Groupon Stole My Stolen Photo
This photo, titled “Bucktoothed Determination” is my most “famous” photo. I’ve made money from it (admittedly not that much) and it’s currently featured on the Como Zoo & Conservatory’s website in the zoo animals gallery. I took the photo at the zoo in 2009 during an early morning photography class and this young orangutan was very active.
I sent this photo to the Como Zoo and they asked me for permission to put it on their Facebook page, which I allowed. I didn’t realize until much later that they’d also put it on their website, without my permission or even crediting me as the photographer. The use of it on the website doesn’t bother me too much – after all, it’s a non-profit, 100+-year-old zoo and I’m happy to support it since it’s a wonderful community asset. However, since I didn’t realize it was on the website, I was quite surprised to open my daily Groupon email one day last year to find my own photo featured in the daily deal, a discounted membership to the zoo (which has free admission, but they sell memberships that are more like sponsorships). I certainly didn’t give permission for it to be used by Groupon, and I still don’t know if the zoo gave them the photo or merely told Groupon to go find a photo from the website to use. A few months after the Groupon was first offered, the deal was offered again and my photo showed up in the Groupon daily email yet again, as well as in another daily deal email that consolidated various deals from different sites.
So what did I do about this unauthorized use? In the end, nothing. My husband, an attorney who practices copyright & trademark law, thought I should contact both Groupon & the zoo to try to at least get a photo credit. But I left it alone, partly because I’m not a professional photographer and do not have much in the way of “damages”, and partly because it’s a bit flattering to see your photo used. So it’s a mixed bag for me – it doesn’t make it right that they used it without my permission but ultimately it doesn’t hurt me that much. I really should start adding watermarks to my images, especially now that I’ve decided to make them more widely & publicly available, but I don’t feel that strongly about it just yet. Other amateur photographers I’ve asked about this have the same variety of opinions on this topic. Some really don’t care if their images are used without their permission and some care very much. I would love to hear from others on this issue, especially if you’re not a professional.