copyright infringement situation on instagram

August 18, 2021

Happy Wednesday friends! I hope that this finds you doing well! Today, I am sad that I have to address a situation that occurred with someone stealing a photo of mine and sharing it without credit over this past week. If we are connected on instagram than you might have seen a bit about this, but because of the serious nature of this situation I knew it was important to share here in this space. 

As a professional blogger who has been blessed to work as a travel writer and social media influencer over the last 7 years, I have had (a few times) someone use a photo of mine without crediting my work. Typically in each of these situations, I have contacted the source, they have apologized, given proper credit, and we have all moved forward. In fact, in closing in at almost a decade of full-time blogging, I have never had someone not apologize and credit me with the work. 

What occurred over this past week was anything but that. It has been disheartening, eye-opening, and disappointing.

On Friday night (after a long day of travel to pick up our keys to our condo and work on some moving stuff), I was scrolling through my instagram messages and realized I had several from people screen-shotting me the above image. Several people were questioning that they recognized the image from my Prince Edward Island trip in 2017 and were concerned that this particular blogger didn't credit me with my photo.

 I knew instantly that the photo was mine and was surprised that this particular blogger (whom I have known in "bloggy world" since 2013 and even have met in person and have had an acquaintance relationship with over the years) didn't credit me. I also knew that this particular blogger was aware of this special trip because we had expressly discussed the trip in numerous conversations. I also knew that this person has expressly commented on my posts from PEI, instagram posts about press and places my work has been seen in, etc. The whole thing I assumed was an accident. 

I admit that I was disturbed (a similar situation with this same person had occurred last year that I did not make public) but I assumed it was once again an honest mistake. Last year this person had even sent me an apology gift for the situation (which I stated and shared was unnecessary) and again just assumed that maybe this was also a mistake.

 I was confused why there were numerous pictures (from multiple sources) not credited and I was also confused why the copyright in the right corner was cut off, but again, tried to believe that this was just a mistake in the course of being overly happy about posting pictures of PEI. I know some of you are smiling that know me well, but yes I do try to believe the best about everyone. *smiles*

I reached out, did what I have always done, expressed concern, requested that I be credited with the photo or it be removed, and planned to move on to a very busy weekend with moving.

I saw that the message was read but didn't receive an immediate response and had received so many messages about the situation that I finally made a story post addressing the situation which I posted in my instagram stories.

On Saturday morning I woke up to a bit of weird message from this person where their response was the following: 

Hi friend. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. Honestly, I google imaged “Anne of green gables” (and as most were via Pinterest or tourist websites) I didn’t even think to look twice. I also genuinely didn’t notice any water marks. Truly, if I would have seen it was your picture I would have given you credit. The funny thing was that I would have loved to share your AOGG posts in my stories, but wasn’t sure if you’d want me to do that. I should have just reached out to ask you, but honestly felt so bad about what happened last year that I didn’t. I feel as though I’ve deeply offended and wounded you and I am truly sorry. Nothing about this was intentional at all, but I take full responsibility for my mistake. I’ve reposted it with a credit to you, but I can absolutely delete the post if you rather. I’d also love to share your pictures and point people to your trip so they can read about everything you did, but if you’d rather me not just let me know!! You were the first friend that I knew who did this trip, so would love to point people to your blog about it, with your permission or course 🤍 And again, no worries if you’d rather me not.

What struck me as odd in this message were many things, but specifically the following things concerned me: 

(1) They googled images for Anne of Green Gables but didn't think to credit the sources (which is copyright infringement). As a photographer and blogger, this is widely known. Even if you aren't a photographer or blogger, it is illegal to just post pictures of others work as your own with no credit or disclaimer. As this person has claimed to be both over the years I can't understand why they wouldn't want to cite the source (or if unknown just say "source unknown"). 

(2) They stated that they didn't know the picture was mine, yet based on previous conversations we had discussed this exact same picture. In fact, I have screenshot comments on the original IG post plus email conversations about this same picture. I get that we are all busy, and things can be forgotten, but the watermark is obviously there and has been cropped out. 

(3) When I put in "Anne of Green Gables" or "Anne of Green Gables Museum" into Google the picture that was used is directly is linked to my blog or has a credit to me or my blog in the description... again with the watermark. 

(4) They admit that I was the first "friend" that they knew did the trip, but were unsure if I would want my blog posts to be known?? What blogger is ever upset about this?? Especially a professional blogger whose trip has been shared thousands of times, across numerous social media venues, etc. Again, What blogger is ever upset about this??

(5) They tried to create a weird situation by stating that they had "deeply offended or wounded me". For the record, I didn't feel any of those things, but did feel that this situation had quickly become inappropriate with something else that was going on with this blogger and trying to turn it back on me. I wrote back the following response: 

__________, the situation that happened over a year ago was very different then this one (although both times there was no credit given) as that was a time where you used a gift that had been specifically created for you in a giveaway. This is copyright infringement when sharing a picture of mine without permission/credit. To clarify- I am not "wounded" but it does baffle me why as a photographer and a blogger you wouldn't think to either cite that the pictures have a source unknown or take the time to find the source of the pictures.

To also clarify I have NEVER been offended to have my blog posts and stories from PEI (or other travel writings) shared as they have been shared thousands of times and even have been shared in magazines, travel books, and various press over the years. As you stated I was the first blogger to discuss a trip like that to PEI and have remained that way and so I have always been honored and humbled when people share (with credit). As a professional travel blogger it is always an honor to have our work credited through other bloggers, press, etc.I appreciate the re-posting of the picture with proper credit. I hope you have a wonderful weekend ___________.

I sent the message, assumed that this strange situation was over and went about my day. A little while later I received an instagram story from her showing that she had re-posted the original picture with credit to me. I was busy with lots of moving details, didn't respond and planned to respond later to thank her, and went about my day. 

As Saturday continued though I started getting new messages that there were other pictures being shared - again with no credit. I tried to go to her page and realized that she had blocked me. I was baffled by the entire thing and still am. I tried to reach out via Facebook, but she had unfriended and blocked me there and it was honestly the strangest situation in my years of blogging. 

In the midst of the stress of moving, it was unfortunate that this had to happen this way also. While I wish her the best, it was a reminder to me that we don't know what is going on in another person's life and why they chose to do the things that they do. Sadly on line we get to know only one side of a person's life and we really don't know what is going on behind the scenes in her life. I can honestly only imagine if this is the way that she chooses to handle a person simply asking for credit for a photograph that is legally mine.

I feel sad that they felt that this was the way to handle a situation with someone that they had known for so many years, and have questioned a lot of things now about the pictures on their blog (whether the photography from her that I have always admired is really hers, etc.), their social media venues, etc. Having this situation happen one time (last year) was a genuine mistake I believed, but this pattern was concerning in so many ways. 

After making a formal complaint on Instagram, I can only hope that this blogger can learn from their mistakes and that they see the seriousness of this situation. Instead of blocking others who may request credit to their rightful pictures, I hope that they can learn from this and I truly hope that in the future that they can find the beauty and joy of their own life instead of trying to just share others. 

We each have so much to offer with our unique experiences and lives to the world. It is beautiful to share things that inspire us, but let's be women who encourage and champion each other not try to steal from each other. It is always beautiful to share inspiration from others (with credit *smiles*), but today and each day I hope that this situation can encourage each of us to find the joy and love and gifts of the beautiful sacred now in our personal lives. 

PS- I have had so many people requesting me to share more about the PEI trip from 2017 that over the next few weeks I will be re-sharing some of my favorite posts. I hope it inspires you to a fun and beautiful trip to a truly beautiful place on earth! Happy Wednesday friends!

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