Shannon Fennell's Blog

My life, art, travel, make-up, cooking and the occasional rant!


Ethics, truth in advertising, misrepresentation, fraud, theft

I never thought about it much, when I was enjoying myself creating costumes, applying make-up for fun based on movie characters or favourite monsters and later learning formal skills at make-up school and turning it into a profession; never thought that ethics was something that would NEED to be thought about.

But… apparently it does.  And… apparently there are a lot of people out there who it has never occurred to.  Ever.

When you are advertising your services as a make-up artist/face painter/any services that have a visual end product you should be showing examples of YOUR OWN WORK not some photos you stole from sites on the internet.

Sure, Google Images will show you millions of photos but they are NOT there for your use without permission of the owners.  Anything posted to the internet is covered by the same copyright laws as print materials.  If you use a photo without the permission of the owner of the photo then you are a thief.

And if you are using those photos in your marketing – like displaying on your website, in a Facebook album, etc. – then you are misrepresenting your work, misleading the public as to your skills, stealing from the original artist/photographer, and, the real biggie – breaking the law.

Truth in advertising doesn’t just apply to Campbell’s Soup or Nike.

In face painting circles artists know each other and recognize the work of other people … and we share information.  When someone spots a website or Facebook page loaded with the work of their friends and artists they know they can get quite protective.  Word spreads as they let their circle of friends know and the owners of the photos that are being used are informed and then can take legal steps.

The general procedure to deal with the theft of images is for the owner of the image to notify the individual using it to cease and desist, giving them a time frame to remove the image (like 24 hours.)  Sometimes, in some situations, they may also bill the person using the image for doing so.  Photographers are known to do that as that is their method of earning a living.

In most of the cases the offending parties will remove the photos… and in some cases, amazingly, whole galleries disappear.

Many use the excuse, and yes, it is an excuse, that some friend, relative, web designer did it without their knowledge.  Right… and we are to believe they never checked what was included on their own website and perhaps, just perhaps, thought maybe they should use their OWN photos?  And any web designer worth anything should KNOW about copyrights!

In some instances though the thief ignores the request to remove the photos they are illegally using.  The next step for the owners of the images is to inform the ISP (internet service provider) of copyright infringement.  And you know what?  They will shut down the website or Facebook page… copyright infringement is SERIOUS.  And they are obligated to take action.

You know those FBI notices at the beginning of recorded movies? Pretty much the same thing.

It never occurred to me when I was getting started to use other people’s work.  Sure I would copy designs… I painted them on someone and took photos… that’s pretty much how all face painters start.  But using someone else’s actual photos … never even thought about it.  I wanted to show what I could do, not someone else.

Blogs often link to photos in editorializing… using images they find to illustrate their writings.  This is often covered by “editorial use” which is generally accepted… it’s like a book reviewer quoting a book or using images from a published work.  But, taking an image from a blog is also a copyright infringement of the actual owner of the work.  Just because it is in a blog doesn’t mean it is free use.

Most artists are pretty protective of their work… think about it.  This is what we are trying to earn a living with.  When someone takes one of our photos and posts it on their page, people looking at their page are given the impression that is what they will be getting when they hire that artist.  That is fraud.  Making people think they are getting one thing, when they are getting another.

This issue is why I watermark my work… some people say it detracts from the photos, but, it stops the sticky fingered types from bothering as they generally don’t want to take the time to try to remove the watermarks.  Doesn’t necessarily stop them.  I had one photo, of me actually, of a painting I had done at a convention, that I had on my website, watermarked, and someone took that photo from my website.  Then they took the time to try to remove the watermark in Photoshop (you could see where it had been!) and then had the nerve to claim that it was their work when challenged… sorry, no, that is my face in that photo, under that blurry attempt to remove my watermark.  Busted.

If you don’t have photos, take some.  Get some models, or paint yourself, take photos and use those.  Use drawings to start with.  That’s what I did.  Once I got a nice selection of photos I replaced the drawings on my display with photos of my own work.  Everyone has a camera, or camera in their phone.  If you don’t… get one.  If you are supposedly face painting professionally then a camera is required equipment.

No excuse is acceptable for stealing the work of others and attempting to use it for your own benefit.  Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law, nor in the eyes of angry artists.