keep up the good work.


good looking out!! glad the photographer got what should have been his or hers and all thanks to you!!!


Great thing you did there, my only dissapointment is with the other agency you refer to not having the decency to come back to you on the issue. I am sure you not only avoid the restaurant in question, but the agency too...


Good for you! Glad you were looking out for your fellow photographers.


It might not be entirely the restaurant's fault. They probably hired someone to design and create the menu's for them and they might not really know the difference between watermarked or non-watermarked.... Just a thought.


And thanks to your pro-active attitude, a contributor somewhere is getting his/her payment for work well done.


Oh wow.. It's amazing what some people try to get away with now and then. Good job in catching that.

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