BlahBlahBabble Getting Down to Business

Dear Media, How to Not to Cite Photos…

I caused a kerfuffle on Twitter about an hour ago. Over photographs that weren’t my own. I’m posting about it here not to point a finger of blame (note the apology at the end of this), but more so to discuss what happened and how photographer’s works should be credited. On to the story…

As I was eating lunch, I was really excited to spot a post from the Houston Press about the top 10 romantic restaurants in Houston. I love to check out new restaurants with Mike, especially since he is such a foodie at heart. (Ok, I may be a little bit too, even though I’m a selective eater.) As I browsed the article, I was a little shocked to see photos credited to FACEBOOK.

Facebook, as you probably already know, is not a photographer. I am a photographer. While these photos were not mine, if they had been? I would have been pissed. And since I’m a photographer, I was feeling a little indignant for all the other photographers out there. Because even YOU, professional photographer or not, iPhone or fancy SLR camera, own the copyright to your images the second your finger comes off of the trigger. And just because you post them to Facebook, that doesn’t mean Facebook should be credited as the source. You are the source. Not Facebook. EVER.

I respect the Houston Press. I like to read articles by the Houston Press, especially the food-related articles in Eating Our Words. So I was just stunned that they would ever credit Facebook.

And? I told them so.

Then I saw that they had a slideshow of other romantic restaurants in Houston. I opened the link on my iPhone this time with hesitation. I went through 4 photos credited to Facebook before I finally came to one with a person credited for the photo. Stunned all over again, and this time fuming because I know they should know better, I tweeted about it again.

Click to view larger. Screen capture of the Houston Press – “Love is in the Air – Houston’s Most Romantic Restaurants. Copyright the Houston Press and the respective owners of the images, whoever they may be. Posted without permission for educational purposes only.

I was horrified at the response I received to my tweet.

Floored, I tell you, floored.

Before I go any further, let me add in here I am NOT A LAWYER and I don’t work for any Criminal Attorney either. So seek out proper legal counsel if you need it regarding this matter. I am not a lawyer. Clear? Ok. Moving on…

Also, these photos were not my photos, and I’m not some lawsuit happy photographer claiming I’m going to sue the Houston Press. If you are a photographer and you find yourself in that situation, get a lawyer. Personally? I’d ask quietly first for them to fix the source. Then, if online, file a DMCA. Lawsuits are a last resort! This time, this topic though? I wasn’t so quiet, because I was mad for all of us. I am ready to call a Court reporter from NAEGELI. Court reporters may conduct business within a courtroom setting, but just as many are found in other settings. This is because court reporters, who are educated and trained to record and transcribe verbatim, are in demand in a number of settings and for a number of purposes, from broadcast closed captioning and captioning services for the deaf or hard-of-hearing at live events, to legal depositions and shareholder meetings.

Dear media, if you use a photographer’s work without citing them as the source and the photographer choses to do so, they can sue you for it. (I am the type of person who normally plays nice, but not everyone is.) Especially in this case, where the images are not licensed to you to use, were taken from Facebook, may or may not have been licensed to the venue and may or may not have had terms attached to that license, and where you are making a profit off of the website displaying the images. A photographer could sue you for even more damages if they have registered them with the Copyright Office. Claiming that it is all that the restaurants gave you is LAZY JOURNALISM. Research the source, ask them who they came from so they can be properly cited, and cover your ass! Because when I sue you, and we go to court, “I dunno – they gave them to us that way” isn’t going to be acceptable.

Media & journalist that work for the media? You of ALL PEOPLE should know better.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this. There are even other publications in Houston that have a far, far worse track record. Matter of fact, publications all over are doing this.

This even goes beyond the media. It goes to all of us. If you post a photo online that someone else took, cite the source. Exactly who took it. Exactly where you found it. If you don’t know, find out. On your blog, on Pinterest, on Facebook – wherever. Credit the photographer.

Copyright law has a lot of gray areas. I’m kind of in love with copyright law, quite a champion of it actually, and yet I release most of my personal photos and work under a Creative Commons license. But that is a topic for another day. The main point? Know how the work is licensed before you use it!

Photographs, and other works of art, are licensed for a reason. For example, for my wedding clients they receive a DVD of images *for personal use*. I then give vendors a DVD of images of their venues, flowers, whatever the case may be and I license that for commercial use, with credit to Christine Tremoulet, and a link to my site online when applicable.

I need to be credited though. Not Facebook. EVER.

Facebook is not a source. Pinterest is not a source. Twitter is not a source. Flickr is not a source. Your favorite style blog is not a source. The person who took the photo -or- the copyright holder? THEY are the source.

If we don’t all stand up and demand that this sort of activity be stopped, well … it isn’t going to end well for us, the photographers left holding the camera and not much more. Even you, the amateur photographer. You own those photos. (I’ll save the discussion for who has a stake in your copyright when you upload to social media sites for another day.)

The final irony? Journalists are upset & losing their jobs because they are being replaced by social media sources instead. Yet here is media using social media as a source for photographs instead of hiring a photographer to go out and get the shots or licensing them properly. Seems pretty circular to me. And somehow? Just sad.

PLEASE NOTE: Katharine Shilcutt of Eating Our Words & the Houston Press did apologize for this incident and is diligently working to clean up the sources. I still respect the Houston Press because of that, probably more than ever before. This post is not meant as an attack on the Houston Press – just as a wake up call to all journalists to please cite us as sources just like they would want to be cited, to respect our copyrights, and to play nice. The Houston Press was just the latest media outlet to do this that I’ve come across recently, and the one that finally moved me to write about it.

Do not go on a witch hunt of the Houston Press. We are cool.

Repeating the disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I am a photographer. If you are seeking legal counsel, hire a lawyer to help you out with these murky issues. I highly recommend Katie Sunstrom in Texas, and Dineen Pashoukos Wasylik in Florida, who are lawyers. But I am not. I did however take Katie’s photo on that site, which she has permission to use for commercial use.

By Christine

Christine is an Avenger of Sexiness. Her Superpower is helping Hot Mamas grow their Confidence by rediscovering their Beauty. She lives in the Heights in Houston, Texas, works as a boudoir photographer, and writes about running a Business of Awesome. In her spare time, she loves to knit, especially when she travels. She & her husband Mike have a food blog at Spoon & Knife.

35 replies on “Dear Media, How to Not to Cite Photos…”

THANK YOU!!!! I am so so so sooooo tired of seeing publications not putting in the extra effort to track down the photographer who the copyright belongs to. You are SO right on, Facebook is not a photographer and they do not, nor will they, own the copyright to our pictures. So thank you again for saying something about this issue. It should be brought to everyones attention that crediting Facebook or other social networks out there is not the right way to go about this.

Well said, Christine. And props for standing up for the unknown “Facebook” photographers out there. I’m not surprised that Houston Press does this, since larger publications do the same. Apparently the onus is on photographers to educate clients to properly credit and cite their sources, so that when bigger fish pick up a story they can do the same. Unfortunately Facebook makes it so easy to share without thinking of these consequences (and clients won’t think of these things). But journalists can and should do a more thorough job of querying their sources.

Whatever happened to “honest mistakes”? Whatever happened to politely asking someone to make a change? Why on earth would you ever write an jerk blog post like this when you could take it up with the author privately? It’s not like you don’t know how to get a hold of her. It’s not like Houston Press is a national publication. No, YOU get off to causing a “kerfuffle,” and making it sound cute, when, in fact, you are a bully. And a brat. And a troublemaker. You know how to make it right, but you’d rather make fodder for your undervisited blog. What’s wrong with being CIVIL?

If photographers want photo credit, then they should lock down their Facebook pages, or better yet not have a FB page. taken from FB TOS.

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

When you refuse to lock down your page so your work can be seen by others, you give transferable, sub-licensing to FB. So as far as I can tell THe Houston Press was correct in the photo credit they posted.

“you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License).”

You ONLY are granting Facebook the right to display it.

You are NOT granting everyone else in the world the right to display it *and* then credit Facebook for the work.

Facebook has to state that you are giving them the right to display it when you post it there. They have a “non-exclusive” license ONLY. They do NOT receive full copyright benefits and ownership when you post things to their site.

And they are NEVER the source. The photographer or the copyright holder is. Always.

Lea, I’m sorry you think I’m a big bully. I don’t. I didn’t call anyone names. They weren’t my photos so I didn’t ask for them to be removed.

I am a photographer, and I see this happening to EVERYONE who takes photos daily. It is a big issue. A BIG ISSUE.

I posted this because I see people all over the place citing Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, etc as a SOURCE.

They aren’t sources. And if no one ever says “that isn’t a source” then everyone will keep doing it.

Thanks for thinking I did it to get traffic. Uhm. Yeah. No. I’ve written posts like this for 10+ years. Nothing new here. And I didn’t choose “kerfuffle” to be cute. I like the word. It is underused. It fit.

PS – an individual would get to claim “Honest mistake” — this is completely different when dealing with the media. No matter what the size of the media publication.

And if bloggers want to be treated with the same rights as the media, then it comes down to bloggers as well.

But someone that has a job with an actual print publication that has cited “Photo courtesy of Facebook” at least 8 times? Not an honest mistake.

Wow Lea, bad day? As Christine stated several times in her post, *her photos* were NOT used. This is NOT about the Houston Press using HER photos. They used other people’s photos without proper credit, not *hers*. Don’t know how else she could have made that clearer.

The blog post is merely to be informative on how photos should be credited and used online. She even acknowledged and thanked Houston Press for responding as quickly as they did. Did you not read the entire post before commenting?

To quote Christine just a few paragraphs above your name-calling comment: “Personally? I’d ask quietly first for them to fix the source. Then, if online, file a DMCA. Lawsuits are a last resort!”

Hardly the words of a “a bully. And a brat. And a troublemaker” as you says she is being.

Lea, this was not that kind of mistake. Houston Press did the right thing and fixed it. I wish all media outlets would take that kind of initiative. And as to your comment about Christine’s under-read blog… she named WordPress, she founded a blog hosting company, she was a web maven before there were web mavens. She still dabbles in that world but prefers to do what she loves which is taking photos. You have no idea what you are talking about.

She and I have done several speaking engagements specifically on the issue of copyright and photography and how to handle these types of situations from BOTH sides of the issue. She is very qualified to have an opinion and to dissect this issue. It is a well-known problem and needs to be addressed. It would be GREAT if Houston Press would lead that charge.

I find it ironic and strange that you are being called a brat, a bully, and a jerk for simply exposing the truth of what’s happening with copyright law in photography right now. If the New York Times were to write this piece, NO ONE would call them such. They would be cited for their outstanding investigative journalism. Why is that any different for you, a blogger?

You aren’t here to vilify the Houston Press. This happens in publications nationwide ALL. THE. TIME. HP is one example of many, many, many.

And, the Houston Press (and other pubs) should know better – they aren’t new to the world of journalism. Citing sources is as old as the paper we print upon.

Nice work, Christine.

I am so happy to see this post, Christine. By complete serendipity, I keep finding my flickr or blog photos being used on other sites without my permission and without crediting me, the photographer. What’s wrong with being civil, Lea asks? That argument works both ways.

Who do you think is behind the media – machines? They’re individuals. And on top of that, they’re local individuals. People in your community that you KNOW. Hell, you could probably pick up the phone and call the author – that’s how accessible she is to you.

As a journalist, when the best source you have is where you got the photo, what do you use? Do you search for hours and come up with nothing? It’s often incredibly difficult to track down the source of a photo. Not for you – you’re a photographer. You have an interest in protecting your work, so you think you know every possible trick. But a simple email or message on Twitter (since you KNOW the author, let’s not forget) would help educate those that may not be as militant as you.

This isn’t the New York Times. This is the Houston Press, a food critic, and someone who loves to stir the pot for the hell of it. It’s different for Christine because she knows the author, and it’s a LOCAL publication. Christine’s not investigating anything. She’s taken a matter and blown it up so you ALL could judge the author of the original post for her error. Christine has taken her rant and put it front and center so you can burn both the author and the publication at the stake. Remember, there are three sides to every story – Christine’s, the author’s, and the truth.

You’re readers of Christine’s blog, so you’re going to naturally think she’s right. I realize I’ve entered enemy territory here, but something has to be said so that sh*t starters like Christine don’t go unchecked.

If you’d taken it up with her in a civil way, you would’ve known it was an honest mistake. Not meant to undercut anyone, especially the photographer. ESPECIALLY THE PHOTOGRAPHER. You know the author and yet, you decided to demean her for your own enjoyment – and everyone else’s viewing pleasure.

Well, I’m not amused.

I’ve been completely civil. I haven’t taken my rant to Twitter or written a passive aggressive blogpost. I’ve gone straight to the source. Which is more than I can say for Christine.

It wasn’t even her photo, guys. Remember that. She went and raised a fuss over someone else’s photo. Sorry, but you can’t fight another’s battle. Unless your motives are untrue.

“As a journalist, when the best source you have is where you got the photo, what do you use? Do you search for hours and come up with nothing?”

Lea, they are a publication in Houston, writing about Houston restaurants. They have STAFF PHOTOGRAPHERS. Several photos in the first article were taken by the author herself, along with other staff members of the Houston Press.

CORRECTION: Just heard from Katharine – the Houston Press does NOT have staff photographers. Sorry for the error. – edited by Christine at 4:57pm 2/14/2012.


If you can’t find AND LICENSE a photo for use in your publication, you get in the car and drive over and TAKE A PHOTO YOURSELF.

Katharine knows how to take photos. So do many other staff members.

Another option? Credit the Restaurant. Doesn’t really work if the photographer hasn’t given the restaurants the rights, but “Photo courtesy of (Restaurant’s Name)” would have never ruffled the feathers of people like “Photo courtesy of FACEBOOK.”

Facebook doesn’t take photos. People take photos.

And yes, an individual works for the media. But the publication would be responsible if a lawsuit did happen. And individuals do represent who they work for. It was her business twitter stream, not her personal one (or a private FB wall conversation) where this took place.

I haven’t been told that I’m a shit starter in years, at least on this blog (Or a brat, bully or troublemaker for that matter). If standing up and saying that the media needs to do a better job of citing their sources, then AMEN! I AM A SHIT STARTER!!! Hell yeah, I’m happy to raise the flag for ALL photographers, amateur to pro!

More weight would be carried with your words, if you would own them. That would be sourcing who you are.

If no one said anything, then nothing would change or get better.

“It’s often incredibly difficult to track down the source of a photo.” Yeah, elements of our job sucks too, yet we chose our profession.

Martin Luther King and other activists might disagree with your last two sentences.

For the record, I rarely read Christine’s blog. hahaha

That’s all very good information, Christine. It probably would’ve gone over well in an email to Katharine, too, had you taken the time to be a human being to another human being, instead of using it to get hits on your defunct blog.

You’re not a shit starter in a good way, woman. You are a thorn in the side of decency.

Lea – Christine is taking up for photographers. We see this way too often and today’s Houston Press example was just one of many many examples we see all the time. This was not about the Houston Press but about how that example was indicative of a larger, growing problem. And she’s not the 1st person to comment on it:

Per Christine’s own words: “This post was not meant as an attack on the Houston Press – just as a wake up call to all journalists to please cite us as sources just like they would want to be cited, to respect our copyrights, and to play nice. The Houston Press was just the latest media outlet to do this that I’ve come across recently, and the one that finally moved me to write about it.”

And the point here is that journalists, of all professions, are taught the importance of researching sources. Why does this not include the source of the photograph? Why is that not as valued as when you are citing story sources? Because it’s “difficult” as you state? Really? Why don’t you just not include an image? If I recall, newspaper articles often did not have images associated with it. If you don’t value the source of the photograph enough to track down the source, then don’t include it. Or maybe find another image you can use? There can’t just be one image of that restaurant on the entire world wide web? Or simply don’t create a slideshow, just produce a printed list without images. Many other ways to avoid this whole issue.

But online media has become lazy (not pointing to any one publication here, just stating a fact) due to the pressure of getting things online quickly and making them visually appealing to their audience. That is the long and short of it. Unfortunately, the producers of that visual content are getting screwed.

And Lea, you are on the edge of being blocked from my site.

I’m ALL FOR healthy dialogue here about the topic. That was why I approved your first comment, because even if your opinion differed from mine, you’re welcome to have an opinion.

But EVERY comment you have left has been quite bullying yourself. First you call me a bully, brat & troublemaker. Than a sh*t starter. Now I’m a “thorn in the side of decency.”

Sorry, this is my PERSONAL site. And unless you would step foot in my front door and say those things to my FACE, you don’t get to say them here.

Post about the issue at hand. NOT your feelings about me as a person. Clear?

(Wow, we really have gone back to the blogging days of 2004, haven’t we? I haven’t had to write that disclaimer in years!)

(PS – how is a blog “defunct” if it is online and has hundreds of visitors daily? You puzzle me, Lea. You puzzle me.)

Wow Lea – I guess your obvious personal issue with Christine is clouding the fact that Christine’s blog post is about *educating*, NOT about calling out the Houston Press. You seem to be really, really hung up on that.

But yes, you are right about one thing. It is great information – to share with others. The whole point of what a personal blog is about.


I think if I see someone breaking into someone else’s car/property, it would be right for me to raise an alarm. It might not be my battle but I doubt that my motives in that instance would be called into question. That is the same thing for copyright violation. To violate someone’s copyright is to steal their intellectual property.

There are exceptions for fair use and all that but there are rules governing all this and Houston Press is a legit publishing entity. They have editors and all that, and the truth is they do know better. Go to their website and scroll all the way down to the bottom and you will see this – “© 2012 Houston Press, LP, All rights reserved”. You know why? Because they value their own intellectual property.

I would most certainly say all of these things to your face. No question. That’s how I operate – if I wouldn’t say them to you offline, I wouldn’t say them online.

At any rate, I won’t leave any further comments, since you’re erroneously feeling attacked. Thanks for the spirited discourse.

Lea, you do realize you’ve reached the point of COMPLETELY contradicting yourself, right?

– I’m not supposed to take up the cause for all photographers since they weren’t my photos
– You’re decided to take up the cause to defend Katharine – even though you are not Katharine

– I’m not supposed to be a bully – even though I never called ANYONE a single name, and APPLAUDED Katharine for fixing this issue in the Houston Press
– You’re calling me a bully, a brat, a troublemaker, a shit starter, etc.

Wow. Just … wow. Ok then.

And for the record, I’ve still never said one disparaging thing about you either. I have, however, tweeted about my amusement over your comments. That is about your comments though, NOT attacking you as a person. Just so we’re clear. Not the same thing.

Thank you for making my day more interesting.

Facebook is never a source and shouldn’t be cited as such. EVER.

Lea – I know you won’t be commenting again but I am incredulous at your phrase “since you’re erroneously feeling attacked”. Wow.

You must have a different definition of attack than I do. Because when a blog author is called “a bully. And a brat. And a troublemaker” as well as a “sh*t starter” it sure sounds like an attack to me. Wrapping it up by saying “you’re not a shit starter in a good way, woman. You are a thorn in the side of decency” kind of defines an attack to me.

Per Merriam-Webster: at·tack, verb \ə-ˈtak\: to assail with unfriendly or bitter words

Dear Lea, really? “Since you’re erroneously feeling attacked” …

– an (sic) jerk blog post like this
– Bully
– Brat
– Troublemaker
– undervisited blog
– “someone who loves to stir the pot for the hell of it”
– “something has to be said so that sh*t starters like Christine don’t go unchecked.”
– “had you taken the time to be a human being to another human being, instead of using it to get hits on your defunct blog.”
– Thorn in the Side of Decency

Lea, I don’t think I was erroneous whatsoever in my feelings.


“Christine has taken her rant and put it front and center so you can burn both the author and the publication at the stake.”

No one, no one at all has tried to burn the author OR the publication at the stake. Matter of fact, unless my reading comprehension has failed me, we have ALL APPLAUDED the publication & Katharine for quickly & professionally fixing the error and apologizing for it.

You however have been quick to try to burn ME at the stake. See above for just some of that, I didn’t feel like copying & pasting more.

I’ve left it all for others to see because … well, honestly? It makes you look like you didn’t even read the original post. And I don’t like censoring comments left on my site. I hope someday you can see why I was not erroneous in feeling that you are clearly attempting to attack me here.

Now if anyone would like to join in a HEALTHY discussion about how intellectual property should be cited, I’m all for it.

In light of healthy discussion, I would like to say – The first thing that needs to be done is to actually get PERMISSION from the author/creator/owner of the work in question AND then cite them as the source of the work.

Too many sites think they can just take stuff, use it and credit/cite the source. If you get permission, you are less likely to make a mistake and cite the wrong source since part of the process of getting permission will be to make sure that the person granting you permission is the owner of the work in the first place.

Now there is the question of fair use & all that. If you are going to claim fair use though, you probably want to be very clear about what constitutes fair use and usually that will still involve crediting/citing the proper author/creator/owner … the copyright holder.

Wait, I’m confused – we’re not supposed to take up the causes of others? What an insular little world Lea must live in. In my world, total strangers do come together for various causes, whether it’s sports or healthcare or anything else. It’s rather silly to suggest that a discussion – and mind you, that’s all this was, not the taking up of a banner for A Cause – about properly crediting sources should not be happening simply because the people discussing the issue do not own the images in question.

In my mind, it’s simply lazy not to take the effort to find the source of something you’re using. In college, you can get thrown out for it. In the workplace, you’re just stabbing someone in the back if you take their work without acknowledging it (and in some peoples’ minds, that’s fine, but not for me). People who work in the media especially should know the importance of getting things as right as they can be. That includes properly crediting the person who did the actual work of taking the photo. If the source cannot be found, as has been noted, do not use it. This is not a difficult concept, and kudos for the HP for doing the right thing.

Thanks for the post Christine. I am currently a full time photographer, but have also been a high school teacher. It reminds me of when my students used to try and quote “google” as a source in their papers. I don’t think it matters if it was an honest mistake or not, you have a responsibility as a business to know how to run your own business. Ignorance is not an excuse.

Wow. Looks like I missed all the fun today. As someone who has managed several restaurants, it wouldn’t be that much of a big deal to call said restaurant and ask, “Hey, we’re writing an article including your place and want to use a pic from your website. Can you tell us who took the photos so we can make sure it’s okay with the photographer?” As a media outlet, HP should know this. It wouldn’t take that much “digging” to find out the info. Maybe a few phone calls or emails at best.

Wow, that is some drama in the comments! It’s like the good old days of blogging all over again 🙂

Anyway, THANK YOU for bringing this issue to the forefront Christine. As an amateur photographer, it angers me to see my work mis-credited or worse, used without permission at all. (I’m looking at you, Cosmo magazine.) For the love of everything holy and sacred, ASK FOR PERMISSION before republishing! And no, it’s not implied permission if you cite me properly – you still need to ASK.

As photographers, if we want to make any money at all we depend on being properly cited for our work. Facebook, Flickr, Pinterest and other social media sites are not content creators and therefore should never be cited as copyright holders. I love that social media has made our photos more visible and accessible than ever, but unfortunately that comes with an unfair price.

It can take time for people to adjust to the new digital way things are done, but I think media institutions need to train employees better. Publishing mis-credited or uncited works, or anything without permission from the copyright holder, is simply inexcusable in this day and age.

I agree that Facebook is not “technically” the source of the image. But to play the Devil’s advocate for a second…

If a company is using a photo on their Facebook page one might assume said company has obtained the rights to do so. If that is the case, then a news outlet writing about said company and citing the company and their Facebook site as the source would be the appropriate action.

If someone were to write an article about my band (The Flying Fish Sailors) then I might grant them permissions to use a photo we have on our site and, even though the photo was not taken by us, they could rightfully cite the band and our Web site as the source.

In the case of The Houston Press I think, at the very least, they should have cited the company Web site/Facebook page as the source and that would have been acceptable.

Of course if the image was not licensed by the company, there’s a whole ‘nuther discussion to be had.

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