Those of you who follow me on any social media platform have probably seen my recent posts about my local Fox 5 San Diego news station fraudulently using my photo on a weather segment this week. The whole ordeal has been exhausting but some very important lessons can be gleaned from it.
This post is not a rant. It is not meant to publicly humiliate Fox 5 San Diego. It is recap of the experience I had recently. And it is based on facts and information. There are key lessons to be learned from the poor manner in which Fox 5 handled this situation.
If you have ever had your intellectual property, your photos, or your written material used without your permission, or used under someone else's name, you will relate to this blog. If you haven't, you may learn something from this blog. And if you have ever used someone's copyrighted property in a fraudulent manner, I suggest you read this and learn from the mistakes of others.
First off, for those of you who haven't heard the story yet, here's what went down. Wednesday evening I was plugging away on the computer answering some blog post comments while my husband watched the 6:00 news. As usual, we were watching the Fox 5 news and they showcased their "Picture of the Day". This is a picture submitted by a local viewer that the meteorologist chooses to include in their segments.
I have submitted numerous photos over the last couple months and seen my photos shared on air quite a few times. There is no reward for this other than seeing your photo on tv.
When the weather segment started on Wednesday, the weather anchor, Kyle Hunter made reference to a photo taken in Poway, submitted by Lindsay Huey. He was talking about the cumulus clouds out over the mountains and making direct reference to the clouds in the photo. I heard my husband scoff slightly and turned around to see what the photo was. He had scoffed because it was a photo that looked a lot like one I had previously submitted. We even started joking about the possibility that one of my coworkers could have gone and imitated the photo and submitted an almost identical pic. I even said, "Hey, imitation is the highest form of flattery, right?"
But the more I sat here thinking about it (you see I have a very photographic memory), the more I started thinking how much that photo really looked like my photo. Thanks to modern technology, we were able to rewind the segment and pause the screen on the photo. I pulled up my original photo on my phone and what do you know - it was the EXACT SAME PHOTO!
Don't believe me, take a look at this image I put together. See those clouds, the tree, the hills. They are identical.
To be fair, I went through every possible scenario of how this could have happened. The only place where the original photo is stored is on my cell phone. It's not on my computer and it was never uploaded or shared to any social media site. The only two places where you will find this photo is on my phone and with Fox 5 San Diego where I uploaded it to their site on July 22nd.
Realizing that they reused my photo from over a month before and put someone else's name on it, I was pissed! You do not get to take my photos or material and reuse it without issuing due credit. This is a blatant violation of copyright regulations.
Had they just put my name on it, I would have laughed and thought how awesome it was that they used it again! If anything, I would have probably reached out and thanked them for it! Instead, they got blasted all over social media with the above photo. I emailed the news station directly as well as Kyle Hunter, the meteorologist who displayed the photo.
On a side note, when the 10:00 news came around, they had changed out the photo, but kept the same name, Lindsay Huey. No apology for the mistake, no acknowledgement even of the mistake.
I waited all night, and not one response anywhere. It wasn't until Thursday morning, when I received an automated email response saying that my email had been "forwarded to the appropriate department." Surprisingly, not even 5 minutes later, I received an email from the news director saying that he was going to "talk with Kyle and ask him about this photo". I replied thanking him for looking into the issue.
Four hours later I received this response from the news director: "The photo downloaded onto the weather computer was the exact named filed of a previous photograph, a computer error. It happens. Rarely, but it happens. By 10pm we deleted the old file (photo) and replaced it with the new photo, downloaded again and re-named manually, including the name "Lindsay Huey". Sorry for the confusion. Never our intention."
That's it. No real apology. No acknowledgement of the blatant theft of my photo. A "computer error".
Really? So the wrong photo gets uploaded to the computer prior to the newscast. The "wrong" photo just happens to be of cumulus clouds out over the mountains. The "wrong" photo doesn't surprise Kyle when it comes on the screen. In fact, he seemed perfectly prepared to point out the clouds in the middle of the screen.
If I'm that lucky to have those odds of my perfectly coincidental photo being uploaded incorrectly like that, I need to be out buying lottery tickets!
Ok, if you've stuck with me this far, thank you. Thank you for reading this and understanding my frustrations. But now, let's look at some lessons!
We live in a world of abundant technology
We've seen it a hundred times (or more!). Some social media manager posts something inappropriate online and then they take down the post, thinking it'll go away. Pay attention! We live in a world of amazing technology. There are screen shots, video cameras, cameras, DVRs, audio devices, and everything else at everyone's fingertips. Just because you take it down doesn't mean there's no evidence of it!
I guarantee you, Fox 5 never expected me to take photos of my photos and then share them publicly in this manner. But this is the world we live in. If you put it out there, be prepared to have it immortalized somewhere.
Copyright laws protect us
If you took a photo, wrote an article, painted a portrait, or otherwise created something original, you OWN that material. It is protected by copyright even if it is not marked with a copyright symbol. Just because you uploaded something to a website or shared it somewhere and it ended up on the internet, doesn't mean it's not yours anymore. No one has the right to take your material and reuse it without giving you due credit - unless you sign a disclaimer acknowledging release of ownership rights.
I have checked the Fox 5 San Diego website and there is no disclaimer that says upon uploading a photo to their site that you relinquish ownership of the photo. By using my photo with another person's name, they violated copyright protections of my photo.
As one of my online connections said, I'm pretty sure Fox 5 would have a few choice words (and legal action pending) if someone was to steal one of their stories or segments and not issue credit to them. They are well aware of copyright laws.
Be diligent with your material
This was more of a fluke than direct diligence that I was able to catch this photo used fraudulently. However, I do take note of every place that I share my content and photos. I take note of when I shared them. I know who has permissions to share my content. I have email alerts set up for keywords and my name to ensure my blogs don't get stolen and used somewhere without my permission.
In today's online world, it is so easy for someone to steal your content. Make sure you know where you're using it and use as many fail safe methods as possible to ensure that someone isn't using your content.
Handle your social media complaints
This is quite possibly the most shocking lesson I have to share from this experience. Fox 5 San Diego has a fairly broad and active social media presence. I posted the above photo to my personal Facebook profile, my husband's Facebook profile, my business Facebook page, my Twitter account, my Instagram account, and my Google+ account. In each post, I tagged Fox 5 so I know they saw the posts.
But not one response. Not one "let us look into this". Not one "we're sorry for the mistake". Nothing. Silence. At the time of writing this, more than 24 hours later, there is still no response on any social media post. In an era of social media - with my fans and connections commenting and sharing the posts. Really? One little comment and I would have patiently waited until the morning for a formal response. But instead, the conversation carried on across all these platforms all night long.
And here's the kicker. You know they saw the posts because they changed out the photo for the 10:00 news! So they see it, but they don't respond to it. This is not social media management.
Take care of your brand ambassadors
Here's the thing, there are people out there willing to promote you for nothing. They love you and your brand and share your message without any provocation or reward. Make sure that you take care of these people as they can quickly turn on you if you don't.
I was a Fox 5 ambassador. I submitted photos weekly for their weather segments. I recommended others to submit photos. I had conversations with other Instagrammers who have successfully submitted photos. I talk about their news segments when I'm at work. I share some of their news stories on my social media sites. I did all of this because I liked what they did.
But Fox 5 didn't take care of me. They didn't stop to think about who I was or what I did for their brand. I realize I'm not Oprah or Kim Kardashian and my voice doesn't ring loudly to a lot of people. But I do have a voice, and I will use it. Rather than me applauding Fox 5 for being community oriented, supportive, and morally responsible, I'm now blasting them publicly on almost every channel I have. If I don't matter to them, they no longer matter to me.
An apology goes a long way
When you screw up, admit it. Transparency and honesty are sorely missing in today's society. Don't blame someone else, don't make bulls@!t excuses to cover your ass. Own up to what you did and apologize.
The response from the news director is dismissive at best. It doesn't acknowledge my frustration nor did he give me the apology that I actually asked for. A simple apology and acceptance of their mistake, and I would wash this all away as a learning experience. Instead, I have now called them out on social media, I've written a blog post discussing the whole event, I will no longer submit any more photos to their channel, and I don't respect their business practices.
To be clear, I have no intention of taking any legal action on this situation. I have no intention of drawing this out beyond this post. All I wanted was for a company I respected to appreciate me. And they didn't. They disrespected me and now I'm done. I will continue to share this blog post and if you agree with the lessons above, or if you feel that Fox 5 San Diego can learn a lesson about the power of social media, then I ask you to share this post as well.