Copyright Theft in Caithness

A lot of simmering anger in the normally sedate Photography forum of local webforum Caithness.org.

Locally-based woman Jennifer Rossa operates operated as Caithness Crafts (not to be mistaken to the Caithness Craft Collective blog) selling prints and mock-up oil paintings of staggeringly beautifully rendered local scenes. Until, that is, one local photographer was passing through Wick and saw a photograph of his on sale in a shop window. This came as a surprise to him as he had not submitted the photograph, and on checking with the increasingly mortified proprietor discovered that said Jennifer Rossa had done so after signing documents which explicitly stated the work was her own.

Very soon other local highly skilled amateur photographers started posting as they saw their work being touted on her website as her own. Shortly afterwards, this website and other photo-dumps were taken down and she made a perfunctory offering to sign anything to put a fork in the developing storm. As another forum member pointed out, such a commitment to legal documents would mark a departure from her previous flouting of the legal document signed at the [utterly blameless] Wick shop; which will not be the only outlet to have unknowlingly sold plagerized products.

Since then, Caithness Crafts products have been flying off the shelves… as proprietors removed them to the back-shops.

Although she has removed her website, records may remain in Google Cache for those wondering if they have been targetted. If anyone took a grab of an image from her website (or has one which they wonder has been swiped), Tin Eye may yield results.

As Jamie Buchanan of North Light said in the thread, copyright law is fairly clear, but often misunderstood. Ownership of a photograph is presumed to be held by the photographer, unless this explicitly has been passed to another party. Wedding photographers, for one, are presumed to own the copyright of any snaps. Although I am unsure what rights would be ascribed to the subjects on the grounds they are models who, in some way, own their image, this quibble would not extend to landscape scenes which have been her target.

Many amateur photographers would be understanding of common bloggers who non-maliciously use their photographs, even if they request being creditted. Not so with what happened here in which someone was making pure profit out of other people’s work.

What is mind-blowing to me is that she thought this would go unnoticed in a small community like Caithness, not to mention the obvious likelihood of craft shops she sold to including the hoodwinked photographers on their staff. Furthermore, as several forum members said, they had been approached by her in an attempt to supply their photographs for commercial sale, and refused.

Yet she took the photographs all the same, introducing the element of premediation as well as pursuit of financial gain which may raise this from a civil to criminal case.

There are many highly talented local amateur photographers whose online work I gaze at in delight, and who I dearly hope are not put-off from sharing their work or not plastering a distracting watermark across them.

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